Bravo Nation loses brother - Drill instructors lay to rest one of their own killed in Iraq
By Sgt. Ethan E. Rocke
| | April 23, 2004
MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO, Calif. --
A funeral at Los Angeles National Cemetery Monday marked the last of a series of memorial services for a former 1st Recruit Training Battalion drill instructor who was killed in Iraq recently.
Staff Sgt. Allan Walker, 28, a Lancaster Calif., native, who served with Company B, 1st RT Bn., just a few months ago, was killed by hostile ? re April 6 in Al Anbar Province.
Walker was assigned to 2nd Bn., 4th Marine Regiment out of Camp Pendleton, Calif. His battalion has lost several Marines in recent weeks as they attempt to bring order to one of Iraq's most hostile, anti-American regions - the Sunni Triangle.
Walker touched many people aboard the Depot, and news of his death spread quickly through "Bravo Nation."
"It started out as a rumor," said Staff Sgt. Carlos C. Perez, drill instructor, 1st RT Bn.
"As soon as I heard it, I tried to find out if it was true. It didn't take long to confirm it. I didn't know him as well as a lot of guys, but I knew he was a real nice guy. It was very sad."
Several Depot Marines gathered for a small memorial ceremony for Walker April 15 at Edson Range, Camp Pendleton, Calif.
Recruits from Company B filled the bleachers at Field Firing Range, and sat quietly behind the Marines on rows of dusty benches in front of a display of boots, a flak jacket and Kevlar helmet, which stood as an effigy for the fallen Marine. Walker's identi-?cation tags hung from the display as those in attendance said prayers and spoke about their fallen brother.
"He wasn't the best drill instructor, but he was the hardest working drill instructor I've ever met," said 1st Sgt. Scott B. Mearkle, Company B first sergeant. "He was the type of Marine who worked at and practiced his leadership traits every single day. He was extremely compassionate, and he put his heart and soul into everything he did."
Mearkle's closing comments echoed in the minds of the Marines as they mourned their friend.
"Staff Sgt. Walker, you will be missed. Brother, you will be with us forever," he said.
The next day, a handful of Depot Marines made a trip 175 miles north to Lancaster for Walker's wake at Mumaw Funeral Home. There, Walker's friends and family saw him for the last time.
"The reality really set in when I saw him. It was hard for me to even walk," said Staff Sgt. Leo Ruiz, one of Walker's closest friends. "Everyone had tears running down their faces. It was very hard for all of us."
Saturday, Walker's family held a memorial ceremony of their own at Lancaster Presbyterian Church, and again, some Depot Marines made the trip to honor their friend.
According to the Antelope Valley Press, at the ceremony, Walker's father, Kenneth R. Walker said, "It was his life to be in the Marine Corps. It brought out his sense of honor and his sense of dignity. It turned him into a man."
The Valley Press reported that after the service, the mourning father said "All Marines are my sons now."
Monday was a day for ?nal goodbyes as Marines helped lay to rest their fallen brother with a traditional military funeral.
While a nearby station or unit usually provides a Marine funeral detail, Bravo Nation drill instructors insisted on taking care of their own and assuming the duties.
Pallbearers wore dress blue uniforms with campaign covers, carrying their friend's casket from a Hearse to its position above Walker's ?nal resting place.
After a benediction from a Navy chaplain, 21 shots rang out into the warm spring air. Again, Depot drill instructors did the honors.
Taps followed the gun salute, and even the trumpet player blowing the solemn notes was wearing a campaign cover. Sgt. Scott McLaughlin, a bandsman outside the drill ?eld, was Walker's best friend aboard the Depot.
"I hadn't touched my trumpet in years," said McLaughlin. "But I wanted to do this for Allan and his family. I wouldn't have the ceremony any other way."
McLaughlin also booked a bagpipe player clad in traditional Irish garb, who followed Taps with "Amazing Grace."
The piper was a necessary addition to the ceremony, according to McLaughlin, because Walker was extremely proud of his Irish heritage.
Mearkle delivered a folded American ?ag, which had draped Walker's casket, to the fallen Marine's father, and then delivered another folded ?ag to his mother, Nancy Crowe Walker.
When the ceremony was over, Marines and family members lingered for some time, saying ?nal farewells and comforting one another. Some laid roses on his casket before saying a tearful goodbye, while others quietly left personal items they felt appropriate for Walker: a tiny American ?ag, a pair of white gloves, a can of snuff. In the end, a pint-sized can of Guinness Draught stood tall above the other items on the casket as someone commented, "Look, somebody got him his Guinness."