Marine, Corpsman Pay Homage to Fallen Brother
(October 11, 2008)
|FALLUJAH, Iraq, Oct. 9, 2008 – Four years
ago in the poverty-stricken neighborhoods here, Marines were
attacked within minutes of beginning routine foot patrols.
Fallujah's citizens were strongly opposed to the presence of
coalition forces, and a vicious insurgency devastated the
Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class
Benjamin Swain, left, a corpsman with 3rd
Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, Regimental
Combat Team 1, and Marine Corps Maj. Jeffrey
McCormack, operations officer for 1st Battalion,
9th Marines, stand at the site in Fallujah,
Iraq, where Benjamin's brother, James, was
killed in 2004.
In 2004, Marine Corps Lance
Cpl. James Swain, an intelligence specialist
with 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, was
killed by a gunshot in one of the cities'
neighborhoods. Last month, Navy Petty Officer
3rd Class Benjamin Swain, a corpsman with
Battery M, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment,
Regimental Combat Team 1, from Kokomo, Ind.,
visited the site where his brother gave the
ultimate sacrifice for his country.
“It felt as if I looked hard enough, I could see
him there,” Benjamin said. “It all seemed
surreal, and I'm honestly not too sure how I
feel, but I do know I'm glad I went.”
Marine Corps Maj. Jeffrey McCormack, who was the
intelligence officer for 3rd Battalion, 1st
Marines, and is a native of Oak Forest, Ill.,
worked closely with James during their
deployment together in 2004 and was nearby when
the shooting occurred.
McCormack, now the operations officer for
1st Battalion, 9th Marines, Regimental Combat Team 1,
contacted the Swain family shortly after James' death and
regularly keeps in touch with them. |
A few months into McCormack's current deployment, he
discovered Benjamin was deployed to Fallujah — only minutes
away from his old living quarters. McCormack quickly
contacted Benjamin via e-mail, and they planned to meet.
“Once I found out Ben was near Camp Fallujah, I set up a
dinner with him after one of my meetings,” McCormack said.
“During the dinner, I asked Benjamin if he was interested in
going to the alleyway where his brother was killed.”
After some coordination, the two set out to visit the site.
They first visited the rooftop of a building formerly
occupied by coalition forces. The roof of the building was
the last place McCormack saw James alive.
The night before James left for what was to be his last
mission, McCormack asked James if he had any pictures of
himself from the deployment. James said no, and McCormack
pulled out his digital camera and snapped a few shots of him
on the rooftop.
“I immediately recognized the area from the pictures,”
Benjamin said. “Being there and just being able to see the
places where he spent his last hours meant being able to
connect with him in some way.”
Benjamin and McCormack stood on the roof reminiscing about
James. McCormack pointed out various sites in the city and
told Benjamin the sequence of events leading up to James'
They looked over the city one last time before setting out
on a foot patrol with Marines from 1st Battalion, 9th
Marines, to the site where James was shot.
Iraqis smiled and waved as the patrol made its way to the
alleyway. The friendly atmosphere was vastly different from
the one James and McCormack experienced four years ago.
Benjamin said every day he sees the progress resulting from
the sacrifice his brother and thousands of others have made,
and that their loss is not in vain.
“I've never thought his death was in vain,” Benjamin said.
“He died doing what he believed in. But the progress we've
made is a testament to the hard work and sacrifices of all
who served, and that cannot be taken for granted.”
Benjamin said his brother would be pleased at the country's
improvement if he were alive to see it.
“He would be proud, and maybe even smug,” he said. “He would
probably joke and say something like, ‘Its safe around here
because of me, ... because of what I did.'"
Benjamin said he and James always believed in serving their
country, and following James' death, Benjamin joined the
Navy as a corpsman.
“In high school, my brother and I agreed that while everyone
can't serve, everyone should want to serve to help repay for
the many opportunities we are granted just by living in
America,” Benjamin said. “I understood that all Marines are
brothers, and seeing how my brother was a Marine, that made
the Marines my brothers, too. So I figured as a Navy
corpsman, I'd get the opportunity to serve with some of my
McCormack said that while there can never be closure for him
because it is far too difficult getting over someone's
death, he is thankful for the opportunity to share the day
“Benjamin was very grateful for the opportunity to see the
actual area his brother was killed and the rooftop of the
building where the pictures were taken,” McCormack said. “It
was just as beneficial for me to be on that rooftop with
him. I don't want to say it brought closure, because the
pain of losing a Marine never goes away, and the loss of a
brother will certainly never go away for Ben. I lost a
Marine, but he lost a brother.”
Photo by Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Casey Jones
American Forces Press Service
Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Casey Jones serves with Regimental Combat Team 1.
Forces Press Service / DoD
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