Never to be forgotten: New memorial honors Marine from Portland who was killed in Iraq

By Susan Vela
Lansing State Journal

PORTLAND - Marine William Jordan strung his friends' dog tags around the eloquent bronze statue dedicated Sunday to those who lost their lives fighting the war in Iraq.

He watched them sway in a gentle fall breeze above the inscription honoring his friend, Portland native Lance Cpl. David Huhn, who died in Fallujah in December 2005.

"They belong there," Jordan said. "We memorialize our guys. That's how it's done. It's never going to be forgotten."

Huhn, 24, died when an explosive device detonated in a factory that Marines were using as a patrol base.

Jordan was in Huhn's company, which lost a total of 10 people in the explosion, including Lance Cpl. Scott Modeen, whose dog tag also hung from the newly unveiled statue.

The three were the oldest in the company, earning Huhn the nicknames of "Old Man," "Old Man River" and "Father Time."

His former comrades celebrated Huhn - his quiet passion for life, intensity, sense of humor, love for movies and service to his country - in an hourlong dedication ceremony Sunday in Two Rivers Park.

"Lance Cpl. David Huhn, like his comrades, personified duty faithfully performed," said Marine Capt. George Hasseltine, Huhn's former commanding officer.

"Their spirit will remain long after the stone of this monument we dedicate today will be weathered by the hands of nature," he continued.

"No matter what conflict we face, in the sunshine of peace or the darkness of war, their spirit will be present. And it will be remembered."

Sixth in Michigan

Lest They Be Forgotten, a grassroots organization, raised more than $8,000 to build the Iraq war memorial in Portland, the sixth of its kind in Michigan.

Portland's was a simple bronze "field cross" of a helmet, M-16 and combat boots with loosened laces to symbolize those who paid the ultimate price.

"Today we have honored one of Michigan's fallen heroes, a member of our military family," said Michigan chapter executive director John "Skip" Bushart. "He has truly seen the hell of war."

Sunday also was a bit of a reunion. At least 15 members of Huhn's company gathered at the unveiling, including two who were seriously injured in the explosion that took Huhn's life.

Lance Cpl. Joseph Grady lost an arm. He and his wife recently moved back to Wisconsin after he spent months of recovery in military hospitals.

He made sure to be in Portland on Sunday.

"To remember Huhn," he said. "That's what it's all about."

For all who served

Diane Huhn embraced several members of the military who came to honor her son.

She said she helped Lest They Be Forgotten build the memorial more for them than for her son.

"I really didn't want it for David," she said. "I wanted it for all people who served in Iraq. I wanted people to understand what war is. War, to me, is destruction."

It's been almost a year since she lost the son, who normally would be deer hunting about this time of year.

She fielded more questions from reporters and then walked briskly toward the VFW Post for a buffet dinner held in David's honor.

Meanwhile, the dog tags, hanging on the M-16's handle, swayed as walkers passed nearby.

Some paused to read the words etched deeply into the granite base.

"In honor of all who have served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, never forget those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

"In memory of LCPL David A. Huhn, USMC."

Contact Susan Vela at 702-4248 or