MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- Lance Cpl. Michael L. Ford was honored by family and friends at a memorial service held at the Combat Center’s Lance Cpl. Torrey L. Gray Field Tuesday.
Ford, a tank crewman from Company C, 1st Tank Battalion, passed away April 26 while conducting combat operations during a deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Ford, a New Bedford, Mass., native was born July 6, 1986. He graduated from Great New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical School in 2004, where he studied culinary arts.
After viewing a speech made by President George W. Bush, Ford decided he wanted to make a difference in the world, said his father, Joseph Ford, Sr., after the memorial.
“He came back the very next day with the recruiter,” Ford explained. “He spent his 18th birthday on a plane to Parris Island.”
Ford noticed the change the Marine Corps made in his son soon after he completed boot camp.
“He came back a lean, mean, fighting machine,” he explained. “For the first time, he put me in a headlock and I couldn’t get out of. He wasn’t fitting into his larges anymore, he was wearing mediums.”
But there were things about Michael that never changed.
“He was always quite the kidder with a dumb smirk on his face,” said Mr. Ford. “He was a friendly kid and he never lost that smirk.”
Ford had wanted to be an infantryman, but was told his test scores enabled him to do other specialties in the Marine Corps. He was trained as a tank crewman.
“I actually felt more at ease to know Michael would be in a tank,” said Joseph.
Ford joined 1st Tank Battalion in March 2005 and deployed with his unit March 28.
“He said goodbye like he was just going to the store to pick up some bread and milk,” he said about when Michael left for deployment. “I think it was his way of protecting me.
He made it seem like he would be right back.”
The Ford family received only one letter from Michael during his time in Iraq.
“I knew he didn’t lose his sense of humor when we received a piece of paper with two big letters that read ‘HI’ from Michael,” said Mr. Ford. “It let us know Michael was
It was only 28 days after the unit arrived in Iraq that Ford’s tank rolled over an explosive device and he died instantly. His roommate suffered broken ribs and other injuries and two other Marines walked away scratch-free.
“Thank God it wasn’t worse,” said Joseph. “I’m glad my son went out with honor, dignity and respect.”
After the Marines of 1st Tank Battalion paid their respects to Ford’s memorial, Mr. Ford spoke to the Marines who served with Joseph in Company C.
At the end of the service, Joseph welcomed the Marines into his extended family and thanked them for the hospitality they had showed him during his visit.
“I want to thank all of you that inspired Michael to be the fine young gentleman he was,” he said to the Marines. “He became a man a father could be proud of.”