Marines from 1st Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment paused to honor two fallen Marines Nov. 6 here on the outskirts of Fallujah.
Sgt. Thomas M. Gilbert and Lance Cpl. Jonathan B. Thornsberry were honored by their fellow Marines in a memorial service at the same Spartan forward operation base from which they served. They were killed in action while conducting combat operations Oct. 25, 2006. Gilbert was 24 years old and from Chicago. Thornsberry was 22 years old and from McDowell, Ky.
Both were assigned to the battalion’s A Company and served with Regimental Combat Team 5 in Fallujah, Iraq.
“We are here today out of desire to pay our final respects to Sgt. Gilbert and Lance Cpl. Thornsberry and honor their service and sacrifice,” said Lt. Col. Harold Van Opdorp, the battalion’s commander. “When tragedy occurs, we need and want to pay tribute and honor to our fallen brothers because that”s what Marines do.”
Van Opdorp said it was natural for Marines to gather at the memorial for Gilbert and Thornsberry because of the unique bond, trust and esprit de corps Marines carry for one another. It is seldom understood, he said, even among Marines.
“At some point we come to realize when a Marine falls, we have lost something very special,” he said. “We’ve lost someone who has committed their life to guard your flank, committed their safety to ensure you are not left behind, committed their chow to ensure you are fed and committed their time to ensure you are not forgotten. These two Marines volunteered for this fight in an effort to fight and destroy the terrorists here instead of in Chicago or in Kentucky and in an effort to provide freedom and hope to a country that has known neither for quite some time.”
Van Opdorp described Gilbert as a true son of Chicago, a dyed-in-the-wool Bears and Cubs fan who volunteered to deploy to Iraq. He said Gilbert “was a teacher, a mentor, a leader and a role model,” to his Marines.
Thornsberry also volunteered to deploy to Iraq from his parent unit, 3rd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment. He was a coal miner, just like his father. To his fellow Marines, Van Opdorp said, Thornsberry was a “reliable member of the team and a good friend, and to some, he was a best friend who will be sorely missed.”
By Gunnery Sgt. Mark Oliva