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Our Marines, Memorial Day and Beyond

The reasons for joining the Marine Corps is unique to each Marine. Their love of family, Country, and Corps culminated with each making the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country. The rolls read clearly of honor, courage and dedication. Major Megan McClung, Capt Jennifer Harris, Sgt Jeannette Winters, Cpl Jennifer Parcell, Cpl Ramona Valdez, LCpl’s Casey Casanova, Holly Charette, Stacey Dryden and Juana Navarro Arellano. These nine Marines did indeed give all.

Now for what these rolls don’t tell you.

Major Megan McClung was only 5″ 4′ and every bit a Marines as could be. Her spirit in her love for her fellow Marines and her passion for her job only added to the her confident persona. Major McClung marked many lives with her smiles and love of live. Called to her final duty station on December 6, 2006 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. What lives on is her legacy of love for her Corps, her family and friends and an inspirational flame that burns within those she touched.

Her headstone is engraved with her mantra, fitting perhaps for someone whose life was short but lived so well:

“Be bold, be brief, be gone.”

Thank you Megan and family for your service.

Eulogy in Iraq


Marine Captain Jennifer J. Harris died February 7, 2007 serving during Operation Iraqi Freedom, 28, of Swampscott, Mass.; assigned to Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 364, Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.; died Feb. 7 when the helicopter she was flying in crashed while supporting combat operations in Anbar province, Iraq. Also killed were 1st Lt. Jared M. Landaker, Sgt. Travis D. Pfister, Cpl. Thomas E. Saba, Sgt. James R. Tijerina, Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Gilbert Minjares Jr. and Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Manuel A. Ruiz.  This was the official notification that was released.

In her high school year book her quote was by Marie Curie and read: “You cannot hope to build a better world without improving individuals. To that end each of us must work for his own improvement, and at the same time share a general responsibility for humanity, our particular duty being to aid those to whom we think we can be most useful.”

Jennifer chose the Marine Corps as her way to build a better world. A fellow Marine Corps pilot’s wife who said, “Jen was grace under pressure. She was gentle and peaceful, beautiful and elegant. At the same time she was strong, confidant, motivated and humbly commanded the utmost respect of all those around her. She was courageous.”

Captain Jennifer J. Harris has become widely known as “The Dove”. It seems that people created their own explanations for how and where this nickname originated. According to Jen, as she told her Aunt Linda and her other family members, at the time she became aware of people referring to her as “The Dove” she was stationed at the Ali Al Salem Air Base in Kuwait in 2003. On her daily exercise runs she would hear some of the enlisted say, “There goes the dove.” She had been told that they said this because they considered her “The prettiest and calmest thing in a war zone.” Corroborating this explanation are several people who either served with Jen or had relatives served with Jen during her first deployment to Kuwait for Operation Iraqi Freedom I.

Thank you Jennifer for your service. Soar with the Angels as you were always meant to fly.

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Marine Sgt Jeannette L. Winters 25, of Du Page, Illinois. Winters died as a result of the crash of a KC-130/R aircraft in Pakistan. She was assigned to Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 352 (VMGR-352), the “Raiders,” Combined Task Force 58, Marine Corps Air Station, Miramar, California. Died on January 9, 2002.

Sgt Winters had many friends who said much about who she was as a Marine. As you read thru the remarks you see a Marine who was energetic, a Marine who was an immediate presence in the lives of others. Most of all you see that she was loved by those who knew her.

As her legacy her family has started the Sgt Jeannette Winters Home for Homeless Female Veterans.

As one of six children Sgt Winters spirit of taking care of others will live on. By virtue of her name she will over see those fellow “sisters”, veterans left behind and assure that no one is left behind.

Jeannette your mark in history was made as our first woman Marines killed in action. Your legacy is the esprit that breezes by when we hear your name and talk of the sacrifice made for your Marines and by your family. We will always remember.

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The Lioness walks tonight….Cpl Jennifer Parcell was a Lioness with IIIMEF. Parcell was our fifth Marine to be killed. At 20 years old on Feb 7, 2007 died while supporting combat operations in Anbar province, Iraq.  It was her relentless “I can do everything” attitude they say that led her to volunteer to go to Iraq and then to be part of the Lioness program. It was Master Sgt  Jerry Widner who said, “She was an absolute firecracker. ”  A Marine who loved what she was doing and knew she was making a difference. Prior to Iraq she was in Pakistan on a humanitarian mission.

The smile on her face in her pictures speaks volumes about this petite  Marine. It shows a kindness and a generosity that many have spoken about. Her friends talk of her ability to take care of others and to make people at ease.

Ray Fender a family spokesman said it best on behalf of the family, We do not believe that Jenny’s life was taken. We believe that her life was given,” Fender said. “She was a good kid. Anyone would love to have her as their daughter.”

Rest easy Jennifer and thank you for leading the way and making us proud to be Marines.

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June 23, 2005, was the deadliest day for our women Marines when a car bomb exploded alongside their vehicle outside Fallujah, Iraq. Among those was Cpl Ramona Valdez age 20 from New York, NY.

Cpl Valdez and LCpl Charette were the first two women Marines killed in Iraq. A distinction that our women are ready to volunteer and proudly wore the title Marine. Also with them was their “sister”, Navy Petty Officer First Class Regina Clark. Eleven were injured.

Marine Maj. Gen. Douglas O’Dell Jr. wept as he awarded Purple Hearts to the survivors from Cpl Valdez’s force. He was moved, he told the Marine Corps News, “not by special sympathy for the women” but because of the display of equality born of that horrible day in Fallujah. The general explained that while military leaders believed women Marines could perform as bravely as men under deadly attack, there had never been a trial like the one in Fallujah to prove it. As he bestowed Purple Heart medals upon the brave Marines before him, the general said that he saw the heroic beauty of equality in bravery. “It’s the difference between believing in a miracle and then seeing one,” he said.

