CAMP BLUE DIAMOND, Iraq -- The mood was somber and little noise was made as the Marines gathered to pay their last respects.
Marines and Sailors entered the chapel here Sept. 9 to mourn the loss of their fallen brother in arms, Lance Cpl. Derek L. Gardner, motor transport operator, Truck Company, Headquarters Battalion, 1st Marine Division.
During a supply convoy on Sept. 6, a sedan swerved underneath Gardner's 7-ton truck detonating simultaneously. The severity of the blast killed Gardner.
When Gardner, an Orange County, Calif., native, turned 18 he followed in his father's footsteps and enlisted in the Marine Corps. He turned 20 Aug. 9.
"Lance Cpl. Gardner went to a foreign land to bring freedom, to its people and to protect our great nation," said Capt. Terence M. Connelly, commanding officer, Truck Company. "In order to defend and serve his country, he left his loved ones."
Gardner's passion extended beyond his country, he was known as a hard worker and one who cared greatly about those to his left and right.
"Despite his short time in the Corps, he was a Marine fellow Marines went to for help. He led quietly yet noticeably," said Connelly. "Even before he went on his first deployment, he had earned the reputation as a hard worker who was eager to take on the difficult jobs."
For Gardner's hard work, he had been nominated for a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal for professional achievement during combat operations in Operation Iraqi Freedom II.
"He laid down his life for his nation and each one of us," said Connelly. "We honor him by performing our duties in the same manner he did, with selflessness and determination."
Gardner's commanding officer reflected on a day where Gardner stood out amongst his comrades.
"He fit my picture of the typical tough young Marine," said Connelly. "He was dirty, he was tired and he was pissed off. But I could tell he loved his buddies, he loved being a truck driver and he loved being a Marine."
Gardner made the ultimate sacrifice for his country and his service will not be forgotten.
"Lance Cpl. Gardner as you knew him, Derek as I knew him, was a great friend and he was also a great Marine, and he will be missed, but not only by me but his family and friends as well," said Pfc. M. D. Hawkins, a friend of Gardner. "My heart goes out to his family for this will be a very hard time for them. I ask that you keep his family in your prayers. Pray for them all. Semper Fi Derek, we'll be missing you."