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Marines pause to honor fallen leader

4 Sep 2006 | Cpl. Brian Reimers

The eyes of many were shut and the heads of others were bowed as bagpipes played “Amazing Grace” in honor of a friend and combat leader.

Marines from 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5, recently gathered to honor Cpl. Jordan C. Pierson. Pierson was killed in action Aug. 25 while conducting combat operations in Fallujah, Iraq.

“Jordan was a true leader fueled by motivation, heart, love, and a natural ability to lead Marines in combat. He gave everyone his all and never expected anything in return,” said Lance Cpl. Jason C. Cooling, a close friend and fellow infantryman, from Southbury, Conn.

Pierson, a 21-year-old from Milford, Conn., served as a team leader for C Company and showed his leadership traits and abilities to all who knew him.

“Jordan was driven by a desire to be the absolute best that he could be. Not to impress anyone, not for recognition, but because it was the right thing to do,” said Lt. Col. Christopher A. Landro, the battalion commander, from Kennesaw, Ga.

Pierson put his education on hold to deploy with the battalion to Fallujah. But his love for learning never ceased, even while battling scorching temperatures and long hours on post watching over his fellow Marines.

He studied the Arabic language constantly so he could talk with those he came in contact with in the city.

“By the time the unthinkable happened and we lost Pierson, he was actually making friends with Iraqis here,” said Lance Cpl. Nicholas J. Lambert, a member of Pierson’s team from Charlton, Mass. “There are buildings out there where every member of the household know Jordan’s name and are friends with him.”

Pierson displayed his kindness to those he cared about, but displayed the works of a hero to many more.

He was posthumously awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with combat distinguishing device for heroic achievement and superior performances of his duties while serving as a rifle team leader here.

On several occasions, Pierson maneuvered himself into harm’s way only to help the Marines next to him by suppressing the enemy.

Lambert, 25, said he witnessed Pierson dive for cover after a grenade was thrown at him. Still, he received shrapnel from the blast, but he got up and charged after the insurgent attacker.  Pierson never paused to tend to his own wounds.

Those who served alongside and knew him best spoke of his professionalism as a leader, and sincere characteristics as a great friend.

“I used to joke around with him and call him my little brother because of our age difference,” said 25-year-old Lance Cpl. Radoslaw Smolinski, from New York City.  “But the fact is he was more big brother to me than I ever was to him. Whenever I needed him, he was there for me.”

Marines and sailors honored Pierson with a memorial consisting of a helmet sitting on top of a rifle, identification tags hanging from its’ grip and a pair of combat boots resting at the bottom. Between the boots was Pierson’s medal. A photo of Pierson and a neatly folded American flag sat near the setting. Marines spoke about memories of their fallen brother and one by one paid their last respects in front of his memorial. 

“Cpl. Pierson, we are now and forever your brothers,” said Maj. Vaughn L. Ward, the 37-year-old C Company commander from Arlington, Va.  “You are forever fixed in our memories and we will do our best to live our lives to the high standard that you lived yours.”

Pierson graduated from Foran High School in Milford, Conn., in 2003 He enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserves in July and reported to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., for basic training in December 2003. Upon graduation of basic training and the Infantry Training Battalion in 2004, Pierson obtained the military occupational specialty of rifleman.  He later checked into 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, where he served as a rifleman, assistant automatic rifleman, automatic rifleman, and a rifle fire team leader. In December 2005, he put his academic career at the University of Connecticut on hold to be activated with C Company in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom 05-07.

His awards and decorations include the Purple Heart Medal with gold star in lieu of second award, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with combat distinguishing device, Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, and the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.