Featured News

2nd Reconnaissance Battalion memorializes fallen Marine

12 May 2006 | Gunnery Sgt. Mark Oliva

Marines from 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5 in Fallujah, paused to honor Cpl. Stephen R. Bixler.  Bixler was killed in action May 4, 2006.  He was 20-years-old.

Bixler was assigned to 2nd Recon Bn.’s Headquarters and Service Company, Provisional Rifle Platoon.

“Cpl. Bixler was a vibrant, active man,” said Lt. Col. James M. Bright, the battalion’s commander.  “He died fearlessly leading and willingly sacrificing his own safety for those around him.”

Bixler was Boy Scout as a child, attaining the rank of Eagle Scout.  He attended Suffield High School in Hartford, Conn., where he ran cross-country and indoor and outdoor track.  He graduated in 2003 and joined the Marine Corps.

He graduated recruit training from M Company, 3rd Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C.  He completed the School of Infantry and was assigned the infantry military occupational specialty.

He was later assigned to 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment and deployed to Haiti and Iraq. 

“Along the way, he became a noncommissioned officer, a leader of Marines,” Bright said.  Later, he volunteered to join 2nd Recon Bn.  He passed the screening and was awaiting eye surgery before attending the Basic Reconnaissance Course, when the battalion was searching for leaders to fill the ranks of the Provisional Rifle Platoon.  He, once again, volunteered.

“He was exactly that type of Marine we were looking for,” Bright explained.

Bixler’s platoon commander, 1st Lt. Nicholas J. Lodestro,  said his first impressions of the Marine was he was “loyal, knowledgeable and dedicated.”

“He was a warrior I felt comfortable to serve with,” said 26-year-old Lodestro from Jamestown, N.Y.  “He was the man in front protecting us.  He was a dedicated, unselfish, charismatic warrior.”

Sgt. Mike C. Phelan, a 22-year-old fellow Recon Marine from Seyreville, N.J., said Bixler had several nicknames from “Scuba Steve” to “Smelly Steve.”

“They were all terms of endearment,” Phelan said.  “There were two Steve’s.  There was the quiet leader … and the other – loud, surfing, lady-chasing.”

Phelan described Bixler as man with a great sense of humor, but profound insight. 

“He used to say when it rains, it’s not the atmosphere changing,” Phelan recalled.  “But God crying for us and what we’re about to do.”

The short, quiet ceremony was marked by Bible verses and prayers honoring Bixler.  Cpl. Jeffrey D. Sullivan, a 22-year-old from Annapolis, Md., assigned to 2nd Recon Bn.’s A Company, played “Amazing Graze” on the bagpipes. 

Final Roll was called and three times, Cpl. Stephen R. Bixler’s name was called only to be answered by silence.  “Taps” followed in a final farewell.

“He was a loving son and brother, devoted friend … Marine,” Bright said.  “No more could be asked of any man.  When final roll is called and Stephen no longer answers, Steven’s still here.  He’s emblazoned on our hearts.”

Bixler’s awards include the Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon with gold star in lieu of second award, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon with bronze star in lieu of second award.

Bixler is survived by his parents, Richard and Linda Bixler.