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Marines pause to honor seven fallen heroes

8 Sep 2006 | Lance Cpl. Ray Lewis

Marines of 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment honored seven of their own at the Habbaniyah Chapel here Sept. 8.

“Every one of them made their sacrifice taking the fight to the enemy, the heartless and mindless insurgents who terrorize innocent Iraqi people and our way of life,” said Lt. Col. Todd S. Desgrosseilliers, the battalion’s commanding officer from Auburn, Maine.

More than 200 Marines and sailors came to remember Lance Cpl. Donald E. Champlin, Lance Cpl. Cliff K. Golla, Lance Cpl. Phillip A. Johnson, Pvt. Ryan E. Miller, Staff Sgt. Gordon G. Solomon, Cpl. David G. Weimortz and Lance Cpl. Colin J. Wolfe.  All were killed in action in combat operations in the Al Anbar Province of Iraq.

“Look no further for heroes.  We know seven of them,” Desgrosseilliers said.

Seven rifles were placed in the front of the chapel, each inverted with helmets resting on top.  Identification tags for each Marine hung from the rifles.

“We memorialize them because in the end they were true to their word,” Desgrosseilliers said. “They swore an oath that they would follow orders and defend our nation against all enemies foreign and domestic.”

Marines from each of the battalion’s companies spoke of the men they once knew.

“Champlin was an outstanding Marine,” said Lance Cpl. Kerron D. Wagner, a machine gunner assigned to I Company.

The 20-year-old from Dickenson, Va., said Champlin was an awesome machine gunner but most of all a great friend that never ceased to amaze him.

“He made a lot of good friends and no enemies, and this is why it is so hard to lose a brother like Lance Cpl. Champlin,” Wagner said. “He will always be remembered as a funny, witty and cheerful guy that seemed to make your day a little bit better when times are tough on you.

“He will always be remembered in our hearts and our minds,” he added.  “As our brother, we shall never forget his name. We love you Champlin with all our hearts and thank you for coming in to our lives. May God be with you.”

Champlin graduated from high school in 1996 and enlisted in the Marine Corps on July 11, 2005. He went on to the School of Infantry East, Camp Geiger, N.C. He graduated with the military occupational specialty 0331, machine gunner.

Champlin’s decorations include the Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Ribbon, Iraq Campaign Medal and Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

Staff Sgt. Frank Lipcsak spoke on L Company’s behalf for Solomon.

“Staff Sgt. Gordon Solomon came to Lima Company while we were at Mojave Viper earlier this year,” Lipscak said.

The 35-year-old from New Orleans, La., said Solomon established himself as a team player. He also bonded with Lipcsak.

“He and I became pretty good friends in the short time that he was with us,” Lipcsak said. “When you talked to Gordon Solomon you’re dealing with a man, a Marine and a staff noncommissioned officer in that order.”

There was still a seven-month deployment ahead. Once Solomon got into Iraq he was chosen to work with the Iraqi Army as part of the Military Transition Team. That didn’t stop Solomon from seeing his old company.

“He would come back to our company area from time to time to hang out with us and see how things were going with our Marines,” Lipscak said.  “I have faith that Gordon is in a better place. He was our brother and we miss him dearly. Our prayers are with his wife, son and the rest of his family.”

Solomon graduated from high school in 1988 and enlisted in the Marine Corps on June 6, 1990. He went on to the School of Infantry West, Camp Pendleton, Calif. He was a platoon sergeant.

Solomon’s decorations include the Purple Heart with a gold star in lieu of second award, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, Joint Meritorious Unit Award, Navy Unit Commendation, Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation, Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal with four bronze stars in lieu of fifth award, National Defense Service Medal with bronze star in lieu of second award, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Southwest Asia Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terror Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon with silver star in lieu of sixth award and United Nations Medal.

Cpl. Zachary P. Schlarb spoke about his fallen friend Golla.

“It is hard for me to do this because there is so much I want to say but don’t know how,” said the 21-year-old rifleman from Reading, Pa. “Cliff Golla was a very close friend of mine.”

Golla came into the Marine Corps a few months after Schlarb.  The day they met the two instantly became friends.

“He always got the job done no matter what it took,” Schlarb said. “Due to this he was chosen to fill the first team-leader billet in 3rd Platoon, 3rd Squad.  I must say he did just that. Lance Cpl. Golla gave the ultimate sacrifice and for this he will always be in our hearts.”

