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Marines honor slain gunnery sergeant

3 Aug 2004 | Gunnery Sgt. Mark Oliva

The crowd stood stoically, arms rigid by their sides.  Heels were together and eyes welled with tears, staring straight ahead as Gunnery Sgt. Yaphet K. Jones bellowed out the mournful, longing tones of "Taps."

It was a final salute for Gunnery Sgt. Shawn A. Lane.

Lane, 33, was killed here July 28 by a mortar attack.  He was assigned to Communications Company, Headquarters Battalion.  Marines from across the 1st Marine Division's headquarters honored his life and sacrifice in a memorial service here, July 31.

Staff Sgt. Charles D. Lepome spoke of Lane, whom he had come to know at the beginning of this year's deployment to Iraq.  He described Lane with words such as "respectable, intelligent and hilarious."

"He was a highly respected man," Lepome told the crowd, packed so tightly it spilled from the chapel's doors.  "Not only did I lose a fellow Marine, I lost a brother."

Lepome said he and Lane were mirror images of each other.  Both were competitive, proud Marines.  They trained with each other in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program, the reason Lepome said he stood before the gathering in a uniform without name tapes.

"Gunny Lane ripped every single button and pocket off my blouse," he explained.  "I had to got to supply to get a new uniform."

Despite the short time Lepome knew Lane, he said the two were inseparable.  They attended chapel services together, ate meals with one another and even shared some exercise routines.

"It seems like it's gone by so fast, and the time I've known him so short," Lepome said, "I feel I've known him my whole life.

"It's only been three days," he added.  "But it seems like a lifetime already.  I love that man like a brother.  I'll miss him."

Gunnery Sgt. Ford A. Jacobs first met Lane during the war last year.  Lane had coffee, but no way to heat it.  Jacobs had a stove, but no coffee. 

They struck up a friendship over hot coffee and a conversation.

"For the rest of my life, I'm going to remember those conversations on the battlefield with my buddies"

A moment over coffee was also one of the last they shared.

"The last day I saw him, we had coffee," Jacobs said.  "God just gave me the chance to say goodbye and I thank Him for that."

Navy Lt. Hussein Shaikh, chaplain for Headquarters Battalion, spoke to the gathering of Marines and sailors to offer comfort.  He spoke of Lane's commitment to God, his wife and his four-year-old son.  He reflected on his faith in God and his fellow Marines.

"For Gunny Lane, death and eternal life are no longer a mystery," Shaikh said.  "He will experience eternal life with Almighty God."

"He's gone, but not forgotten," said Maj. Antonio J. Morabito, commanding officer for Communications Company.  "I really believe ... he would not want us to dwell on his death.  Gunny Lane loved life.

"I know he would have wanted us to see this task done," Morabito said of the mission in Iraq.  "  That way, our successes are a lasting tribute to him."

Lane is survived by his wife Jennifer and his son, Jonathan.