MAHMUDIYAH, Iraq -- The morning sun was beginning to heat the concrete here Aug. 17 when the Marines of Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, gathered for something they hope they never would have to do - mourn one of their friends.
Lance Cpl. Nicholas B. Morrison, a TOW gunner with the battalion, was on the streets with Combined Anti-Armor Team Blue when the shrapnel from a roadside bomb ended his life Aug. 13. The Newville, Pa. native was 23 years old.
"Morrison had a contagious love of life," said Capt. George Nunez, of Miami, Fla., and Morrison's commanding officer. "During firefights he'd help Marines next to him having trouble. He'd flash a smile or say something to comfort them."
Morrison and his brothers in CAAT Blue had been through numerous roadside bombs and firefights together. August 13 proved to be something none of them expected.
"We thought it was going to be a normal mission. It turned out to be anything but," said Lance Cpl. Brian W. Lynch, Morrison's vehicle commander, of Hamilton, Ala. "I remember (Morrison) asked me once to speak at his funeral. I told him he was crazy."
Lynch spoke of all the things he wished he could have told Morrison before he died; all the things that now must go unsaid to his friend.
"If I could tell him something right now, it would be that he was a good friend and I love him," Lynch said.
One of Morrison's friends spoke of how he believed the young leatherneck's life was more important than his death.
"Some of the greatest people live the shortest lives and I think he was one of them," said Lance Cpl. Terrance G. Kilpatrick, a TOW gunner from Cleveland, Ohio. "It's not how he died, but how he lived that he'd want us to talk about. We should remember him and celebrate his life."
After the ceremony, many Marines gazed at the upturned rifle and bayonet stuck into sandbags with the ceremonial helmet and dog tags placed on it. Some embraced and consoled each other, remembering the passing of their comrade and friend. When the nature of their jobs requires them to lose one of their friends and go back to work a minute later, the ceremony offered them the rare opportunity to come together and remember how one of their friends died - and more importantly - lived.
Morrison is survived by his mother and father.