Marines from 1st Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment paused operations at a forward operating base in the heart of the city to honor one of their fallen.
Lance Cpl. Brent E. “Bayou” Beeler was remembered by Marines from C Company, 1st Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment at the building where he lived while he served in Fallujah. Beeler was killed in action Dec. 7. He was 22 years old.
Beeler served with Regimental Combat Team 5 in Fallujah.
“As we’ve heard, perhaps too often recently, this Marine paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of his country,” said Lt. Col. Harold Van Opdorp, the battalion’s commander. “For me, the idea’s a little simpler than that. Brent gave his life in defense of his Marine brothers here at Charlie Company and 1/24.”
Van Opdorp said Beeler came from a small town, Napoleon, in Jackson County, Mich. He said he acquired the nickname “Bayou” for his love of all things country, from music to cowboy boots.
“To all the folks around Napoleon, he was known as ‘Bayou’ Beeler because as he saw it, he was as redneck as they come,” Van Opdorp said. “He loved listening to Hank Williams Jr., loading his pick-up truck with his dirt bike and his quad to go riding in the summertime. In the wintertime, it was riding the snowmobile. His other love was football, where at 6-foot, 2-inches, 220-pounds, he was an offensive lineman and defensive end for Napoleon High School.”
Van Opdorp said that at 17, Beeler asked his mother if he could enlist in the Marine Corps and she flatly refused him. He graduated high school, took a job at a local factory and worked for a couple years before again approaching his mother with the idea of enlisting.
Again, she refused him. This time, though, he said his future was his to decide. He already enlisted and was soon on his way to boot camp.
Van Opdorp said Beeler’s insistence on serving his country as a Marine in a time of war spoke to the quality of his character and that he embodied the core values Marines hold dear, those of honor, courage and commitment.
“I think that Lance Cpl. Beeler always desired to be part of something that was bigger than him and what he could accomplish alone. Whether playing football or becoming part of the Marine team, Lance Cpl. Beeler was focused on being a contributor to a unit who was greater than himself,” he explained. “His honor exemplified by his desire to step forward and dedicate his time and service to the United States and to the Marine Corps at a time when the country faced what was probably the most significant challenge of our lifetime.”
Capt. Michael Mayne, C Company’s commander recalled Beeler as a “tough, dedicated man and a terrific Marine.”
He said the day Beeler was killed, Marines from his platoon gathered to share memories of a Marine.
“Lance Cpl. Beeler made a tremendous impression in the short time he was with us,” Mayne said. He added Beeler was “a Marine that never complained, always had time to lift our spirits and shoulder the burdens of his friends. His friends spoke of his patriotism, quickness to laugh, his strength; both moral and physical.”
Mayne said Beeler’s contributions to he fellow Marines and his unit’s mission were lasting. He said Fallujah is a quieter place, less violent that it once was when 1st Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment first arrived in their area of operations.
“The work that Beeler and the rest of you put in finally paid off, which makes it even particularly hard,” Mayne explained to the gathered Marines. “The best way I can remember Lance Cpl. Beeler is by the work that he did and the improvements in our AO and the improvements we’ve seen in the city. In three months, we’ve seen a dramatic turnaround in where we live and work. That testament is to Lance Cpl. Beeler and his efforts.”
Sgt. Bryce Sobol said there were a few things that bring Beeler’s memory to life for him, including, “country music, laughing, joking, guns, a moustache, mud bogging and a proud American.”
He spoke of an instance when a water main broke inside the parking lot of their forward operation base inside Fallujah, creating a large mud puddle. He said Beeler loved to watch the humvees splash through the mud, sending dirty sprays of water in all directions.
“I told him I didn’t understand the big fascination of driving the trucks through puddles of water, but it was something he loved,” Sobol said. “He was very passionate about the things he loved, and he wanted to share his passion of these things with other people, even if they didn’t quite understand it the way he did. He was a very outspoken person with a good sense of humor. He was part of my squad for as long as I can remember, and I’m honored to say I served with him.”
Cpl. Christopher Richards was close friends with Beeler for six years, a time during which, “He got me into more trouble than he got me out of usually,” he said. “But he was always there for me. He was always there for all his friends.”
Richards said Beeler was a “fun-loving hillbilly” known for big belt buckles, cowboy hats and his Ford truck.
“We had a lot of good times together, and I owe him a lot of good memories,” Richards added. “I wish everyone could have known Bayou the way I knew him. He was a good friend and a good person who we miss a lot.”
Lance Cpl. Ryan Taylor said anyone who spent time around Beeler “could easily tell this big-hearted Marine was a country boy.”
“Along being a country boy came an intense love for his homeland,” Taylor explained. “Beeler was proud to be a Marine, and nothing could keep him from accomplishing tasks set before him. Having such a big heart and country spirit, he would often find ways to improve morale the only way he knew how; comedy. From reenacting lines from movies to imitating fellow Marines, Beeler always looked for a way to lighten the mood, no matter what the situation.”
Beeler was honored with a memorial of an overturned rifle with a helmet resting on top. His identification tags hung from the rifle’s pistol grip and a pair of empty combat boots was placed at the base. A neatly folded American flag was placed alongside.
Beeler reported to Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego in June 2005. After graduating the following September, he reported the School of Infantry at Camp Pendleton, Calif. He graduated as a rifleman.
Beeler reported to C Company in Lansing, Mich, in December 2005. In June 2006, Beeler was activated, completing training at Camp Pendleton and Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif. In October 2006, Beeler arrived in Fallujah in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Beeler’s decorations include the Purple Heart, 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.
C Company’s first sergeant, 1st Sgt. Donald Munro called “Final Roll.” Three times, he called out Beeler’s name, only to be answered by silence.
“This is our challenge today; that we are charged to carry on in the wake of the loss of Lance Cpl. Beeler,” Van Opdorp said. “We must do so in a manner that reflects his legacy, a legacy that comfortably places him among our heroes, a legacy of honor to our country and to our Corps, a legacy of courage to carry on when the danger is great and the outcome uncertain and a legacy of commitment to our mission and to our fellow Marines. This is our task, and it’s up to us to see it through until we accomplish our mission.”
By Gunnery Sgt. Mark Oliva