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Marines gather to honor fallen brother

11 May 2006 | Cpl. Brian Reimers

Sgt. John J. Malm will never forget the times he spent with his previous commanding officer, Capt. Brian S. Letendre.  Some of his fondest memories involve sharing something they both had an appreciation for, a good beer.

“Every Friday we would get together to test taste beers,” said Malm, from Randle, Wash.  “We would hand out grading sheets and rate the beer on a scale from one to ten.  I didn’t ever think that I would find a beer that I didn’t like.  Well, one Friday the captain brought some beer that was the worst beer that I had ever tasted in my life. He was so proud of his accomplishment.”

Marines recently gathered to honor their fallen brother at a memorial service held May 11.  The 28-year-old Letendre was killed in action May 3. He was assigned to a Military Transition Team stationed in Ramadi, Iraq

The team works along side members of the Iraqi Army, advising them in tactics and leadership.

Whether the unit was doing physical training or field operations, Letendre could always be found getting dirty with his troops, recalled 1st Sgt. Ben A. Grainger, who served on Inspector Instructor duty with Letendre. “Not only was he out there, he was always out front.”

Letendre was remembered by his peers as a great Marine officer, as well as a great father to his son Dillon, who was born March 18, 2003.  At the time of his son’s birth, Letendre and his unit were starting their tactical movement into Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“His son was everything to him,” said Malm, a squad leader with C Company, 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment.

“Dillon would come by the office to see his dad and you could see the love in his eyes,” added Grainger, from Myrtle Beach, S.C. “He was always doing something for him, throwing a baseball or just playing around with him.”

Letendre volunteered to deploy to Iraq for the second time along side his fellow Marines in November 2005.

“He really wanted to go with the battalion,” said 32-year-old Capt. Raymond L. Adams, who knew Letendre professionally and personally. “He just enjoyed being around the Marines and wouldn’t miss it for anything.”

His friend recalled Letendre’s calm and cool personality.

“He had this sort of magnetism,” added Adams, the executive officer for C Company, from Deerfield, Mass. “When placed in a social environment, everyone flocked to him.’

“Not only did they want to be his friend, they wanted to be like him,” added 39-year-old Grainger, C Company’s senior enlisted Marine.

The memorial took place next to C Company’s forward operating base. Each Marine and sailor who attended the service took time to pay their last respects to Letendre in front of the traditional memorial for a fallen warrior, a helmet placed on top of an inverted rifle with hanging identification tags and a pair of combat boots.

“He died doing something that he truly believed in,” said 25-year-old Malm. “He believed in his country and in his mission to help the Iraqi people.”

Letendre reported to Officer Candidate School in Quantico, VA, in June 1999. He served in a variety of billets with 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment for three years and completed three deployments with the unit.  In February 2004 he began his assignment as the Inspector Instructor for C Company, 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division.

His awards include the Purple Heart Medal, Navy Marine Corps Commendation Medal with combat distinguishing device, Army Achievement Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.

He is survived by his wife Autumn, son Dillon, as well as his mother, father and two brothers.