If you had a son...you’d want him to grow up to be like Lt. Col. Ralph J. Marino Jr., 46, of Houston, Pennsylvania, according to his high school teacher.
If you had a son... you’d want him to be like Pvt. Michael W. Murdock, 22 of Chocowinity, NC. You couldn’t have met a better person, says Pvt. Murdock’s mom about her only child.
If you had a son... you’d want him to be like Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Eichmann A. Strickland, 23, of Arlington, Washington. By the tender age of 23, this "Doc" had done more to help care for humankind than most of us will ever do.
If you had a son and even if you don’t...please join me in paying tribute to three sons who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country.
"IGTNT" stands for "I Got the News Today." The phrase is meant to symbolize that terrible knock on the door that any number of families got today, bringing with it the news that a loved one has died. IGTNT is a diary series intended to honor, respect and remind.
I Got the News Today - September 18, 2008
Pvt. Michael W. Murdock, 22, of Chocowinity, N.C.
From the DoD:
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
Pvt. Michael W. Murdock, 22, of Chocowinity, N.C., died Sept. 11 at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered at Combat Outpost Lybert, Afghanistan, when he was struck by enemy fire. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 6th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.
Pvt. Murdock hailed from the very small community of Chocowinity, North Carolina and had been in the Army for 18 months, according to The News & Observer:
His mother, Jennifer Tripp, said her son "was fun-loving, very sweet, caring, true to his friends. He was always there for his friends."
Michael was her only son. "You couldn't have met a better person," she said. "This has been really hard."
He joined the military after his grandmother died, seeking direction in his life, Tripp said.
Walter Murdock said his son had plans to go back to school after leaving the military and wanted to be an architect or engineer.
With the help of WNCT, we learn what the staff at Washington High School, from which Pvt. Murdock graduated in 2004, thought of this special young man:
...They’re remembering how special this young man from Chocowinity really was. It’s a long way from the danger zones on the front lines in Afghanistan, to Washington High School. But the connection is all too real for teacher Charles Daniels, as he leafs through a yearbook and remembers one of his straight "A" students, Michael Murdock. Daniels describes him: "Very well mannered, yes sir, no sir, yes ma’m no ma’m, he was just an all around good, good good student, he really was."
And another except from the broadcast:
Daniels says, "He was over there fighting for us. I just feel like, feel like he needs to be recognized for that." Assistant Principal Betty Jane Green remembers him well, saying, "Michael Murdock was a student that the staff here at Washington High School the teachers the office staff remember as being a very quiet young man but a very sweet and nice young man." She remembers Michael as caring, but also strong; "I think he had that inner strength that it takes to be a good soldier. And though it hurts me to know what has happened to Michael, I think everyone here is very proud of him."
I encourage you to read this column written by a columnist at the newspaper where Pvt. Murdock’s grandfather is the sports editor. It is incredibly thought-provoking, as is the fact that just last week Pvt. Murdock’s grandfather wrote an editorial mentioning his two grandsons serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, in which he wrote:
"All I seek are answers to questions, solutions to problems (without making the problems worse) and common sense approaches to international situations. Shoot first and ask questions later ain't the way to stay safe."
Rest in eternal peace, Pvt. Michael Murdock. You will never be forgotten.
Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Eichmann A. Strickland, 23, of Arlington, Wash.
From the DoD:
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a sailor who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Eichmann A. Strickland, 23, of Arlington, Wash., died Sept. 9 from injuries suffered when the vehicle he was driving hit an improvised explosive device in Afghanya Valley, Afghanistan.
Strickland was assigned to Combat Service Support Det. 36, Iwakuni, Japan. He was a member of a US Marine embedded Training Team deployed to Afghan Regional Security Integration Command Central.
We’ve lost another corpsman. Someone who had dedicated his life to helping others; aspiring to have a career in the medical field and to join a medical mission to Africa. And he hoped to be home for Christmas. We learn this thanks to the Seattle Times, which also reported on what HM3 "Doc" Strickland, a 2003 graduate of Arlington's Lakewood High School, was doing in Afghanistan when he was killed after the Taliban detonated anti-tank mines:
According to a military spokeswoman, Strickland was a member of a training team deployed to Afghan Regional Security Integration Command Central. He was part of a team in Afghanistan providing the Afghan National Army with combat advisers.
