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1st Marine Division


1st Marine Division

Camp Pendleton, CA
‘America’s Battalion’ honors fallen Marine

By Lance Cpl. Erik Villagran | | September 2, 2006

Marines with Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment paused operations to honor a Marine who gave his life for freedom.

A memorial service was held here Sept. 2 to honor Lance Cpl. James D. Hirlston, a 21-year-old from Murfreesboro, Tenn., who was killed in action Aug. 23. He was assigned to Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment.

The battalion is currently operating in Gharmah in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom with Regimental Combat Team 5.

“Although he had less than a year in the fleet he demonstrated a level of motivation, dedication to duty and determination that inspired everyone who knew him,” said Lt. Col. Kenneth M. DeTreux, the 41-year-old battalion commander from Philadelphia. “He was growing into an exceptional small-unit leader and his future was bright in the Corps.”

The battalion has been in their area of operations for more than a month.

“He was a leader amongst his peers,” said 1st Lt. Scott R. Burlison, a 38-year-old company commander from Cuyahoga, Ohio. “Even when times were tough, he demonstrated a positive attitude, and this was contagious amongst all of us, especially during a challenging time.”

Marines who served with him remembered his ability to lighten the mood with his kind heart.

“He was always upbeat and he always made me laugh,” said Pvt. Kelly E. Jones, a 26-year-old mortarman from Grantsboro, N.C. “I’d be having the worst day and he could just come by and have me laughing and in a good mood in no time. When we went on patrols, we called him the candy man because he always had something for the kids. You could tell that he really enjoyed talking to the kids and giving them food and water.”

Hirlston’s leaders thought of him as a strong Marine. They spoke highly of his abilities as Marine.

“Lance Cpl. Hirlson’s hard work ethic made him a go-to Marine, when a task needed to be completed no matter the difficulty,” said Staff Sgt. Daniel J. Morgan, a 37-year-old platoon commander from Preble, N.C. “His Loyalty and dedication are beyond reproach. You may be gone from this world, Lance Cpl. Hirlson, but rest assured my young friend, you will never be gone from my mind or the minds of the Marines of Mobile Assault Platoon 5.”

A photo of Hirlston rested on an easel next to his memorial. Hirlston was honored with a memorial of a helmet resting on a rifle with a set of identification tags and combat boots.

A Final Roll was sounded, and a Marine played “Taps” to end the ceremony.

Marines from the battalion then came forward to pay their respects to their fallen brother.

Hirlston graduated from Riverdale High School in Murfreesboro. He reported to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C. in July 2005. He completed the School of Infantry and obtained his military occupational specialty, that of a basic rifleman.

Hirlston’s awards include the Purple Heart, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with combat distinguishing device, Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

“Today, each and every member of ‘America’s Battalion’ can promise as long as there is a 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines, J.D. will always be apart of that battalion,” DeTreux said. “He will set the example and constant reminder about what sacrifice, duty and loyalty really mean. We honor him today and every day by accomplishing our mission with the same sense of duty, dedication and commitment that he displayed on a daily basis.”