CAMP BAHARIA, Iraq -- Marines and sailors stood at attention while “taps” echoed over the camp, many with tears dripping on their camouflage uniforms.
The death of fellow Marine, Cpl. Paul “Nick” King, suddenly sank in.
“I remember when we found out that the battalion was heading to Iraq. Nick, with so much to lose, did what so many people couldn’t, and chose to come,” said 23-year-old Cpl. Michael A. Stubbs, of Billerica, Mass. “I know that he is one of the reasons that a large group of people chose to come here, such as myself. Not for political views, but because we were all going into harm’s way together.”
Hundreds of members of 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5, gathered at a memorial service held here to honor King July 6. The 24-year-old, noncommissioned officer was killed in action June 25, by enemy small-arm’s fire, while operating in Fallujah.
“He represents all that is great in America and all that is great in our NCO corps,” said Lt. Col. Christopher A. Landro, the battalion’s commander, of Kennesaw, Ga. “Paul was a natural leader and was much admired by all who knew him.”
King’s fellow Marines and friends remembered him for his relaxed and easy going personality, yet sturdy professionalism on the battlefield.
“King knew the city better than anyone. As we traveled through the streets of Fallujah on patrol, we would often go firm by my command, but always by King’s choice,” said Cpl. Mark W. Wills, 37, from Waltham, Mass., and a section leader with Weapons Company who worked side-by-side with King.
King was from Tyngsboro, Mass. He served as a vehicle commander and navigator in a mobile assault platoon assigned to Weapons Company. Sitting in the front of his up-armored humvee, King commanded the Marines in his vehicle on what actions to take, while also communicating with the Marines in the other vehicles on the situation. It’s a responsibility that takes strong leadership and collective calmness to make decisions at a moment’s notice.
“I remember one of my first missions with his platoon,” said Maj. Craig R. Abele, Weapons Company commander. “As we rounded the corner to the objective site, I truly wasn’t sure if we were in the right spot.
“I exited my vehicle and immediately went to the platoon commander,” continued the 35-year-old from Falls Church, Va. “I stated my concern to the Gunny and without hesitation he pointed Corporal King’s vehicle and stated words to effect that ‘If Corporal King lead us here, we are in the right spot.’”
The battalion honored King with a traditional military memorial, consisting of a helmet sitting on top of a rifle, with identification tags hung around the pistol grip and pair of combat boots resting at 45 degrees. Marines spoke about memories of their fallen brother, and one by one paid their respects in front of his memorial.
Landro spoke with King’s father before going to the memorial service.
“He asked that I thank every member of this battalion for the great job you are doing. He relayed that we all come home safe and sound, but he knows the challenges that we face,” 46-year-old Landro said. “I told him that I wished I could have brought his son home, and he replied as stoically as possible that his son was home.”
King enlisted in the Marine Corps on October 15, 2001. Upon graduation of boot camp, he attended the School of Infantry where he was assigned the military occupational specialty of 0341, mortar man. On April 4, 2002, he reported to Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment. During his time with the battalion, he advanced billets from ammo man to vehicle commander.
His awards include the Purple Heart Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon with bronze star in lieu of second award and Armed Forces Reserve Medal.