He was not only patching wounds on Marines and Afghans alike but was also training Afghan soldiers how to treat their wounded, according to military sources.
He had enlisted 5 years ago, and in addition to this service in Afghanistan:
In Iwakuni, Japan, he regularly performed sick calls, maintaining health records and assisting medical officers. At times he was the only on-site medical personnel around, and the closest thing to an on-call doctor. He had been assigned to Combat Logistics Company 36 at Marine Corps Air Station in Iwakuni.
HeraldNet.com interviewed his mother Yolly:
"He gave his all," said his mother, Yolly Strickland. "A very quiet boy, never in trouble. He always smiled. He was that kind of person."
Yolly Strickland said treating combat wounds was something he was familiar with. Eichmann Strickland would confide in his cousins in Toronto, stories from the front that were not to reach a mother's ears -- battlefront injuries that required him to perform heroic acts of skill while under fire.
"He never told me what he did, or what he had to do," Yolly Strickland said. "There were just some things you don't share with your mom. He knew I couldn't take it."
According to the same HeraldNet.com report, "Eichmann Strickland called his mother often, despite the 10-hour time difference, frequently calling her at 4 a.m. before she left for work at Boeing."
"'Hi, Mom. Everything's OK,' he'd say," she said. "It was part of our routine."
She remembered a phone call on Sept. 7. Strickland told his mother about his plans to visit the family home in the Philippines and help "fix it up" -- a place where he and his friends from the service could go after the war and enjoy some much-needed rest and relaxation.
Coming home after work days later, she saw a Navy chaplain and a Navy officer outside her house. She knew why they were there.
"I didn't want them to be there; I wished they weren't there," she said. "I was angry. I am angry."
Herald writer Justin Arnold articulated HM3 Strickland’s long list of accomplishments in such a brief time:
Strickland's training was a long, complicated road that few successfully complete. Navy corpsmen must complete more than nine months of training to be certified as combat medic specialists. Graduating from Lakewood High School in 2001, Strickland received excellent marks in the ASVAB, a sort of military SAT that helps military applicants choose which career best suits their natural talents and abilities.
Strickland found more than a job; he found a calling.
Strickland's career as a corpsman flourished in the Navy, allowing him to serve in myriad medical postings that honed his abilities to treat others. While working at Marine Corps Base in Camp Pendleton, Calif., he worked with infants -- and then, a year later, he was assisting wounded during live-fire exercises at Camp Fuji, Japan.
He was given the opportunity to receive an early discharge from the Navy in June 2008, which he declined, according to the Navy. Instead, he extended his term of service to go to Afghanistan.
In a message to the family, HM3 Strickland's commanding officer communicated the corpsman's "unflinching service to his fellow servicemen and women, treating Afghan soldiers, U.S. Marines and U.S. Army personnel while under fire."
"He was respected and well liked by subordinates, peers and superiors alike. He never complained and always maintained a positive attitude no matter the challenges he faced," his commanding officer wrote to the family. "His actions in life are worthy of emulation and while his loss is tragic and we mourn for him, his team will carry on his name." ~Source
A corpsman’s prayer was read at a memorial service for HM3 Strickland at his originating base in Japan:
Grant me, oh Lord, for the coming events;
Enough knowledge to cope and some plain common sense.
Be at our side on those nightly patrols;
And be merciful judging our vulnerable souls.
Make my hands steady and as sure as a rock;
when the others go down with a wound or in shock.
Let me be close, when they bleed in the mud;
With a tourniquet handy to save precious blood.
Here in the jungle, the enemy near;
Even the corpsman can't offer much lightness and cheer.
Just help me, oh Lord, to save lives when I can;
Because even out there is merit in man.
If It's Your will, make casualties light;
And don't let any die in the murderous night.
These are my friends I'm trying to save;
They are frightened at times, but You know they are brave.
Let me not fail when they need so much;
But to help me serve with a compassionate touch.
Lord, I'm no hero -- my job is to heal;
And I want You to know Just how helpless I feel.
