MEMORIAL DAY: 'Band of brothers' gathers at Arlington
ARLINGTON, Va. (BP)--Today's Marines in combat are our modern-day "Band of Brothers."
The term Band of Brothers was popularized by the 2001 Stephen Spielberg and Tom Hanks 10-part TV miniseries about a U.S. Army elite paratrooper unit during World War II, based on a book by Stephen E. Ambrose.
In the book and the miniseries, the men of "Easy Company" of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division formed a brotherhood of their shared experiences from basic training in 1942 at Camp Toccoa, Ga., to D-Day in June of 1944 and their ultimate triumph at the end of World War II.
A modern-day band of brothers has shared a difficult, dangerous and traumatic experience in battle, losing their brothers-in-arms in combat. Those who know the true meaning of brotherhood have lived it daily and established a special bond that binds them together for the rest of their lives.
This brotherhood was evident at Arlington National Cemetery during a bittersweet reunion of a small band of 18 Camp Lejeune Marines of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force on April 1.
Charlie Company Marines gathered to pay homage and respect on behalf of their two fallen brothers, Tyler Owen Griffin of Voluntown, Conn., and Kevin Michael Cornelius of Ashtabula, Ohio, both Lance Corporals who gave their lives while supporting combat operations in Afghanistan in April 2010.
From Camp Lejeune, N.C., the Marines were joined by the families, friends and loved ones of the fallen Marines who talked and exchanged memories and life experiences that brought them together.
Standing at attention, the Charlie Company Marines looked on while the families and loved ones were given time to grieve alone through a moment of silence and prayer at the gravesites at Arlington National Cemetery.
Slowly, one by one, each of the 18 Camp Lejeune Marines knelt down with dignity and honor, removed their covers and placed their hand on their fallen brothers' tombstones offering silent prayers, reflections and tears.
That moment of silence was broken from afar by someone softly whispering, "Semper Fi."
Choking back tears, Lance Corporal Griffin's mother Suzie Wilding said she had an impression she heard the distinct voice of her son Tyler saying faintly in her heart, "Mom, I don't deserve this honor, I was only doing my job. My job is being a Marine."
Others shared their observances:
--"It is one thing to serve in combat with these Marines and to see them hurt or die, [but it] is another to face reality by meeting their families and relive their sacrifices by a physical remembrance of them at Arlington. It is very humbling. That's makes it real for me," said First Lieutenant Daniel Kapavik, Third Platoon Commander.
-- Celeste Corbissero, grandmother of Lance Kevin Corporal Cornelius, said: "My grandson was very fortunate to be with such a wonderful group of men." She vividly remembers all the letters and email she received from Kevin in Afghanistan. "Every email and letter I received from Kevin always ended up with the same last sentence: 'I'm doing what I want to do. There is no place else I rather be. Semper Fi.'"
Corbissero spoke proudly of her grandson: "Kevin wanted to be the best Marine." She remembers him telling her: "Grandma, if anything happens to me, if I die, don’t cry because I’ll be in heaven.”
-- Johnny Wilding, Lance Corporal Griffin's step-father, said humbly: "Tyler and Kevin were the best of friends since they first met at Camp Lejuene. It is pretty incredible they had served together in Afghanistan, lost their lives four months apart, and [are] both ... buried together one space apart at Arlington National Cemetery is truly remarkable."
It has been 235 years since the independence of the United States of America. Countless courageous Americans have defended this country since the Revolutionary War -- in World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Lebanon, Panama, Grenada, the Persian Gulf, Iraq, Afghanistan and throughout the world.
The unselfish deeds and inspirational actions of our fallen American heroes are inscribed at The Confederate Monument at Arlington National Cemetery that reads:
Not for fame or reward
Not for place or for rank
Not lured by ambition
Or goaded by necessity
But in simple
Obedience to duty
As they understood it
These men suffered all
Dared all - and died
May we never forget Lance Corporals Griffin and Cornelius' final acts of bravery and accomplishing their duties with HONOR, COURAGE and COMMITMENT. Their ultimate sacrifice and love for our flag, our country, their comrades-in-arms, their faith in God, their friends and their families will forever be enshrined in the hearts of our nation's proud and grateful citizens.
May God grant us the vision, wisdom, understanding and determination to make us worthy of the sacrifices of our dead heroes, and may we never forget that all future wars and conflicts again will cost the lives of the best and brightest of our nation in order to keep America safe and to defend and protect the Constitution of the United States of America.
Commander (Chaplain) Manuel "Don" A. Biadog Jr., CHC, USN, is a Southern Baptist chaplain endorsed by the North American Mission Board. He currently is serving as the Command Chaplain, Naval Base Kitsap, Washington. He previously served as Command Chaplain, Naval Station Newport, R.I.; Deputy III MEF Chaplain/III MHG Chaplain, III Marine Headquarters, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Courtney, Okinawa, Japan; Group Chaplain, Carrier Task Force-76, White Beach, Okinawa, Japan; Deputy Chaplain, Multi-National Force-Iraq, Baghdad, Iraq; Staff Chaplain, Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, Irvine, Calif.; and Assistant Command Chaplain, Naval Base Guantanamo, Cuba.