CAMP TAQADDUM, Iraq -- “All the stories and memories him and I have, I’m going to carry with me for the rest of my days,” said the young Marine, emotion gripping his voice, tears welling up in his eyes.
Remembering the life and legacy of his best friend was a difficult task as so many experiences filled the short two years and seven months he knew Lance Cpl. Darin T. Settle.
“(We’re) going to miss all the little things that mean so much,” said Lance Cpl. Christopher E. Hoffa at a memorial service held here April 19.
Settle, 23, of Henley, Mo., died April 14 from injuries sustained in a non-hostile motor vehicle accident in Al Anbar province. He was deployed here as a machine gunner with Transportation Support Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 15.
Hoffa, a native of Martinez, Ga., described his best friend as the kind of guy that he could have a good time with just sitting around and talking to, or if they did go out, he would definitely have a story to tell the next day.
Hoffa, 21, lightened the mood for a moment during his tribute with a fond memory of his best friend that, if only for a moment, brought a smile to some of the attendants’ faces.
Settle hoped to work in a family waste management business, often commenting on the unpleasant smells he would come across in Iraq.
“‘You smell that boys?’ he would say, ‘That’s money,’” said Hoffa.
The memorial was attended by hundreds of Settle’s fellow service members. During the remembrance, several Marines remembered him as a fearless man who was passionate about his job as a Marine.
“(Settle) was one of those Marines who really loved his job and believed in what he was doing,” said Lt. Col. Joseph P. Granata, commanding officer of CLR-15. “He was one of my Marines who worked hard each and every day to get the job done and ultimately made this regiment look so good.”
“He wasn’t scared of dying,” said Lance Cpl. Bradley K. Sheely, a 22-year old native of Porter, Ind. and another close friend to Settle. “He wasn’t really afraid of anything.”
For Granata, a 44-year-old native of Chautauqua, N.Y., the Marine’s loss is a solemn warning to the dangerous environment U.S. forces face in this region – known as the Al Anbar province of Iraq – as they aid the Iraqi Security Forces in defeating a volatile insurgency.
“(His death is) another reminder of just how dangerous it is out here, even when it seems like you’re doing everything right,” said Granata, currently on his third deployment to Iraq.
“In this business, tomorrow is never guaranteed,” said Maj. Maria J. Pallotta, Settle’s company commander.
During the service, Pallotta recited ‘A Soldier,’ a poem by Robert Frost that she explained meant that even though the body may die, the spirit will endure and go on to a higher calling. The poem ends with the following verses:
But this we know, the obstacle that checked
And tripped the body, shot the spirit on
Further than target ever showed or shone
Following the remarks by Settle’s friends and coworkers, a 21-gun salute was fired to honor the fallen Marine who was serving his second tour of duty in Iraq.
Settle is survived by his son, Wesley Arvin Gage Settle and his parents, James and Ruby Settle.
Settle missed his son’s birth and couldn’t wait to return home and see his newborn, said Hoffa.
“He was always happy to show off pictures of his son and we all agreed that the two looked exactly alike, right down to their big, friendly smiles,” said Pallotta, a 35-year-old native of Cuyahoga, Ohio.
Although they were still mourning the loss of Darin, James and Ruby sent a message through Sheely to their son’s former brothers-in-arms.
"If they were here right now, they would shake every one of our hands, because they know that what we we’re doing over here is making their life better ... and they’re never going to forget that,” said Sheely.