Bring us back safely to camp with dawn;
For too many of us are already gone.
Lord bless my friends If that's part of your plan;
And go with us tonight, when we go out again.
Author unknown ~Source
I only hope i can have the joy of someday meeting someone who can possibly remind me of Strickland and have such a positive aura and be so optimistic with life.
He touched my heart in a way that only a special friend could. He was there for me when no one else was. Through the good and the bad. He gave me advice, strength, compassion, laughter, and so much more; But mostly He gave me his love and friendship. I will ALWAYS remember him. I love him so much.
HM3 Strickland was my mentor when I checked into the ward at my first duty station, NHCP. I was shocked to see this. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and unit, as well as to those of the Marines lost.
Rest in eternal peace, HM3 Eichmann "Doc" Strickland. Your mission is complete.
Lt. Col. Ralph J. Marino, 46, of Houston, Pa.
From the DoD:
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Lt. Col. Ralph J. Marino, 46, of Houston, Pa., died Sept 14 at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, from a non-combat related illness. He was assigned to U.S. Army Central Command, Camp Arifjan, Kuwait.
Lt. Col. Marino was a seasoned soldier, having already served in Saudi Arabia in 1991 during Operation Desert Storm and in 2003 in Afghanistan. He was a 1984 graduate of Washington & Jefferson College with a bachelor's degree in political science. He received his commission in the Army the same year. This and other information is courtesy of the Pittsburgh Tribute-Review.
The Army had awarded Marino the Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Southwest Asia Bronze Star with two oak leaf clusters, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Overseas Service Ribbon and the Kuwait Liberation Medal.
According to the Trib, Lt. Col. Marino was considered a "quiet leader"...
who cared more about his team than individual recognition, his former high school basketball coach said Tuesday.
Gary Popiolkowski, a teacher and the basketball coach at Chartiers-Houston Junior/Senior High School, said it was hard to believe Marino was dead. Marino graduated from the high school in 1980.
"If you had a son, that's how you wanted him to grow up to be," he said.
Marino was on the basketball team from his sophomore to his senior year. A well-behaved student, Marino didn't call attention to himself, but he was crucial to the team's success, the coach said.
"He wasn't a starter, but he was one of the guys you needed on your team," Popiolkowski said.
Lt. Col. Marino is survived by his parents Ralph J. and Janice Marino of Houston, PA. My deepest condolences to them.
Rest in eternal peace, Lt. Col. Ralph Marino. Your mission is complete.
REMEMBER THEM WELL
Remember our troops: those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, those who are still in harm’s way and those who have returned home:
Please take a moment to honor the memories of our fallen service men and women who have passed through this world much too quickly.
You can view the stories and remembrances of these heroes at sites such as Iraq Veterans Memorial and Honor the Fallen.
Supporting the Troops
If you haven’t had a chance to put together a care package for a unit in Iraq or Afghanistan - it’s such a good feeling to know you are sending our troops things they really need. I’m not talking about the comforts of home – it’s necessities like socks and underwear and soup packets and feminine hygiene products and paper and pens...and school supplies, treats and trinkets they can pass out to the Iraqi and Afghan children. Basic things that they are so thrilled to receive.
There are a few ways to do this. You can go through troopcarepackage.com or anysoldier.com. If you go to the anysolider site click on WhereToSend for a searchable database. For example if you search "By Latest Email" you’ll see the troops who most recently have submitted a request for specific items. You then request their mailing address.
Operation Helmet is another great organization whose mission is to provide helmet upgrades.
Supporting Our Veterans
We have a solemn duty to ensure that our veterans are properly cared for. Consider visiting sites such as StandUp4Vets.org, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Welcome Back Veterans.org and Fisher House to see where your help is needed. Other ways to help can be found in this diary.
The Department of Defense has confirmed 4,159 deaths, with nine more pending notification of next of kin, according to Iraq Coalition Casualty Count. 597 American troops have died in Afghanistan since 2001. This week's casualties make 2008 the deadliest year to date for American troops serving in Afghanistan.
Please bear in mind that these diaries are read by friends and family of the service members chronicled here. May all of our remembrances be full of compassion rather than politics.