CAMP BASTION, Afghanistan -- Hundreds of Marines gathered to honor the lives of two fallen comrades killed during the attack on Camp Bastion, Sept. 14.
During the two separate memorial ceremonies, which were held Sept. 19 and 20, Marines paid tribute to Lt. Col. Christopher Raible and Sgt. Bradley Atwell. Both were killed in action while engaging the enemy.
Raible was the commanding officer of Marine Attack Squadron 211, from Huntingdon, Pa., and Atwell was an aircraft electrical, instrument and flight control systems technician with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 16, from Kokomo, Ind.
Before each of the ceremonies had begun, Marines constructed a traditional battlefield cross providing them the opportunity to pay their final respects. The memorial consisted of a helmet with identification tags to signify the Marines will never be forgotten, a rifle with bayonet inverted signifying a time of prayer and a break in action to pay tribute, and a pair of boots signifying this was the Marines last march. During the ceremonies, commanders and friends spoke of Raible and Atwell, describing their character as men and Marines, and recalling what they would remember most about them.
Gen. John Allen, commander of the International Security Assistance Force, offered words of encouragement to the Marines during Raible?s memorial ceremony.
?It really is an honor for me to stand among you this afternoon, for this solemn occasion, this solemn ceremony today we remember and we pay tribute to a great Marine,? Allen said. ?He was committed until the very last with engaging the enemy in the defense of his Marines and his squadron. Without hesitation in a moment of great uncertainty and danger, he ran to the sound of guns. He organized his Marines, and they fought like Marines have always fought. He was a Marine who embodied the courage and the bravery of this storied squadron. He was your skipper, he was your friend and he was like family to so many of you.??
Gen. Allen also praised the Marines? sacrifice while deployed.
?You are part of the finest fighting force this world has ever known. Your sacrifice has protected our homeland and the American people. You have also given the people of Afghanistan a chance to be free from the tyranny of terror.??
Gunnery Sgt. Donald Miner, an aviation life support systems division chief with VMA 211, also spoke during Raible?s ceremony.
?As we gather here today, it?s important to remember how Lt. Col. Raible lived his life and the example he set for all of us to follow,? Miner said. ?I am proud to say that Lt. Col. Chris Raible was my commanding officer. I?m a better Marine because of it. My prayers are with his wife and kids and his family and friends that will miss him.?
The following day Marines offered personal reflections and paid their final respects to Atwell.
?He was of the highest caliber and quality of Marine and person. He was the type of person you run across every so often and you?re grateful that you had the chance to meet them because you know they?re on their way to something bigger, to making a difference,? said Staff Sgt. Abraham Mojica, a staff noncommissioned officer in work center 620 with MALS-16. ?I miss him. It wasn?t a surprise to me when I was told he was one of the first Marines running up to division that night. He was a fearless Marine who will always live in my heart as a hero. Sgt. Atwell thank you for everything. Me and the rest of the guys really miss you, Semper Fi brother.?
Cpl. Mitchell Florea, a communication navigation technician with MALS-16, also spoke during Atwell?s memorial ceremony.
?Sgt. Atwell was the true embodiment of Marine Corps values and traditions. He was an outstanding Marine, but more than that, he was an honorable man,? Florea said. ?Sgt. Atwell?s heroic actions will never be forgotten. He quickly rounded up every Marine and did not hesitate when it came to the call of duty, and like a real leader of Marines, he took charge of what needed to be done. He was a good husband, a great mentor and like a brother to me. Because of who he was, I will forever stand in complete reverence and respect for him not only as a great man but also as leader of Marines. If I do pick up sergeant, I wish that I could be half the man he was. We love you and miss you brother, rest in peace and one day I?ll see you again.?
Both Marines will be greatly missed and forever remembered for their sacrifice and courage in the face of adversity.