Photo Information

U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Derick Clark, a kennel supervisor with Headquarters and Service Company, 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, and 26-year-old native of Hillsdale, Mich., comforts Yeager, an improvised explosive device detection dog, as they wait for the beginning of a memorial service in honor of Lance Cpl. Abraham Tarwoe, a dog handler and mortarman who served with Weapons Company, 2nd Bn., 9th Marines, here, April 22, 2012. Tarwoe, who became Yeager’s handler in July 2011, was killed in action during a dismounted patrol in support of combat operations in Helmand province’s Marjah district, April 12. Tarwoe’s fellow Marines remember him for his contagious laughter and smile, and his unfaltering courage on the battlefield.

Photo by Cpl. Alfred V. Lopez

Marines and sailors remember caring, fearless brother in Marjah

26 Apr 2012 | Cpl. Alfred V. Lopez 1st Marine Division

U.S. Marines and sailors with Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, formed a line in front of a battlefield cross, assembled in honor of Lance Cpl. Abraham Tarwoe, a dog handler and mortarman who served with Weapons Company, after the conclusion of his memorial service here, April 22.

The men of Weapons Company, many of whose lives were touched by Tarwoe, couldn’t hold back their tears as each of them observed a moment of silence in front of the cross.

Even Yeager, Tarwoe’s improvised explosive device detection dog with whom he worked since July 2011, displayed his allegiance to his handler by lying down in front of Tarwoe’s cross unprompted.

With tears of disbelief in their eyes, the warriors of Weapons Company recalled their memories of Tarwoe, as a friend, as a brother, as a father and most of all, as an ideal Marine.

Tarwoe was born in Liberia. His mother and father, Famatta and Abraham Kar, used all the money they had to send their son to America, so that he could live a better life away from the civil war that plagued their country.

“Being born in Liberia, he knew suffering and the meaning of sacrifice,” said Capt. Charles E. Anklam III, the commanding officer of Weapons Company. “He also knew about disproportionate service…he held no birth obligation to America, in fact his citizenship was still being processed when he gave his life for his newly adopted country and his brothers-in-arms.”

“He knew the risks involved in service…there was no disillusionment in him,” said Anklam. “Tarwoe’s work ethic, loyalty, and devotion to something larger than himself, transcended national lines and were what drove him to be here, and to ultimately give his life for his fellow Marines.”

After graduating from West Side High School in Newark, N.J., Tarwoe enlisted in the Marine Corps, and reported to Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island, S.C., on June 2009. After graduating from boot camp and attending the School of Infantry East in Jacksonville, N.C., he reported for duty to 2nd Bn., 9th Marines, and was assigned to Weapons Company in November 2009.

Tarwoe deployed with Weapons Company to Marjah district in 2010, and returned again in December 2011. During a dismounted patrol, Tarwoe stepped on an IED and died of the wounds he received from the blast.

“Abraham has done his duty,” said Anklam. “I know those of us who were privileged enough to have known him, are forever better for it.”

Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Fisher, a platoon sergeant with Weapons Company, recalled his conversation with Tarwoe, on April 12, the day he passed away.

“First time I met Tarwoe, I couldn’t understand but half of what he said,” recalled Fisher. “He had that thick accent.”

“Although I don’t recall our first conversation, I would always remember our last,” said Fisher. “It was short but to the point.”

“It was the morning of the 12th and we were loading the trucks,” remembers Fisher. “As I passed him, I asked, ‘Are you and that dog ready?’”

“He just looked up, with that smile of his, and said, ‘Hell yeah Gunny!’,” said Fisher. “Then he continued to walk to the trucks.”

“He always had that smile,” said Fisher. “It didn’t matter whether you were correcting him or congratulating him, he did everything with a smile. And that’s how I’ll remember him.”

Tarwoe’s smile is a symbol of his character, which will be forever remembered by both his senior leaders and junior Marines.

At first, three of Tarwoe’s fellow Marines, Sgt. Larry Davis and Lance Cpls. Demone Hall and Joseph Gross, a radio operator, infantryman and mortarman, who served with him in Weapons Company, wore looks of grief for their fallen comrade.

As they spoke of Tarwoe, their sad demeanors faded, replaced by the smiles and laughter they once shared with him.

“He really loved sports, and he was really competitive,” said Davis, a 25-year-old native of Cleveland.

“He also had a weird collection of favorite teams,” added Davis. “His favorite college football team was Tennessee and his favorite NFL team was the Vikings.”

“He taught me how to play some card games,” said Hall, a 21-year-old native of Detroit. “He was a really fierce poker player. Really fierce.”

“If he made a mistake and he got yelled at, he’d come in the next day with the same smile on his face,” said Gross, a 21-year-old native of Kent, Ohio. “He was fearless and confident.”

As Gross told a story from earlier in April, his serious tone was evidence that Tarwoe’s actions have inspired him to live his life the same way his fallen brother did.

“He loved being a dog handler,” added Gross. “I remember him saying how much he really wanted to be a dog handler before he was interviewed for it. He loved it more than he loved being a mortarman.”

A few weeks ago, a fellow Marine was injured by an IED during a mounted patrol. Without hesitation, and without anyone’s order, Tarwoe took the initiative to lead Yeager and search the surrounding area for secondary IEDs, Gross said.

“He just automatically started controlling Yeager,” said Gross. “They walked about 30 meters ahead of the lead vehicle across the road and started directing Yeager. He didn’t think about it, it was like it was instinct.”

Gross and his fellow Marines also recalled that Tarwoe always talked about his son, and how much he was looking forward to getting home and spending time with him. It was things like this, they said, that made him a great father.

“We often talked about whose house we’re going to have a barbeque at,” said Gross. “We talked about how we would go buy little plastic kiddy pools for our sons and let them splash around in them.”

Tarwoe is survived by his son Avant J. Kar, his wife Juah B. Kelly, and his parents, Famatta and Abraham. 

His fellow Marines hope that those who live on because of him live their lives in the same fearless and confident way that Tarwoe did. Most importantly, they hope that the memories of his life as a Marine, as a son, as a brother and as a father, will live on in the hearts of those whose lives he has touched.


1st Marine Division