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Marine honored for leading from the front until the end

23 Apr 2006 | Cpl. William Skelton

Lance Cpl. George R. Hensley described his best friend Lance Cpl. Philip J. Martini as the life of any party.

“Philip was the type of guy, who when he walked into a room, with that big cheesy smile on his face, he would light it up,” said Hensley, a 20-year-old machine gunner with 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment.

Hensley and other Marines and soldiers recently attended a memorial service to honor Martini, who was killed in action April 8.  A memorial service was held here April 23.  Martini was 24-years-old and from Lansing, Ill.  He was assigned to 2nd Platoon, B Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment.

The battalion is currently operating in Gharmah, Iraq, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“I am just going to miss him always being there,” said Lance Cpl. John R. Aylmer, a 21-year-old infantryman with 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment.

Aylmer, Hensley and Martini grew up together and entered the Marines at the same time. Upon completion of recruit training, the three lifelong friends completed the School of Infantry together. From there, they went to three different units.

“Even though we all went to different battalions, we all stayed in touch,” Hensley said. “It seemed like we always had leave at the same time.  We would all get together back home.”

Martini, a fire team leader, was remembered as a life-long, ardent Chicago Bears fan and a Marine who secretly treasured the Corps.

“Philip was a good Marine who loved the Marine Corps,” Aylmer said. “No matter how much he didn’t like to admit it.”

Martini’s commander described him a tough man with a huge heart who deeply cared for the safety and well being of the Marines in his charge.

“Martini epitomized John A. Lejeune’s definition of how to treat your Marines,” said Lt. Col. David J. Furness, the 43-year-old battalion commander from Oceanside, Calif. He treated them like a father treats a son, like a mentor coaches a scholar.

Aylmer said before Martini left for this deployment, he told him if any of his Marines had to die, he wanted it to be himself.

A recent photo of Martini rested on a table beside the traditional memorial comprised of a helmet resting on a rifle with a set of identification tags and a pair of combat boots.  A Marine played “Taps” at the close of the service while all stood at attention.  Marines from Martini’s platoon then came forward individually to pay their last respects.

“Philip was the type of man who was always looking out for someone else,” Aylmer said. “He was like a big brother to everyone.”

Martini graduated from Thortan Fractional South High School in Lansing. He reported to recruit training in November 2003. He completed the School of Infantry in 2004 and obtained his military occupational specialty of 0311 – basic rifleman.

Martini’s awards include the Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War of Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.

He is survived by his mother, Laura M. Martini, and father, Philip J. Martini.

“We are honoring him today and everyday by accomplishing the difficult task at hand with the same sense of duty and commitment he displayed,” Furness said.