CAMP BAHARIA, Iraq (Dec. 28, 2008) --
As the Marines stood at attention, perfectly aligned and covered, they listened as the first sergeant called roll.
After calling one Marine’s name, no one responded. He yelled it again—no reply. The Marines in attendance knew there would be no reply, no matter how much they wanted to hear a voice.
The first sergeant turned around after his last call and Marines with rifles fired in succession a three-volley salute into the sky.
Marines with Task Force 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, and other units on Camp Baharia gathered to honor Lance Cpl. Thomas J. Reilly, Jr., a rifleman who served with the battalion’s C Company, December 28.
Reilly was killed in action during a patrol in Karmah, Iraq, Dec. 21. A 19-year-old rifleman from London, Ky., he served as a platoon radio operator with 2nd Platoon, C Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines.
One could tell by the ceremony Reilly had made many close friends during his time with the battalion and is sure to be remembered by all those with whom he served.
Several Marines, including the battalion’s commanding officer, Lt. Col. Andrew R. Milburn, spoke about their memories of Reilly.
“(Reilly) did not die in vain,” Milburn said. “He died a Marine in the service of (his) country, and he will be remembered. He was an exceptional young man.”
Reilly’s friends talked about some of their most memorable times with him, and about moments that defined who he was.
“For me and T.J. it was all fun and games,” said Lance Cpl. Floyd Rude, a 21-year-old team leader from Bowling Green, Ohio, with 2nd Platoon. “T.J. was by far my best friend that I’ve ever had, and that I could’ve ever asked for. He was always there for anyone, whether you needed him to be or not.”
Capt. Paul Stubbs, commanding officer of C Company, talked about how Reilly chose the hardest road in life and how his memory reminds Marines why they are truly a band of brothers.
“Of all possible endeavors, he chose the rockiest road and the toughest clime (by joining the Marine Corps),” Stubbs said. “Our brother Tom is now among the revered and solemn group of Marines who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice.”
“I take comfort that my fallen son will be cherished in the hearts of so many,” Stubbs tearfully added.
Staff Sgt. Mike Brown, 2nd Platoon commander, said he will always remember Reilly as an exceptional Marine.
“We watched Reilly grow,” Brown said. “We watched him grow to one of the finest Marines I’ve ever known. He was always smiling. He just had that aura about him.”
Brown told the gathered Marines how Reilly was always on top of his work, and how if someone slipped up, he wouldn’t hesitate to remind them.
“I remember I was trying to get a radio check one day,” Brown said. “I was getting frustrated no one was answering, so I called him over. I said, ‘you’re the radio operator aren’t you – how am I suppose to trust you when we’re about to go outside the wire and I can’t get the radio to work.’ He said, ‘staff sergeant, you have to turn the radio on.’ He never let me forget that.”
Reilly was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, and Combat Action Ribbon for his service.
He is survived by his father Thomas Reilly, mother Georgina Bray, sister Regina Reilly, and brother Kenneth Bray.