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Marines pay last respects to fallen comrades in Ramadi

23 Aug 2004 | Cpl. Veronika R. Tuskowski

As the sun set Friday, casting a golden light upon a rifle with two sets of dangling dog tags, Marines with Company F, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, gathered to Camp Snake Pit to say goodbye to two of their fallen brothers.

Lance Corporals Jonathon W. Collins and Caleb J. Powers were each killed by a single shot from an enemy sniper while manning different observation posts in Ar Ramadi.

"Tonight we gather in memoriam for tribute to two fallen comrades, who were struck by unseen assassins," said Lt. Col. Paul Kennedy, battalion commander. "We have come to honor these fellow Marines who answered the country's call to duty, and represented the best of our Corps."

Twenty-year-old Collins, from Oak Lawn, Ill., was killed Aug. 8 at Observation Post "Ghetto" in the heart of Ar Ramadi. Powers, 21, from Alexandra, Va., was killed Aug. 17 while manning an observation post atop a seven-story building overlooking one of Ar Ramadi's main roadways.

Collins was described as a good Marine and good man by his platoon commander, 1st Lt. Ethan C. Taranta.

"He had confidence in his abilities that bordered on cockiness," Taranta said. "But he was justified in that confidence. He was a SAW gunner and considered himself to be the best in his platoon, if not the whole company. He was very, very good at his job."

What Taranta remembers most about Collins, was his sense of humor.

"He always had a joke or a smile no matter how tired he was, or how difficult the task was,' Taranta said. "I don't think I ever talked to him, with out walking away with a smile on my face."

With a little over a month left in Iraq before returning to the states, Collins compared his experience in Iraq with the game of football.

"A couple of days before he was killed, Collins said, 'In the game, the teams score most of their points in the first two minutes and the last two minutes. And right now we are in the last two minutes. Even though we are down a handful of Marines we still need to go out there and do our job and make it out of here safe and alive,'" said his close friend, Lance Cpl. Clark H. Davidson.

After several Marines shared their feelings about Collins, Powers' platoon commander, 1st Lt. Joseph M. Denman, stepped up to the podium and shared his thoughts.

"Words fall short of describing or consoling us in the loss we have experienced in the death of Lance Corporal Powers," said Denman. "And to Third Platoon, he was more than a friend. He was our brother in arms. For he lived, sacrificed and fought at our side taking equal share in the dangers and hardships in the past six months."

Friends of Powers knew of his love for his friends, family, farming and dirt bikes.

"If you knew Lance Corporal Powers, you knew he was all about wheat and farming," said his close friend, Lance Cpl. Taylor G. Wiley. "You could make fun of him about it all the time and he would take it like a champ.

"Right before he died, Lance Corporal Powers' last words were, 'Dirt bike riding is my life,'" said Wiley. "So we all like to think at that moment when Powers went, he was happy."

Collins is survived by his parents, Jack and Angela Collins, his two sisters and an older brother.

Powers is survived by his wife, Sarah Powers, and his sister.

The battalion commander said each of these Marines would be greatly missed, and gave some words of encouragement to the mourning Marines.

"Lance Corporals Collins and Powers are watching over us now," Kennedy said. "They will measure our devotion in the remaining month against their own sacrifices. We will not let them down."