CAMP TAQADDUM, Iraq -- “On December eleventh, two thousand six, the Marine Corps lost three good Marines,” said Cpl. Marco A. Lucero, 22, from San Diego.
On Dec. 14, Marines and sailors from around Camp Taqaddum and surrounding areas paid respect to a few men who sacrificed their lives while engaged in combat operations in the Al Anbar Province.
Lance Cpl. Budd M. Cote, 21, from Marana, Ariz., Lance Cpl. Clinton J. Miller, 23, from Greenfield, Iowa, and Cpl. Matthew V. Dillon, 25, from Aiken, S.C., all fell in the line of duty. The Marines were each memorialized with a rifle, identification tags, flak jacket, Kevlar helmet and portrait.
A massive crowd of service members passed through the chapel’s doors to attend the memorial, many already wiping tears from their eyes. Despite their tears, the Marines could not help but laugh together as they shared memories of the three.
“(Miller) was an outgoing and fun-loving guy, who always seemed to find the good side in everything,” said Cpl. Kevin E. Byrnes, 23, from Crystal Lake, Ill., and a military policeman with Marine Wing Support Squadron 373, Marine Wing Support Group 37 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Air Wing (Forward).
“I remember the good times,” said Lance Cpl. Erik T. Franke, 22 from Tillamook, Ore., an MP with MWSS-373.
“I remember, I walked back into the comfort trailer one night to see (Cote) screaming Kelly Clarkson’s ‘Since you’ve been gone’ like it was cool,” said Franke, drawing a few nostalgic laughs from the group.
The Marines were remembered for their humor and work ethic during the memorial. But most of all, these Marines were remembered for their bravery and dedication.
“I am truly amazed by these men,” said Lt. Col. Dan P. Ermer, the commanding officer of MWSS-373. “I am amazed because these men are among the best and brightest in America. These men, these brave men, have the moral character, the courage, to take action.”
“Despite knowing the possible consequences … each of these Marines would rather have been mounted up in their humvees, locked and loaded, ready to face the enemy, than to be left behind when the rest of their team went outside the wire,” continued Ermer, 41, from Rockwell, Iowa.
“(Dillon) was so determined to be successful, even in the most mundane of things,” said Lucero, an MP with MWSS-373. “He was a great Marine, because he was a great man. He will be forever remembered in our hearts, and his memory will live on with us.”
“Cote wasn’t afraid of dying,” said Franke. “He loved the Marine Corps. It was who he was. For some of us, it was just a job … for him, it was his life.”
“(Miller) served his country and his Marines vigilantly during his tour, and I know that God saw him as a shining star and called him to serve in his corps of angels in heaven," said Byrnes. "He is now guarding and protecting us alongside with Dillon and Cote.”
“Know that these Marines were never truly ours,” said Ermer, whose voice cracked a bit. “They were on loan to us, for they will always be God’s warriors first.”
The three Marines were honored with a 21-shot rifle salute and a benediction from the MWSS Navy Chaplain Lt. Jeffrey S. Plummer, 48 from Superior, Wis.
“When one Marine falls, all of us feel the loss,” said Plummer, forcing his words past tears. “There is no greater love than to give one’s life for his friends.”
And many friends they had, as more than 500 lined up to stand in front of each memorial, pay their final respects and say goodbye to Lance Cpl. Clinton J. Miller, Lance Cpl. Budd M. Cote and Cpl. Matthew V. Dillon.
Miller’s personal decorations include the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the National Defense Medal and the Purple Heart. Cote’s personal decorations include Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the National Defense Medal and the Purple Heart. Dillon’s personal decorations include the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, National Defense Medal, Army Combat Action Badge, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon and two Purple Heart medals.