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article imageA fallen Marine comes home to rest in peace Special

By Kay Mathews     May 18, 2010 in Lifestyle
Serving his country did not end with the death of Marine Lance Cpl. Richard R. Penny. Rather, it brought a community together to pay tribute to his service and mourn his passing, and led to the understanding that his death is "our" loss.
On May 15, residents of Northwest Arkansas became a more tightly bound community. The suffering, sacrifices, and horrors of war abroad hit home. Marine Lance Cpl. Richard R. Penny was killed in action on May 6 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. At the age of 21, this young man made the ultimate sacrifice for our country, for each American, for us.
News of Lance Cpl. Penny's death spread via a memorial page on Facebook announcing that his body would arrive at Drake Field Airport in Fayetteville, Ark. on May 15. People were invited to stand on the procession route from Drake Field to Penny's final resting place at Fayetteville National Cemetary.
In the midst of pouring down rain, hundreds stood on the route to mourn the loss, and pay tribute to the service, of Lance Cpl. Penny. Family members, friends, school classmates, and people who had never met him stood on the procession route to honor this Marine who was described as having a charismatic personality, true leadership abilities, an adverturesome spirit, and a smile on his face.
A local news station interviewed people on the route, including Terri Tucker as seen here and who agreed to be interviewed by DigitalJournal.com. Tucker had never met Lance Cpl. Penny. When asked why she stood in the downpour waving a flag and huddled under an umbrella with her mother and best friend, Tucker said:
From the minute that I heard about it, I knew that I had to go. "Had to" is a bad choice of words; there was no decision to make, it was a given. It was an honor for me to be there to represent not only myself but I was also there on behalf of my son, Ian.
Tucker's son is 20-year-old Army Private First Class Ian Barczewski. According to Tucker, PFC Barczewski is stationed at Ft. Bragg in North Carolina but "has been in Afghanistan since August of last year. He is a Calvary Scout with the 4/73."
Private First Class Ian Barczewski and his mother Terri Phillips-Tucker.
Private First Class Ian Barczewski and his mother Terri Phillips-Tucker.
Courtesy of Terri Tucker.
Tucker further described what she was feeling that day, saying:
My mother and best friend went with me. We were all speechless as the Patriot Guard passed in front of us. We all had tears flowing; it simply takes your breath away. As the mother of an Army serviceman in Afghanistan right now, my heart aches for the loss of such a young boy. I know we should call them men, and in many ways I guess they are, but they are still just kids-barely out of high school.
The Patriot Guard that Tucker spoke of is the Patriot Guard Riders. The Patriot Guard Riders were formed some years ago when groups like Westboro Baptist Church began protesting at the funerals of fallen soldiers. Composed of an "amalgamation" of motorcycle riders from across the nation, mostly veterans, the "mission" of the Patriot Guard Riders "is to attend the funeral services of fallen American heroes as invited guests of the family."
The Patriot Guard Riders have two basic objectives:
1. Show our sincere respect for our fallen heroes, their families, and their communities.
2. Shield the mourning family and their friends from interruptions created by any protestor or group of protestors.
The family of Lance Cpl. Penny invited the Patriot Guard Riders and a "Confirmed Short Notice Mission" was posted on their web site. Within days, dozens of Patriot Guard Riders were ready to "stand in honor and respect for their true American hero" Lance Cpl. Richard R. Penny, who had been assigned to 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.
In addition to the Patriot Guard Riders, Lance Cpl. Penny was escorted to the cemetary by the U.S. Marine Corps Honor Guard from Springfield, Mo. Reserve Unit, the Arkansas State Police, the Greenland Police Department, and many friends.
Tucker wished to convey a few words to Lance Cpl. Penny's family, saying:
I hope that Richard's mom and family can feel the tremendous love and support that so many of us have for their son and the family. Just like me, I'm almost certain that, given a choice, she would not have volunteered for the role of military mom. But, once thrust into it, you quickly learn the depth of the commitment that our sons/daughters made.
Tucker also expressed what it is like to be a military mom and what is means to have community support. She said:
I have had complete strangers hug and comfort me in airports and post offices when I wasn't able to hold back the tears. They could have easily turned and walked away, but they didn't. It really means the world to a mom to know that so many people care so deeply about her baby. I would also ask that you thank a soldier each and every chance you get--it may seem like so little, but it means so much.
In death, as in life, Lance Cpl. Richard R. Penny and thousands of other American servicemen and women have contributed to their communities. Their service, and in some cases ultimate sacrifices, can lead to unconnected people becoming connected neighbors in their communities. The notion that these are "our" young people, "our" babies often hits home and becomes a reality when we gather together to mourn our loss.
Borrowing the sentiments expressed on the Facebook and Patriot Guard Riders sites, "Rest in Peace Marine. Semper Fi."
More about War, Fallen, Marine, Death, Afghanistan
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