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Combat engineers honor their fallen

13 May 2006 | Gunnery Sgt. Mark Oliva

Two rifles, helmets, sets of boots and identification tags were placed in front of a packed house to honor two fallen Marine engineers.

Marines from 1st Combat Engineer Battalion’s B Company paused May 13 to memorialize two killed in action earlier this month.  The service was held at Camp Fallujah’s Chapel of Hope.

Lance Cpl. Robert L. Moscillo was killed in action May 1 and Sgt. Elisha R. Parker was killed in action May 4.  Both engineers were supporting 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion in combat operations.  They were on duty in Iraq with Regimental Combat Team 5.

“The sacrifice of our brothers will be remembered,” said Col. Larry D. Nicholson.  “As the commanding officer of Regimental Combat Team 5, I’m truly honored and humbled to serve with Marines like Sgt. Elisha Parker and Lance Cpl. Robert Moscillo.”

Capt. Jim L. Zepko, the 33-year-old company commander for B Company, said Parker was his first choice to send as the senior engineer attached to 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion.  Of Moscillo, he described him as a “fun-loving athlete.”

“This is what we do as Marines to honor Marines who have made the ultimate sacrifice,” said Zepko, from Oceanside, Calif.  “This is a chance to cement their memories in our minds. They provided a level of protection for all of us as guardians.  They will not grow old as we will.  The memory of them will forever be young.”

Parker joined the Marine Corps in Albany, N.Y., in the summer of 2001 after graduating from Camden High School.  He attended recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., and graduated in October 2001.  He completed training as a Basic Combat Engineer at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and was assigned to B Company, 1st CEB. 

Parker deployed in support of Regimental Combat Team 5 during Operation Iraqi Freedom I, the assault on Baghdad.  He deployed a second time to Iraq in March 2004 for OIF II.  Parker redeployed to the U.S. and completed the Combat Engineer Journeyman Course and gained his green instructor’s belt in the Marine Corp Martial Arts Program. 

Parker extended his enlistment in the Marine Corps by four months to complete his third tour to Iraq.

“Sgt. Parker set an example that was hard to follow,” said 1st Lt. Nathan E. Zygmont, Parker’s and Moscillo’s platoon commander.  “Because of his guidance, influence and confidence, our Marines are better.”

Marines who knew Parker best used words such as “honorable, courageous and committed,” to help others to understand the man he was.

“On many occasions, he looked fear in the face and overcame it,” said Cpl. Bowen W. Gutknecht, a 21-year-old from Washburn, N.D.  “He was one of those men who made everyone respect him.”

Parker’s awards include the Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, the Presidential Unit Citation, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon with two bronze stars in lieu of second and third awards.

Moscillo was remembered by Zygmont for his thick Boston accent.

“Lance Cpl. Moscillo was a solid performer,” said Zygmont, 26, from Rockville, Md.  “He was a hard worker who volunteered for any task.  We will carry their memory with us.  They can never be replaced and will never be forgotten.”

Lance Cpl. William L. Bain, a 20-year-old from Portland, Ore., was a good friend of Moscillo and said he often went by the nicknames “Moss” or “Boston.”

“The definition of a rock is a foundation in which to build,” Bain explained.  “That seems a little generic to explain who ‘Moss’ was.”

Bain said on Sundays he would travel to Oceanside, Calif., to attend church and visit his grandmother, “because God and family came first.”

“Moss has this way of making everyone feel comfortable,” Bain said.  “He was a solid son, a tough Marine and a dependable friend.”

Moscillo graduated from Salem High School in Salem, Mass., in 2003.  He joined the Marine Corps out of Boston on 2005 and attended recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot in May, 2005.  He attended Basic Combat Engineer School at Camp Lejeune, N.C. and was assigned to B Company, 1st CEB.  Moscillo deployed to Iraq in February, 2006 and was recently promoted to his present rank while serving in support of 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion.

Moscillo’s awards include the Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, Iraq Campaign Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.

“These two engineers have indeed led the way,” Nicholson said.  “Keep their spirit alive.  They are your brothers now and forever.”