1st Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment Honors Three Fallen Marines

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Marines with 1st Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment paused to honor three Marines who gave their lives for the cost of freedom.

Lance Cpl. David Hertiff, pays his last respects to three Marines from B Company, 1st Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, who were killed in action Dec. 28.
Lance Cpl. David Hertiff, pays his last respects to three Marines from B Company, 1st Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, who were killed in action Dec. 28. Marines from the battalion gathered at B Company’s forward operating base to pay respects to Cpl. Christopher E. Esckelson, Lance Cpl. Nicholas A. Miller and Lance Cpl. William D. Spencer. The Marines were killed conducting combat operations in the Al Anbar Province, Fallujah, Iraq, in direct support of Regimental Combat Team 5. (photo by Lance Cpl. Stephen McGinnis)

The unit held a memorial service for Cpl. Christopher E. Esckelson, Lance Cpl. Nicholas A. Miller and Lance Cpl. William D. Spencer at B Company’s forward operating base Jan 6.

Esckelson was a 22-year-old rifleman from Vasser, Mich., Miller was a 20-year-old rifleman from Clifford, Mich., and Spencer was a 20-year-old rifleman from Loveland, Ohio. Esckelson and Miller were both assigned to B Company, 1st Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment. Spencer was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, but was activated and joined the Marines of B Company in June 2006.

The Marines were killed Dec. 28, while conducting combat operations in the Al Anbar Province of Iraq with Regimental Combat Team 5 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“We are here today to honor the service and sacrifice of these three Marines,” said Lt. Col. Harold Van Opdorp, a 39-year-old battalion commander, from Stafford, Va.

“December 28th and the days that followed were trying days; I was never more proud of 2nd Platoon than on Dec. 29,” Van Opdorp said. “I had to wait for them to return because they were right back out in Fallujah conducting operations. You clearly show you are not sunshine soldiers. Your fortitude to rejoin the continuing battle that we face without question is the best way to honor these Marines.”

Marines who knew the fallen spoke about the great qualities they possessed and of the fond memories they shared together.

“Esckelson led his squad with the leadership and charisma that is given to only a blessed few,” said Maj. Jeffrey O’Neill, B Company’s commander. “He could, and often did, light up rooms with his stories.”

He was remembered by his friends as a kind friend and fun to be around.

“There are no words for me to sum up the life of such a great friend, man, and Marine,” said Cpl. Todd Pirich. “No matter what kind of mood you were in he could always make you laugh. He touched the lives of all that knew him.”

Spencer was remembered for his selfless acts the day he was killed.

“He gave his own life in order to pull his wounded squad leader to safety,” O’Neill said.

He was also remembered for his intelligence and his kindness

“I first met Spencer 10 years ago as a kid when he moved to Tennessee,” said Lance Cpl. Noah Melton. “He had a brilliant mind and was very smart growing up.

“There were nights when I would have trouble doing my math homework,” he added. “Sometimes it would be 3 a.m. and he would wake up and he would help me with the problem.”

Miller was remembered for being shy, but never complaining about any task given to him.

“Miller was a great Marine; he wasn’t a complainer and took everything in stride,” said Lance Cpl. Daniel Hertiff. “He was rough around the edges, but was a good Marine and I am glad I had the opportunity to get to know him.”

Photos of the Marines were displayed beside a memorial of helmets resting on rifles with sets of identification tags hanging and combat boots in front of the rifles.

Marines from the company came forward to pay their last respects after the ceremony.

Esckelson joined the Marine Corps in October 2002. Following boot camp, he completed the School of Infantry at as a rifleman. Esckelson reported to B Company, 1st Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment.

In June 2006, Esckelson was activated along with his battalion for duty in Iraq.

His awards include the Purple Heart Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon and Armed Forces Reserve Medal.

Miller joined the Marine Corps in July 2005. Following boot camp, he completed the School of Infantry as a rifleman. He reported to B Company 1st Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment.

His awards include the Purple Heart Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon and Armed Forces Reserve Medal.

Spencer joined the Marine Corps in October 2005. Following boot camp, he completed the school of infantry as a rifleman. He reported to 3rd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment.

In June 2006, he was activated and assigned to B Company 1st Battalion 24th Marine Regiment.

His awards include the Purple Heart Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon and Armed Forces Reserve Medal

All three completed training at Camp Pendleton and Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., prior to deploying to Fallujah, Iraq, for Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“Their devotion to their country, their Corps, and fellow Marines serves as the inspiration that will allow us to carry on in their absence,” Van Opdorp said.

By Lance Cpl. Stephen McGinnis

Military Friends of NewsBlaze originated these stories, sending them directly to us from Iraq, some from Afghanistan and some in the USA.