. On June 1, 2007, the Marine Corps dedicated its new II MEF Communications Training Center at the Marine Corps Base Camp LeJeune, NC, as the “Valdez Training Facility.” During the ceremony, Col. John A. Del Colliano, explained that the impact of Cpl Valdez’s communications work in the field was the driving force behind the dedication of a building where he hoped future generations of communications staff would desire to live up to Cpl Valdez’s example. “Her legacy will live on here for years to come,” he said, “and she will be forever associated at a crossroads for communications in the Marine Corps.”

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LCpl Casey L. Casanova age 22 was known to have a voice like an angel. Her friends talked about her as if she was an angel. One LCpl stated that together a small group of them went to church every Sunday and sang every chance they had. Being an only child her mother did not want her to join but Casey felt it was something she had to do. Her mission had always been to help others. She even donated blood on a regular basis in order to help others and save lives. In Iraq that was her mission as well.

LCpl Casanova told her mother that the Iraqi’s did want them there and that they were indeed making a difference. Her mother never wanted her to go but she saw the transformation, her daughter as a Marine, self-assured and full of courage she accepted that she was indeed a Marine and doing what she wanted.

Casey, the Marine with the angelic voice, is now singing in the heavenly choir and watching over her family, friends, fellow Marines and those in need.  Thank you LCpl for your service and your sacrifice.

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Marine LCpl Holly Charette 21, of Cranston, Rhode Island was known for her smile and compassion. Charette died from wounds sustained when a suicide, vehicle-borne, improvised explosive device struck her vehicle in Fallujah, Iraq.  She was assigned to Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Died on June 23, 2005.

One Marine recounts how she still smiles at the thought of Holly opening her secretary only to have everything fall out and the little tirade that would follow as she tried to put everything back and slamming the doors so nothing else would fall out. She had wondered why Holly never cleaned it but goes on to remark she was glad she didn’t as to this day it makes her smile even tho she feels like crying.

As you go thru the web you will see stories and posts to Holly. Still today letting Holly and her family know that she is being thought of. Sharing memories of days past and what yesterdays tomorrows have brought. Many will make you smile and others will make you cry. You realize that Holly was an incredible Marine who is alive in the hearts of many.

Thank you Holly for touching the lives of so many. Your legacy lives on in the hearts of those you smiled upon.

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Marines she served with named her the “Fiery Angel” because “she came off as sweet and innocent, but she was tough as nails.”  That alone says so much of LCpl Stacy Dryden who made the ultimate sacrifice on Oct 19, 2008 at the age of 22.

Known as Annie to lifelong friends it is apparent that she was a Hero to many long before she became a Marine. Those who knew her said that her smile “Filled your heart”. Dryden was a Marine who was passionate about her job and the Marines around her. She always was there with a smile, a shoulder to cry on and ready to listen when you needed to talk.

She joined for the same reason many join, to be the best, to find adventure, to find themselves.

She loved her Corps and her Corps loved her. Thank you for your service and the legacy you left for other Marines to follow.

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Marine LCpl. Juana Navarro-Arellano 24, of Ceres, California died from wounds received while supporting combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq. She was assigned to 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Okinawa, Japan. Died on April 8, 2006

As I read thru the posts, the articles and pages that listed her name I came upon this post:

“I was the one that held her in my arms while she died. She always had a smile on her face and was willing to help out when needed. She was the greatest person I have ever met. Miss you.” HM2 Chris V.G.

It made me stop and read and reread it several times. Have we ever stopped to think about those last minutes. I can’t begin to imagine what it would be like to be HM2 Chris. But as I took a minute I realize that I will always be thankful to him, our Corpsmen, for the service they give. This Marine was not alone as she crossed over but in the arms of another kind of Angel.

In her picture her face looks stern but her friends tell a different story. She loved to laugh and joke around. She was a mentor and one who was also there for her friends. I had to smile at the thought of seeing her run down the halls with a gas mask on in her boxers. Yes that is the Marine spirit. Always to smile in the face of danger. This was before her deployment and the gas mask was a secret Santa gift.

Known as Chica, she left a lasting legacy in her spirit that burns bright in the hearts of her friends and family.

Writing about our Marines, our fellow sisters has given me time to reflect on today. It gives one a new prospective on Memorial Day. Makes you think what its true meaning is. Remembering and Honoring our Marines and all the others who have gone before their time. At least what we perceive as their time. It makes me want to strive to work a little harder to honor them and keep alive their history. The title Marine is a life change. A way to of life.

Thank you my fellow Marines for making me stand a little taller today. Thank you for your service. Most of all thank you for the legacy each of you have left behind in the hearts of other.

Rest Easy.

Fallen Warrior Women Marine Scholarship was started in honor of our Marines. This year we will award the first scholarship. It is our hopes that as a student receives this scholarship they will stop and think of those who gave of themselves and continues to pass on the legacy that these Marines possessed. One of honor, courage and duty.

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5 comments on “Our Marines, Memorial Day and Beyond

  1. Thank you for this Memorial. Beautifully done.

  2. “Once a Marine, always a Marine” as I was told in 1954 and so it has been that way all these years. God bless our “Lady Marines” and their families. Thanks for such a beautiful tribute!!

  3. My heart is breaking for these fallen Marines. Such beautiful faces and smiles. Forever young,…Rest In Peace. GOD bless you and your families.

  4. Well done. Well said. June 23 took to many young lives. I salute all who have fallen and those who continue to serve. Once a marine always a marine. The check says pay to the order of…US Marine.

  5. This is a beautiful Memorial. Thank you all for your service. RIP Marines. Semper Fi!!!

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