BASE FIRES, Helmand province, Afghanistan (9/22/2011) -- Kind,
passionate, resourceful, knowledgeable, humble and brave: those were
just some of the words fellow Marines used to describe Cpl. Michael
Dutcher during a memorial service for the Asheville, N.C., native at
Patrol Base Fires, Sept. 20.
Dutcher, a team leader for 1st
Platoon, Company B, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, was killed
in action Sept. 15, while on patrol in Sangin, Afghanistan.
Even before paying the ultimate price for freedom, the 2007
Asheville High School graduate and Junior ROTC cadet gave himself to
the platoon in many ways as an individual, a teacher and as a
natural leader. He didn't fit the look of a stereotypical lean, mean, chisel-jawed
Marine, but every day he proved wrong what first impressions would
lead one to believe.
“Cpl. Duthcer was one of my first
Marines as a platoon commander when I checked into the unit,” said
1st Lt. Charles Poulton. “When I first looked at him, I saw this
little guy with tiny spectacles that did not do much for his command
Anyone who drew conclusions about Dutcher's
character based on his appearance alone were proven wrong in short
order. He was known for his courage. His intelligence kept him
keenly aware of risks he faced, yet he still volunteered for
dangerous assignments; his rationale was to keep his brothers safe.
Dutcher was engaged and had made plans for when he got back from
Afghanistan and after he got out of the Marine Corps.
often talked about having a family with Rachael (Dutcher's fianc�e),
watching his kids grow and being a teacher,” said Cpl. Dan Wheeler,
a fellow team leader who served with Dutcher in 1st Plt., and in 2nd
Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team Company when the two were assigned
to Marine Corps Security Forces. “But looking back, in a way, he
already did. He was able to see many of the young Marines in this
platoon grow into who they are today. He taught all of them things
from Marine Corps knowledge to all those useless and random facts
that have nothing to do with the conversation.”
Dutcher was a
gold mine of information regardless of the topic. He was the
platoon's go-to man when equipment failed and kept the platoon going
whether or not he had a manual.
“Cpl. Dutcher was the
smartest man with the most useless facts,” said Cpl. Victor Sierra,
a fellow team leader with 1st Plt. “He could tell you how many
grains of salt fit into a 4-ounce container or how if you put a
9-volt battery and a light bulb in a metal container you could make
your own microwave.”
“AskJeeves.com had nothing on Cpl.
Dutcher,” said Sierra. “He was our own AskDutcher.com.”
lived up to his role as a non-commissioned officer by training
junior Marines with classes using his familiar voice.
Corporal Michael Minor, an assistant patrol leader for 1st Platoon, Company B, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, gives a command to the rifle detail during the memorial service for Cpl. Michael Dutcher at Patrol Base Fires
on September 20, 2011. Photo by USMC Cpl. Nathan McCord
“He would make a 10 minute class seem like it would take two hours
because he would talk in a monotone voice,” recalled Sierra. “I am
always going to miss that about Dutch.”
“But he also taught
us all how to live selflessly,” said Wheeler.
this through the way he carried himself and by putting his Marines
before himself. During his life and in his death, he always made
sure that the guy to his left and the man to right were taken care
of professionally and personally. At times he did it by just being
himself and pressing on with a smile on his face and his
recognizable mud-covered glasses from a patrol.
Dutcher was the nicest person around. He did everything for his
brothers,” said Sierra. “He would never complain. You would rarely
see him without a smile on his face.”
Dutcher lived and died selflessly for those he loved and served with
to ensure they made it home. It was a pure love that others emulated
and admired him for.
“Cpl. Dutcher had one mission and one
mission only: make his platoon better no matter what he had to do,”
said Poulton. “Cpl. Dutcher had no ego to feed, no desire to seek
credit for a job well done; only a strong desire to have his platoon
By USMC Cpl. Benjamin Crilly
Regimental Combat Team 8, 2nd Marine Division
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