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'Magnificent Bastards' honor their fallen

20 Apr 2004 | Cpl. Paula M. Fitzgerald

The reflected sunlight, glaring off the aluminum slates of engraved metal, hung in silent tribute to Marines and sailors killed fighting the enemy in Ar Ramadi.

Marines paused, heads bowed, to remember their dead.

A memorial service was held at Camp Combat Outpost, Iraq April 11.  Marines from 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment honored their fallen from the previous two weeks' fighting. 

It was a final salute for the 1st Marine Division warriors who call themselves the "Magnificent Bastards."

"The most honorable act a warrior can perform is to conduct himself with courage and honor in the face of the enemy," said Sgt. Maj. James E. Booker, battalion sergeant major.

According to many of the battalion's Marines, that's exactly how their buddies died and that's how they will be remembered.

"Those that do and do not return from that encounter deserve to be memorialized by their brothers that have returned from battle," Booker added.

Seven of the 16 fallen men killed were from 3rd Platoon, Company E. In fact, one squad alone lost four Marines and one Navy hospital corpsman during an ambush.

Twenty-one-year-old Cpl. Marcus D. Waechter was the squad's leader.

"We lost our whole squad that day," Waechter explained. "They split the rest of us in the other squads. It's been a hard adjustment, but we just do it."

Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Adam P. Clayton knew many of the Marines who were killed and was close friends with the fallen corpsman. He said most of the battalion is marching forward despite their losses.

"The first few days after the fighting," Clayton remembered, "you could see the hurt and pain in the guys' eyes, but now they know there is no more time for being upset. It's time to go on with the mission."

Booker said the Marines are hitting the streets even harder than before.

"The ultimate way a Marine deals with losing their buddies is to take the life of as many of the enemy as they can," he explained. "Then Marines feel that they have not let their brothers' lives go in vain and they can hold their heads high if they reap a hell of a payback on the bad guys."

Clayton, who's no stranger to combat, agreed with the sergeant major.

"I don't think we can kill enough of the enemy to make up for what we lost," he said. "But we're sure as hell going to try."