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Marines pause to remember three of their own

17 Sep 2006 | Cpl. Brian Reimers

Marines and sailors recently paused to remember three fellow service members at a memorial service held here.

Lance Cpl. Eric P. Valdepenas, Cpl. Jared M. Shoemaker and Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Christopher G. Walsh, were killed in action Sept. 4 while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province. The three service members were assigned to Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5.

“Jared, Eric, and Chris were brothers to the officers and Marines of Weapons Company,” said 35-year-old Maj. Craig R. Abele, commanding officer of Weapons Company.  “The company had grown to love them not only as warriors, but as men.”

Twenty-one-year-old Valdepenas was remembered as the quiet Marine in the group, but always a professional. His closest friends knew him as one to instantly lend a hand and help ease any situation.

“In this world there are givers and there are takers; Val was always a giver,” said Lance Cpl. Daniel Barthelemy, a 22-year-old machine gunner from Windham, N.H.  “When anyone needed anything, Val was the first to jump up and help out. Val could always make us laugh. Even when I was packing his possessions to send home I would come across something that would put a smile on my face.”

Walsh, 30, was a St. Louis firefighter as well as a Navy corpsman. Marines and service members he served with knew “Doc” as rough on the outside, but one who truly cared on the inside.

“I could not have been partnered with a better corpsman. HM2 Walsh embodied the true meaning of a fleet Marine Corps doc,” said Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Edgar E. Gallego, a fellow corpsman from New York City.  “He cared about and loved every single one of his Marines and he was always willing to do anything for them. Even if he was tired after a long patrol, he would be the first one to go up and ask if anybody needed any help.”

As a vehicle commander who was meritoriously promoted to his current rank, Shoemaker was a natural leader. Fellow Marines agreed that his leadership came with his easy going personality and passion for helping others.

“As most of you know the stresses of a deployment can create tension between Marines, nothing serious, just the kind of tension you would have with any brother while spending 24-hours a day for seven months with them,” said Lance Cpl. Devon W. Whaling, from Tulsa, Okla.  “But during this entire deployment I never saw Jared upset with or upset anyone.  That is the kind of guy he was. You couldn’t find a reason not to think he was a great guy.”

The battalion honored the service members with a memorial for each of the three, consisting of a helmet sitting on top of a rifle, with identification tags resting next to a pair of combat boots. Marines and sailors spoke about memories of their fallen brothers and one by one paid their last respects in front of the memorials.

Walsh joined the Navy in March 2003, and was later assigned to 3rd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment. In August 2005, he reported to Field Medical School at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejuene, N.C. He was assigned to Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, in December 2005, to deploy with the battalion in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

His personal awards and decorations include the Purple Heart Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal with Eagle, Globe and Anchor device, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon and Armed Forces Reserve Medal.

Valdepenas graduated from Bishop Hendricken High School in Warrick, R.I., in 2003. He attended the University of Massachusetts Amherst for one year, then put his education on hold to enlist in the Marine Corps. He reported to basic training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., and upon graduation reported to the Infantry Training Battalion at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejuene, N.C. He left with the military occupational specialty of machine gunner and reported to Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment in April 2005. In December 2005, he was activated with the battalion to deploy to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

His awards and decorations include the Purple Heart Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon and Armed Forces Reserve Medal.

Shoemaker enlisted in the Marine Corps in January 2003. After graduating from basic training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, Calif., he reported to the Infantry Training Battalion at Marine Corps Base, Camp Pendleton, Calif. He graduated with the military occupational specialty of machine gunner. He later reported to Company I, 3rd Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment where he served until being assigned to Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment in 2005.  In December, he was activated to deploy with the battalion in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

His awards and decorations include the Purple Heart Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, Iraq Campaign Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon and Armed Forces Reserve Medal.

“Jared left a void in all of our hearts that could never begin to be filled,” said 23-year-old Whaling.

Many of the service members who attended the memorial agreed that they would carry on with the mission to honor those whom they had lost.

“We carry on because that is what we do best,” said 46-year-old Lt. Col. Christopher A. Landro, the battalion’s commander, from Kennesaw, Ga. “We carry on because it is through the resolute focus, vigilant and aggressive execution of our mission that we best honor the sacrifice these three heroes made.”