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Battalion memorializes fallen angels

26 Jun 2006 | Cpl. William Skelton

Battalion Commander Lt. Col. David J. Furness promises that as long as there is a 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, the fallen Marines of the battalion will remain a part of the unit.

The battalion created a ‘Fallen Heroes’ wall to memorialize their brothers lost in combat to help fulfill this promise that was made at the end of every memorial service.

“The memorial was planned from the beginning of the deployment,” said Cpl. Justin J. Brenden, a 23-year-old mortarman from Helena, Mont. “We had hoped that we would never have to build it, but it was something we knew could happen.”

The wall is located just inside the front door of the battalion’s command operations center. It consists of a mural painted by two of the battalion’s Marines surrounded by portraits of the unit’s fallen warriors.

The battalion has lost 10 Marines to enemy actions in their area of operation since arriving here in January.

“The battalion before us had a pretty good memorial for their fallen Marines,” said Maj. Bill Wischmeyer, the 39-year-old battalion executive officer from San Diego. “Like Marines do, we wanted to do something appropriate for our fallen comrades.”

The mural is comprised of a Marine in full battle gear with outstretched wings holding a tablet with the battalion’s logo etched on it. On a banner over the Marine is written the words ‘Fallen Heroes.’ At the bottom of the mural is a shield with the names of the fallen Marines.

One of the challenges in creating the memorial in Iraq was locating the paints and supplies needed to create it. Once those items were acquired, Brenden began the painstaking work of creating the mural.

“It was tough finding the paint we needed to get the memorial started,” said Brenden. “It was even tougher painting it, because one of the fallen Marines was a close friend.”

Brenden painted for days on end until the project was complete. The result is one that the battalion is proud to represent them and their fallen brothers.

“In think it turned out great,” said Cpl. Justin J. Hensley, the 24-year-old battalion data chief from Louisville, Ky. “The presentation is very good.”

The memorial receives a different reaction from each Marine who walks past it. Some stop to take photos while others take time to remember the Marines and the mission the battalion is here to do.

“It’s hard to put into words the feelings I feel when I walk by the wall and see the birthdays of the fallen Marines,” Hensley said. “It’s hard to think I am older than most of them.”

The battalion hopes the families of the Marines will find some comfort in the mural, and that they will know their sons, husbands and fathers are not forgotten.

“After personally communicating with some of the Marines’ families, I believe they would be honored to know that their sons are being memorialized in this way,” Hensley said.

The future of the memorial is clear to the Marines of the battalion. The mural will travel with the battalion back to the battalion’s command post at Camp Pendleton, Calif.

“We’re taking it with us,” said Wischmeyer. “We’re taking it down and it will come home with us.”