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3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment Memorializes Fallen Marine
(October 20, 2010)

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Sangin, Afghanistan (Oct. 17, 2010) – Marines and sailors from 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2, in Sangin, paused to honor Lance Cpl. John T. Sparks. Sparks, 23, a machine gunner with Weapons Platoon, India Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines was killed in action, Oct. 8.
 “It is my personal and professional honor to be a part of this memorial service and to pay tribute to Lance Cpl. John Sparks' life and his sacrifice,” said Lt. Col. Jason Morris, the commanding officer of 3/5. “I give thanks every day that I had the opportunity to serve with and lead a man such as John, a man that gave his last full measure defending his nation against its enemies.”

Sparks attended Paul Robeson High School in Chicago, where he played football and wrestled. Upon graduation, Sparks attended Westwood College where he received an associate's degree in criminal justice. Sparks enlisted in the Marine Corps in Feb. 2008.

Sparks was assigned to India Company, 3/5 in Sept. 2008, and was currently on his second deployment.
U.S. Marine Corps 1st Sgt. Yomen English, the company first sergeant for India Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment calls roll for Lance Cpl. John T. Sparks at a memorial ceremony in Sangin, Oct. 16, 2010. Sparks, 23, was killed in action, Oct. 8, 2010. Sparks was a machine gunner with Weapons Platoon, India Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines. At the memorial, Marines from 3/5 assigned to Regimental Combat Team 2 in Sangin, paused to honor their fallen brother.
U.S. Marine Corps 1st Sgt. Yomen English, the company first sergeant for India Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment calls roll for Lance Cpl. John T. Sparks (23) at a memorial ceremony in Sangin, Oct. 16, 2010.
“He was a physically tough and mentally focused Marine who never quit. He was a mentor, friend and leader within India Company,” said Capt. Christopher Esrey, the company commander for India Company. “India Company is shaken by his loss, but we will carry out our mission in his name. Sparks will be greatly missed as a fellow Marine, a friend and a brother. His sacrifice will never be forgotten.”

Nearly every Marine in Sangin attended the memorial and paid their respects to their fallen brother.
Cpl. Jeffery Holsey, a machine gun team leader with India Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment pays tribute to a fallen brother, machine gunner Lance Cpl. John T. Sparks at a memorial ceremony in Sangin, Oct, 16, 2010. Sparks, 23, was killed in action, Oct. 8, 2010. “My friend is gone and it seems that no matter what I do the pain in my heart won’t go away,” said Holsey, a roommate of Sparks. “John had the best qualities a person could ask for. He was always laughing and always smiling. He never let the troubles of the world get him down.”
Cpl. Jeffery Holsey, a machine gun team leader with India Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment pays tribute to a fallen brother, machine gunner Lance Cpl. John T. Sparks at a memorial ceremony in Sangin, Oct, 16, 2010. Sparks, 23, was killed in action, Oct. 8, 2010.
 “My friend is gone and it seems that no matter what I do, the pain in my heart won't go away,” said Cpl. Jeffery Holsey, a machine gun team leader and roommate of Sparks. “John had the best qualities a person could ask for. He was always laughing and always smiling. He never let the troubles of the world get him down.”

Holsey laughed and cried as he remembered and talked of the old days with Sparks.

“Sparks loved machine guns,” said Holsey. “He would always say that ‘Everyone wants to be a machine gunner until it is time to be a machine gunner, because the hurt we carried separated the men from the boys.'”

The short, quiet ceremony was marked by Bible verses and prayers honoring Sparks. Final Roll was called three times for Lance Cpl. John T. Sparks only to be answered by silence. Taps followed in a final farewell.

“I would like to thank Mrs. Lenora Sparks for raising and nurturing such an extraordinary man, brother, and son,” said Esrey. “Without his family at home, his second family, here in India Company, 3/5, would have never been blessed with his presence.”

As the ceremony came to an end, the Marines remembered Sparks for who he was.

“He always carried his weight and when others couldn't, John would pick up their slack,” said Holsey. “He was a selfless person. He always gave everything and never asked for anything in return.
“I love you and will miss you John Sparks.”

Sparks awards include the Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service medal and the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary medal.

Sparks leaves behind his mother, Lenora.
Article and photos by USMC Cpl. Daniel Blatter
1st Marine Division
Copyright 2010

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