Golla graduated from high school in 2003 and enlisted in the Marine Corps February 9, 2004. He went on to the School of Infantry East, Camp Geiger, N.C. He graduated with the MOS 0311, rifleman.

Golla’s decorations include the Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.

Weapons Company lost two Marines – Weimortz and Wolfe.

“Cpl Weimortz joined our company the day we went on pre-deployment leave,” said Cpl. Richard D. Vergara, a 23-year-old assaultman from Long Island, N.Y. “With two deployments to Iraq under his belt, he still volunteered to come for a third. That will almost tell you the caliber of Marine that he was.”

Weimortz wasn’t just all talk, according to Vergara. He proved himself on the battlefield.

“Two weeks into our tour his vehicle was struck by an IED,” Vergara said. “This did not shake his courage or deter him from carrying on with the mission. In such a short time he became such a good friend to us all. He was the type of Marine that when it came down to work it was all business, and when it came time to play he was the first one to start joking around. His leadership and loyalty to his Marines will never be forgotten.”

Vergara also spoke of Wolfe.

“Wolfe was like the little brother that would always annoy you and get in trouble but you still loved him,” he said. “The young Marine understood our motto of honor, courage and most of all commitment. He was a Marine that would respond to all orders with a sense of urgency and clarity.”

Vergara said Wolfe was the type to cheer his Marines up.

“No matter what, he always seemed to have a smile on his face,” he said. “We could have just finished a 12-mile hike, and there he was smiling. He always managed to put a smile on your face as well. We always used to tell him to start taking more protein and work out because he was so small. He was the type of young Marine that you wanted by your side because you could always depend on him.”

“They both gave the ultimate sacrifice, and as long as we’re here to tell your story, the memories of Cpl. Weimortz and Lance Cpl. Wolfe Will live forever,” Vergara added.

Weimortz graduated from high school in 1995 and enlisted in the Marine Corps on March 10, 2003. He went on to the School of Infantry East, Camp Geiger, N.C. He graduated with the MOS 0351, assaultman.

Weimortz’s decorations include the Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.

Wolfe graduated from high school in 2004 and enlisted in the Marine Corps on July 12, 2005. He went on to the School of Infantry East, Camp Geiger, N.C. He graduated with the MOS 0351, assaultman.

Wolfe’s decorations include the Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

Sgt. Jeff A. Weaver spoke on his two Marines assigned to K Company.

“It’s always a difficult situation when a Marine is killed in action,” said the 24-year-old platoon sergeant from Kinston, N.C. “The loss of Lance Cpl. Phillip Johnson and Pvt. Ryan Miller is one that is felt by any one who was privileged enough to have ever made their acquaintance.”

Johnson was assigned to Weaver’s team straight out of the School of Infantry.  He said Johnson was as young and ambitious as they come.

“He was blessed with two different colored eyes which earned him the nickname ‘crazy eyes,’” Weaver said. “Johnson was the voice of reason. Miller came … with one of the greatest attitudes possessed by any man.”

Weaver said Miller was one of the most pleasant people the world has ever known, carrying with him a trademark smile that never seemed to leave his face.

“Miller had a quiet demeanor combined with a powerful presence that was a source of inspiration for everyone around him,” he said. “I only wish that I was more capable of writing something more befitting of two of the finest Marines that we have ever served with. You will not be forgotten and your memory will be carried on by each and every one of us.”

Johnson graduated from high school in 2005 and enlisted in the Marine Corps on July 19, 2005. He went on to the School of Infantry East in Camp Geiger, N.C. He graduated with the MOS 0311, rifleman.

Johnson’s decorations include the Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, Iraq Campaign Medal, National Defense Service Medal and Global War on Service Expeditionary Medal.

Miller graduated from high school in 2003 and enlisted in the Marine Corps on Dec. 17, 2003 He went on to the School of Infantry West in Camp Pendleton, Calif. He graduated with the MOS 0311, rifleman.

Miller’s decorations include the Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.

After the service, Marines spent one last moment alone at the memorials representing their fallen heroes.

“They gave a part of themselves to be apart of something larger than themselves,” Desgrosseilliers said. “We honor their sacrifice and their courage in the face of danger. They will forever be with us.

“With these actions, they became strong hard men who hold the line against evil throughout the world so that all America and Iraq sleep well in their beds at night.”