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1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment honors fallen warrior

4 Aug 2006 | Cpl. William Skelton

Marines from Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment paused operations to honor a fallen Marine.

Lance Cpl. James W. Higgins was killed in action July 27 and memorialized by his fellow Marines at Camp Fallujah’s Chapel of Hope Aug. 4.

Lt. Col. David J. Furness said Higgins was the type of Marine whose dedication shone in every part of his career.

“His peers referred to him as ‘Sergeant Major Higgy’ in tribute to the sterling example he always set as a Marine.” said the 43-year-old battalion commander from Oceanside, Calif. “His bearing and dedication reflected in everything he did.”

Higgins was 22-years-old and from Thurmont, Md. He was assigned to Weapons Company’s Mobile Assault Platoon 2.

“Higgins was a man who selflessly gave his life leading his Marines and protecting his brothers in Mobile Assault Platoon 2,” Furness said. “Initially he was a quiet and reserved young man, but under the crucible of combat he blossomed into one of the best Marines in Weapons Company.”

Higgins, a former football player and all-around athlete in high school, was an ambitious and outspoken Marine who answered his nation’s call to serve.

“James Higgins was a brave, intelligent and brilliant young man who would have been successful on any path in life he chose,” said Capt. Alton A. Warthen, the 32-year-old company commanding officer from Newport News, Va. “He could have gone to college, pursued a civilian career and lived a life of relative comfort and wealth.

“He chose instead to come here and fight for the freedom of others,” Warthen explained.

Warthen said that Higgins and the 141 other Marines in Weapons Company represented the most noble aspects of the ancient code of war and of humanity itself.

“It is a tragic irony that young men like Lance Cpl. Higgins must sacrifice and in some cases die, fighting to protect what most take for granted,” Warthen said. “But as we have all come to understand these past seven months, without us there would be nothing to take for granted.”

A recent photo of Higgins rested on an easel beside a memorial of a helmet resting on a rifle with a set of identification tags and a pair of combat boots. A Marine played “Taps” at the close of the service while all stood at attention. Higgins’ platoon then came forward individually to pay their last respects.

“There is honestly never a time that I can recall where I really had to guide Higgins,” said Cpl. Nicholas D. Miett, a 25-year-old machine gunner from Calaveras, Calif. “He was on a level much higher than his peers.”

Miett said Higgins’ leadership abilities were astounding for a Marine of his rank.

“He was literally everything a leader could want in a Marine,” Miett explained.

Higgins was described as a Marine who could drive, gun, dismount and even take charge.

“It was as if most times he could read my mind and know exactly what I needed done,” Miett said.

“He was vibrant and caring, known for his expert knowledge, professional bearing, intensity and most of all his timely and self-deprecating sense of humor,” Furness explained. “He was admired by many and loved by all.”

Higgins graduated from Catoctin High School in Frederick, Md.  He reported to recruit training in May 2005 and completed the School of Infantry, obtaining his military occupational specialty of 0331 – machine gunner.

His awards include the Purple Heart, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with Combat Distinguishing Device, Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.

“The Marines and sailors of the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines will soon leave Iraq and return home, a privilege we have not earned, but one that has been purchased for us with the blood of our wounded and fallen,” Furness said. “It is their heroism that holds our proud Marine Corps heritage. It is their heroism that guarantees our success here in Iraq.”