Local Marine honored at ceremony at Camp Lejeune

Wanda English Burnett

Marines from the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines - the 29 - returned from a recent tour in Afghanistan and were gathered at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, for a memorial service to remember their fallen brothers - 15 in all.

Corporal John C. Bishop, 25, Versailles, was among those being honored for their bravery, valor and honor. He died September 8, 2010 by sniper fire while in operations where the Taliban still had a stronghold. He was laid to rest beside his father, Gene Bishop, in the Cliff Hill Cemetery in Versailles.

The following scripture found in Ecclesiastes 3 was reflective of the events that took place February 27, 28 at the 165,000 acre military base.

“To every thing there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven. A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance...a time of war and a time of peace.”

A formal dinner was held Sunday evening, February 27 for family members of the fallen Marines as they gathered at Camp Lejeune. The family of Cpl. Bishop made an impressive showing with a large number attending the events.

Family members attending included Cpl. Bishop’s brothers: Bill of Milan; Mike and wife, Peggy, of Versailles; Jamey and wife, Tammy and children of Virginia; Tyson of Indianapolis and Eric and wife, Missy and son from Seymour. Also traveling to North Carolina for the service were sisters, Nancy Braley of Pennsylvania and Amy and husband, Ryan, and family of Osgood.

Sarah Thomas, Cpl. Bishop’s mother, along with cousins from Columbus, gathered to meet with the fallen Marine’s wife, Marine Crystal Bishop and daughter, Ella-Monica Grace, who was born a few weeks after her father’s death. Cpl. Bishop’s son, K-Sean, 5, was also united with his family.

Families unite
As family members came together with Marine brothers who were with their loved one to the very end, a weekend of tears and joy was experienced as stories of war and now peace were heard.

Some of the Marines who met with the family included, Cpl. Ben Long, Cpl. Joseph Musulin, Cpl. John Gabbard; and Cpl. Joshua Fields -who ran out to their squad leader when he was shot. “He didn’t even think of his own safety,” noted brother, Tyson. He told how he dragged Cpl. Bishop to safety, but it was too late. The sniper’s bullet had made its impact, killing the Marine instantly.

As a video was shared, it was a time for the Marines to see how the communities of North Vernon, Butlerville, Nebraska, Holton, and Versailles and beyond, responded to the death of a home-town hero. Cpl. Musulin noted he couldn’t believe how many people turned out, what a massive crowd walked behind the horse-drawn caisson to take his Marine brother to his final resting place. They were all impressed with the procession from the airport hanger in North Vernon to Versailles - each knowing the grim reality was it could have been them.

Pictures shared from the Marines and in turn the Bishop family, brought them closer together as the pieces of the puzzle were finalized. The Bishop family would find out what a warrior their loved one truly was. The place where Cpl. Bishop died was named in his honor and a memorial was erected to the courageous Marine on foreign soil.

When photo coverage of the medi-vac helicopter carrying the body of Cpl. Bishop was shown, you could hear a soft gasp from his mother, then silence fell on the room like a thick cloud enveloping the earth.

Stories of the blistering heat and bitter cold with the Marines having no protection from either, were heard as they explained where they lived, and ultimately where their leader died just 100 meters from a building they had surrounded.

Family members of Cpl. Bishop said it was healing to meet with the Marines and learn the particulars about their loved one’s death, even though it was painful. “It meant the world to us,” brother, Mike Bishop told The Versailles Republican. “These guys are great,” he said with tears in his eyes.

The Memorial Service
A memorial service was held Monday, February 28 with hundreds attending the event held at the Goettge Field House, Camp Lejeune.

A beautiful prelude of favorite hymns preceded the ceremony where the Bishop family would learn what Lt. Col. James R. Fullwood Jr., Cpl. Bishop’s commanding officer, thought of their loved one.

“He had true character. He had a knack for inspiring and leading men who did not typically like to follow. He loved to teach and pass on this knowledge of machine gunnery and wasn’t afraid to sacrifice for those around him. We loved him for his iron backbone and for how much he loved his family and brothers.”

Those words were comforting to the family as they sat among 14 other families who were feeling the same loss.

The Marine’s Prayer was recited at the end of the service, which read in part, “Give me the will to do the work of a Marine and to accept my share of responsibilities with vigor and enthusiasm.”

Cpl. Bishop accepted his responsibility and paid the ultimate sacrifice. As Taps were played, his wife Crystal, who is still an active duty Marine, (ammunition technician) stood at attention as tears ran down her face. The true sacrifice of war has hit her family hard, taking her husband and father of her daughter.

“These are not statistics. They are sons, husbands, fathers, brothers,” Lt. Col. Fullwood said. To the families he said, “Your love made them great men...you molded their character.”

The service ended with families interacting with Marines - each saying goodbye in their own way. Large portraits of the 15 fallen men were displayed across the auditorium.

Jerry Burnett of Holton, attended the ceremony wearing a vest identifying him as a member of the Indiana Patriot Guard. A young Marine walked up to him and thanked him for his service. The gesture was not lost on those around them when both men were in tears as Burnett told the Marine he was thankful for his service and his family’s sacrifice.

The Patriot Guard is a organization whose members stand with the families of the fallen to show respect. They do sometimes serve as a shield from groups who would protest at military funerals. They are simply a group who has come together across the country to say, “We support our military”.

Lt. Col. Fullwood said a man dies first when his body expires, and second when his name is no longer spoken.

Cpl. Bishop, who was proud to serve as a squad leader in the machine gunner division, will no longer be coming home at a certain time. He now lives in the hearts of those who love him and continue to speak his name.

Those serving in the 2nd Battlion 9th Marines went home on March 1 for a 30-day leave. Cpl. Bishop was deployed to his home in Heaven September 8, 2010.

The fallen Marine’s mother said she was thankful for the time spent with her son’s children, and the Marines. It gave her insight to how her youngest son was in battle. “I just don’t want to go home,” she noted Monday evening as the day was winding down. “I feel as though I still have him when I’m with them” (the Marines who were with her son when he died), she noted.

Promises to never forget their fallen brother, the Marines and families have pledged to get together with the Bishop family soon, perhaps in September when an event is being planned to raise money for fallen Marine’s families in Cpl. Bishop’s name. “He would want us do to this,” his mother concluded.

Pictured above Sarah Thomas, right, holds her granddaughter, Ella-Monica Grace Bishop with Aunt Peggy, Versailles, looking on. Ella-Monica brought smiles and laughter to the grieving Bishop family as they gathered for a memorial service for her father, Cpl. John Bishop, who was killed in Afghanistan just weeks before her birth. Pictured below, are two of Cpl. Bishop's brothers. Bill of Milan and Mike of Versailles, at the ceremony that brought tears to their eyes.