Marine from B.R. given Silver Star
Sergeant killed in late 2004 in Iraq's Anbar province
Sunday, April 22, 2007
By Karen Turni Bazile
Staff writer

About 100 family members and friends gathered at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans on Saturday to honor Marine Sgt. Jeffrey Lynn Kirk, a Baton Rouge native who was killed in fighting to gain control of Fallujah, Iraq, in late 2004. He was 24.

Kirk, who was called Lynn by his family, was posthumously presented the Silver Star, the military's third-highest honor for valor in battle.

His 16-year-old brother, Ben Kirk of Abita Springs, accepted the medal from Maj. Derek J. Wastila, who was a platoon leader of Kirk's in 1999 and who said the Silver Star was awarded for Kirk's "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action against the enemy."

"I'm really proud of him," said Ben, a sophomore at Fontainebleau High School. "He was probably one of the best people I have ever known. He was an honest and a strong person of high moral character."

Master Gunnery Sgt. Forrester "Gunny" Goodrich Jr., who recruited Kirk, agreed. In 1997, he said, Kirk was so determined to join the Marines that he started working out with Goodrich while he was still in high school in Baton Rouge, where his family then lived, so he would be physically fit when he was old enough to enlist.

"It's a joyous occasion. The time for grieving is over," Goodrich said in his prepared comments for the ceremony, but he faltered Saturday, giving way to tears. They're "not tears of anguish or grieving," he said. "It's just that we will miss him."

Although Goodrich wasn't with Kirk in Fallujah, he said he spoke last week with someone who was there to learn details about Kirk's actions beyond the official statement of what occurred.

Kirk also was honored in front of 1,000 Marines, his parents and friends in a March 5 ceremony at Camp Pendleton in California, where his widow, Carly, accepted his Silver Star at another presentation ceremony. As a newly married couple, the Kirks had lived at Camp Pendleton when he was stationed there as a member of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment.

Kirk was wounded Nov. 10, 2004, during fighting in Fallujah, a Sunni insurgent stronghold.

On that day, he led his Marines against a hardened machine gun position inside a building. Despite enemy gunfire and grenade attacks, he pushed the assault until the position was secured, even after he was wounded.

"He saved many Marines' lives that day, and they will be able to hold their grandchildren on their laps one day and tell them that story," Goodrich said.

After that battle, Kirk remained in Iraq while being treated for his injury. After asking to rejoin his squad as soon as possible, he was killed by small arms fire during a bloody battle Dec. 12, 2004. Five other Marines were killed that day during operations in Anbar province, which includes Fallujah.

For his injury in November and his mortal wounds in December, Kirk received two Purple Hearts. But it was "for his extraordinary actions in the face of great danger" that he was awarded the Silver Star, according to the citation.

His father and mother, Peter and Lisa Kirk of Abita Springs, attended Saturday's ceremony with Ben, their only living son, and Kirk's widow, who lives in Baker. His parents said they are resolute in their support for their son's choices, which included passing up options that could have kept him out of harm's way.

At one point, his father said, Kirk was offered a position as a pistol instructor stateside, but after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he wanted to be a combat soldier.

"He said, 'If I don't do this, I will look at this as something I should have done. I don't want to live my life like that,' " Peter Kirk said after the ceremony. "I miss him. It's a sad deal. We should be having grandchildren, but instead we are here."

But there is one new baby in their life: Kirk's best friend and high school buddy, Marine Staff Sgt. Terry Palmer, who is a recruiter in Hammond, just named his new son after Kirk and asked Kirk's mother to be the baby's godmother.

Palmer said he and Kirk became friends while attending different high schools in Baton Rouge, and Kirk persuaded Palmer to join the Marines a few months after he did. They served on their first tour of duty in Iraq together.

But Palmer was reassigned stateside as a recruiter and didn't return to Iraq when Kirk did in September 2004. After Kirk was injured in November, they were able to e-mail each other about the battle.

"I figured he would be a war hero and come home with all these medals," Palmer said. "He was so fearless I would have never imagined anything could happen to him. I felt he was too young for his name to die, so I named my youngest son Kirk so that his name could go on."

Karen Turni Bazile can be reached at or (504) 826-3321.