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thedrifter
05-25-08, 01:47 PM
Published: May 25, 2008 01:10 am

A day for remembrance
By Brian Livingston / staff writer

Memorial Day, which gives American citizens a three-day weekend, is also commonly known as the holiday that officially kicks off the summer season.

Many people take part in family reunions, outdoor activities and cookouts. For most, the holiday is a chance to have a lot of fun and enjoy the first warm days of summer. But for others, like Frances Mabry, it is a time to reflect, not so much with a great deal of sorrow, but with a large measure of pride.

"I look at Memorial Day a little differently since Chris was killed," said Mabry, who raised Christopher D. Mabry since he was a baby. "Memorial Day is a special time, especially for those who've lost loved ones in wartime, because we know first hand how much they had to give for us to enjoy the freedoms we have today. I'm proud of Chris and we take a day to honor him and all the others who've died for us."

Marine Pfc. Christopher D. Mabry, 19, of Chunky, was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif. when he was killed April 7, 2004 by hostile fire in Anbar province, Iraq. Mabry was deployed to Iraq in February of 2004, months after becoming a Marine. He signed up to enlist during his senior year in high school at Clarkdale Attendance Center.

Memorial Day is a United States Federal Holiday that is observed on the last Monday of May. It was formerly known as Decoration Day. This holiday commemorates U.S. men and women who have died in military service to their country. It began first to honor Union soldiers who died during the American Civil War. After World War I, it was expanded to include those who died in any war or military action.

When Christopher Mabry decided to join the Marines, Frances Mabry wondered at times just who his family really was. She is proud he is a Marine and will always be a member of the few and the proud. She, in many ways, has taken up his commitment to the Corps.

"These people who have died for our country did so to uphold what we as a nation represent around the world," Mabry with conviction. "It is amazing when you think about how much some have to give up so others can live on."

On the invitation of the U.S. Marine Corps stationed at Camp Pendleton, CA., Frances Mabry will be their guest later this summer. While there she will be escorted around the sprawling base that trains thousands of Marines each year to see personally just how her grandson's memory lives on.

"They have been very good to me," she said, remembering the large arrangement of flowers the Marines have sent her on the anniversary of Chris' death. "I'm tough because I've raised a Marine."

According to recent statistics, 56 Mississippians have been killed in action in Iraq since Operation Iraqi Freedom began in 2003. Among those from Lauderdale County and the surrounding area are:



• Army Pfc. Damian L. Heidelberg, 21, of Shubuta

Heidelberg was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Fort Campbell, Ky.

He was killed Nov. 15, 2003 during Operation Iraqi Freedom when two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters crashed in Mosul.



• Marine Pfc. Christopher D. Mabry, 19, of Chunky

Mabry was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, 1st Marine Division, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force in Camp Pendleton, Calif.

He was killed during a firefight in Ramadi, Iraq on April 7, 2004.



• Army Spc. Robert A. McNail, 30, of Meridian

McNail was assigned to the 150th Combat Engineer Battalion, 155th Brigade Combat Team, Mississippi Army National Guard stationed in Quitman. He was killed Feb. 11, 2005 when his Humvee struck another military vehicle in Iskandariyah, Iraq.

He was the sixth Mississippi National Guard soldier to give his life in Iraq.



• Army Spc. Robert S. Pugh, 25, of Meridian/Stonewall

Pugh was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 155th Infantry, Mississippi Army National Guard stationed in McComb. He was killed March 2, 2005 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his military vehicle in Iskandariyah, Iraq.

The 155th Combat Team consists of nearly 3,500 soldiers from Mississippi, Arkansas and Vermont. The soldiers trained at Camp Shelby near Hattiesburg.

Pugh was the fifth member of the unit to die in Iraq and the 25th soldier with Mississippi ties to die in the war.



• Army Sgt. 1st Class Clarence D. McSwain, of Meridian

McSwain was serving in the 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), from Fort Campbell, Ky.

He died June 8, 2006 of injuries sustained when a makeshift bomb exploded near his convoy vehicle during combat operations in Baghdad.



• Marine Cpl. Dustin J. Lee, 20, of Stonewall

Lee was serving with the 3/14 G Battery, 3rd Platoon at the time of his death. Lee was stationed with Headquarters Battalion, Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, Ga. He died March 21, 2007 from wounds received during a mortar and rocket propelled grenade attack while conducting combat operations in Fallujah in the Anbar province of Iraq.

Ellie