CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan --
Coalition forces gathered for a memorial service here, Oct. 27, to honor the life and ultimate sacrifice of a fallen explosive ordnance disposal technician.
Staff Sgt. Joshua “JJ” Cullins, 28, of Simi Valley, Calif., was killed Oct. 19 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to 1st EOD Company, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward).
Cullins joined the Marine Corps in 1999 as an ammunition technician. In 2004, he lateral moved into the EOD field and deployed to Iraq as an EOD technician in 2006. In 2008, he entered the Marine Corps Reserve and became a police officer for the Los Angeles Police Department. In March, he deployed to Afghanistan, assigned to various elements of I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward).
His job as an EOD tech required the prosecuting of improvised explosive devices, which saved the lives of coalition forces and local nationals.
Fellow EOD Marines said Cullins’ smile and laid-back personality made him a joy to be around.
“JJ was larger than life because as soon as you met him, you never forgot him,” said Capt. James Shelstad, company commander for 1st EOD Co., 1st MLG (FWD). “From the first day I met him to the last time I saw him … the one constant was his smile.”
“JJ was the type of person that made work more fun; he was never without a smile on his face, and that is what I will miss most about him,” added Gunnery Sgt. Gus Lepping, an old friend and colleague.
Cullins will be missed by everyone in the EOD community, said friends.
“He had a positive impact on everyone lucky enough to cross his path,” said Gunnery Sgt. Matthew Small, Cullins’ EOD team leader. “I feel lucky enough to be one of those fortunate few. Thank you, JJ. You will be missed.”
At the end of the ceremony, the slow playing of Taps began as Marines stood solemnly at attention in honor of their fallen brother.
Fellow service members and friends made their way to the front of the room where a memorial display of combat boots and an upturned rifle was placed, with a set of Cullins’ identification tags dangling from the pistol grip, below the helmet. Marines took turns placing their hand on his helmet, heads bowing, to quietly give their final respects to the Marine who made the ultimate sacrifice.
“Rest in peace, JJ Cullins,” said Shelstad. “You will not be forgotten.”
Cullins is survived by his father, James Cullins, and mother, Susan Gatzow.