CAMP TAQADDUM, Iraq -- It was a day of sorrow as Marines and sailors with 3rd Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Platoon, 1st and 2nd platoon, 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Fwd), as they gathered to mourn the deaths of fellow Marines.
A memorial was held at the main side chapel here Sept. 10 to remember Staff Sgt. Dwayne E. Williams, a team leader with 3rd EOD platoon, 9th ESB, and Sgt. John P. Phillips, an explosive ordnance disposal technician with 3rd EOD platoon.
Williams, a Baltimore native, lost his life Aug. 24, 2006 from wounds sustained while engaged in operations in the Al Anbar province.
Phillips, a St. Stephen, S.C., native, died Aug. 16, at Brooke Army Medical Center, San Antonio, succumbing from wounds received March 7, while involved in operations in the Al Anbar province.
“As we all know, someone could take (Williams’) billet, but no one will ever take his place,” said Col. David M. Richtsmeier, 51, commander of 1st MLG (Fwd) and a native of Waterloo, Iowa. “We will continue to build on his efforts but we will never forget his sacrifice.”
The Marines of 3rd EOD platoon agree that Williams, who received the Bronze Star Award in 2005, was a quiet but assertive professional whose only focus was the mission.
“I knew Staff Sgt. Williams for four and a half years and at that time he spoke maybe 100 words,” said Staff Sgt. Shaun R. Donahue, 28, a team leader with 3rd EOD platoon.
“Staff Sgt. Williams was a stead-fast professional,” said Master Sgt. Scott M. Ingbretsen, commander of 3rd EOD platoon. “No matter what was happening around him, or how tired he was, he never complained.” He added he could still hear him say ‘we’re good top’ or ‘I got it top.’
The man 3rd EOD platoon called him “Willie” and he was known as a great father, husband and friend.
“Staff Sgt. Williams was, as we know, a quiet professional and will always be remembered to me as a dear and trusted friend,” said Donahue, 28, a Slide, La., native.
Lt. Col. Mark J. Menotti, 39, commander of 9th ESB and a San Diego native said his marriage completed him. Service members agree he will always be in the forefront of their minds.
“John was a very easy-going person, he always helped me out,” said Staff Sgt. Joseph M. David, 27, a team leader with 3rd EOD platoon and a Washington, Ill., native. “You know if something bad was happening, and John was smiling, everything would be alright.” Adding that during their tour of duty in Okinawa, Japan, a traditional weekend breakfast was their favorite thing to do, and now the seat, reserved for Phillips, will remain empty.
He was also known by his peers and senior leaders because of his work ethic and influence on operations.
“When given a task, John was the kind of man that wouldn’t take failure as an answer,” said Ingbretsen, 38.
“John was a very physical and mentally strong person, who today inspires everything that I do,” said Staff Sgt. Ronnie K. Wilckens, 33, a team leader with 3rd EOD platoon and a Seaford, Del., native. “The man was an inspiration to us all.”
The memorial consisted of a prayer, a poem read by Gunnery Sgt. Christian L. Carnevale, a 33-year-old team leader with 3rd EOD platoon and a Waynesboro, Miss., native. Following the poem was a bible scripture read by Sgt. Christopher M. West, an EOD tech with 3rd EOD platoon, and the Marines’ prayer read by Staff Sgt. Scott Shippey, 35, an EOD technician with 3rd EOD platoon and a Newport News, Va., native. The ceremony came to a close with a final roll call, a 21- shot rifle salute and the playing of “Taps.”
“These men were both completely different, but they shared a similar trait, they were the embodiment of the quiet, hard-working professional,” said Ingbretsen, a Spokane, Wash., native.
The Marines of 3rd EOD platoon are scheduled to return home at the end of this month, but two team members will be missing.
“They cared, they loved and they gave their lives to make others safer, and to give others a shot at freedom,” said Navy Lt. Alan M. Snyder, 36, chaplain of 9th ESB and Cleveland, Okla., native.
Both Marines were posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and Combat Action Ribbon.