EOD Marines Remember Fallen, Immortalize Them
(March 8, 2011)
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. (MCN - 3/3/2011) —
"Greater love hath no man than this; that a man lay down his
life for his friends," John 15:13. |
This quotation is inscribed on a plaque that
rests on a tri-faced structure within the air
station's Combined Explosive Ordnance Disposal
Besides the plaque, the
wall is covered in portraits of Marines, 35 in
all. The first portrait is of Gunnery Sgt.
Michael Clark, the last of Gunnery Sgt. Justin
Schmalstieg. All the photos show Marines in
either full combat gear or a candid portrait in
civilian attire. There is not an official photo
in the whole bunch, as one might see when
visiting one of the squadrons and seeing the
who's-who wall of personnel.
No one on
the wall is alive. At the base of the portraits
are various ribbons, from the Combat Action
A memorial tribute that
shows 35 explosive ordnance disposal Marines who
have died supporting operations in Iraq and
Afghanistan, and on duty, stands at the Combined
Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit building at the
Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Ariz., March
Ribbon to the Global War on Terrorism Medal.
Other memorabilia includes photos from the
funerals as well as their programs. In the
center is the EOD insignia that's sometimes
mistaken for air crewman wings. Flanking the
emblem are cutouts of Iraq and Afghanistan, the
theaters for the operations where the Marines
memorialized lost their lives.
Thirty-five of the approximately 600 enlisted EOD
technicians are accounted for. Even adding the approximately
70 officers, that's still a 1/20th of all EOD Marines no
longer among the ranks. |
Any Marine who has ever
questioned the sacrifices Marines make for their country
need look no further than the memorial wall constructed in
the EOD complex, dedicated on March 7, 2008, and since
expanded to include the faces of the fallen.
EOD tech on this wall we know, either personally or we've
worked with them," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Simon Wade,
unit officer in charge. "There's a story behind every one of
When the wall was first dedicated, it
was a simple one-faced structure that only had 19 faces on
it, and wood cutouts of Iraq and Afghanistan. The wall has
since expanded in commemorating the deceased, the country
models far more detailed with the locations of major cities
and rivers etched into them, courtesy of Marine Wing Support
Squadron 371 combat engineers.
It is a grim reminder
to all EOD technicians of the reality they face outside the
wire, and an important reminder of the sacrifices these
Marines are willing to make to ensure other Marines arrive
The wall only tells of the Marines
whose lives have ended in completion of their mission. It
does not account for the countless others who've had
irreparable damage done to their bodies, such as amputations
and loss of eyesight, to say nothing of post-traumatic
stress disorder that follows.
All of that for an
extra $150 a month.
For Yuma Marines who deploy with
a squadron and thus stay on a forward operating base, it may
be hard to imagine the lives of deployed EOD Marines, some
of whom do not even wear the Marine uniform if supporting a
foreign coalition. Hostile living conditions are the norm,
and being targeted for assassination is a common occurrence.
Gunnery Sgt. Michael Clark is testament to this.
He got a call for unexploded ordnance in a vehicle, said
Wade. When he got there, Marines had gathered around the
vehicle. Clark cleared the area, looked in and saw
something, but by the time he started running, the
insurgents had detonated the bomb. They could've killed a
lot more than one Marine, but they chose him.
yet, EOD Marines still return.
"There's a certain
breed of human it takes to be a Marine," said Staff Sgt.
Joseph Donadio, EOD technician. "The same goes for EOD."
There's an adage that's quoted around EOD Marines:
Initial success or total failure. Their mission is paramount
to the safety of the Marines around them. With such a
burden, why would anyone want to be EOD?
the love of their fellow brother," said Wade.
rewards aren't financially beneficial, and the job itself
does not offer a lot of downtime - EOD Marines are back in
the states, on average, seven months before they go on a
seven-month deployment, and of those seven months stateside,
they can relax perhaps a month and a half during their pre-
and post-deployment leave - but the knowledge that another
Marine is safe is a far more enriching than a fatter bonus.
Marines are interviewed and informed before joining EOD, so
there is no way the 35 Marines on the memorial wall did not
know what they were doing.
There are other reasons
Marines enjoy the job.
"You could be in this job for
30 years and you still wouldn't know everything," said Sgt.
Dane Schielke, EOD technician, citing the multitude of ways
ordnance can be constructed, "It's ever changing."
Whatever the reason Marines on the memorial wall joined EOD,
they paid the ultimate sacrifice for it, and some service
members out there, whatever they're doing now, can thank
them for what they did.
Hopefully the open space
left on the wall remains empty.
Article and photo by USMC Pfc. Sean Dennison|
Marine Corps Air Station Yuma
Marine Corps News
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