Poignant farewell


POSTED: Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Each of 187 Marines paid respects to the family of a fallen comrade yesterday and then walked to the water's edge at Kaneohe Bay and tossed a long-stemmed white rose into the water.

Marines Honor Hawaii Based Fallen Marine




Hundreds of marines with the first battalion 3rd marine regiment attended an ocean front service for Lance Corporal Thomas TJ Reilly who was killed Dec 21st in Irag during combat. 3/16/09



Although 19-year-old Lance Cpl. Thomas “;T.J.”; Reilly was killed three months ago by a grenade while on patrol in Karmah, Iraq, the waves of emotion still rolled through his unit, the 1st Battalion's Charlie Company, at yesterday's memorial service.

It was the first time Kaneohe Marines used the white-sand beach at Fort Hase as the site of a memorial service for a Marine killed in Iraq. The battalion's flag and the American flag flew behind the “;soldier's cross”; — an inverted M-4 carbine adorned by Reilly's helmet, dog tags and desert boots — where Marines stopped and knelt in prayer.

Lt. Col. Andrew Milburn, who commands the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, said Charlie Company felt the base chapel was too small to hold his entire battalion of 1,400 Marines.

Reilly, a platoon radio operator, was killed returning from a night patrol on Dec. 21 in Karmah, west of Baghdad. He had been a Marine for only 17 months and joined Milburn's battalion on New Year's Day 2008. Eight months later he was in Iraq.

Staff Sgt. Mike Brown, who was Reilly's platoon leader, said Reilly was riding in a Humvee that was last in a three-vehicle convoy when they were ambushed. Three other Marines in the Humvee were slightly wounded. Only Reilly was killed.

“;When this happened, it brought us closer together,”; said Brown, who was on his third combat deployment. “;We're now closer together than we have ever been.”;

Reilly was the 1st Battalion's only combat casualty during the seven months the unit was in Iraq, returning home just last week.

Milburn, in his eulogy, noted that Reilly was killed in the vicinity where Kaneohe Marines lost a high-ranking officer six months earlier. Lt. Col. Max A. Galeai, the commanding officer of Kaneohe's 2nd Battalion, was killed by a suicide bomber June 26 during a meeting with pro-government Sunni sheiks.

After the service Georgina Bray, Reilly's mother, said that her son wanted to be an astronaut, but his bad eyesight kept him from enlisting in the Air Force.

“;He loved baking cakes,”; Bray added. “;He was just a great son.”;

Her word of advice to other servicemen and women was to be like her son, who always called her and told her he loved her.

“;Because you never know,”; Bray said.

“;All Marines, everyone in the military, should stay in contact with their moms as best as they can. Always tell her they love her no matter what their situation is.”;