LAKE HUGHES, CA, USA U.S. Marines CPL, K CO, 3D BN, 5TH MAR, RCT-1, 1ST MAR DIV, CAMP PENDLETON, CA FALLUJAH, IRAQ 12/12/2004
Ian Stewart, 21, of Lake Hughes joined the Marine Corps three years ago to help find himself and was looking forward to returning home next year. The 2001 graduate of Quartz Hill High School had discussed becoming a firefighter but first wanted to travel around Europe and spend more time customizing a four-wheel-drive 2003 GMC Sonoma that he bought this summer.
“He always had a lifelong fascination with cars, trucks and motorcycles,” said his father, Dana Stewart, executive director of The Oaks Conference and Retreat Center, where Ian grew up.
The nondenominational Christian facility in the San Gabriel Mountains is operated by a Los Angeles-based ministry focused on disadvantaged youth and their families. Stewart entered the Marines three days after he finished high school, on Father’s Day 2001. He completed boot camp the week of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Coincidently, he deployed to Iraq on Sept. 11 of this year.
Last week, Marine Corporal Ian Wesley Stewart was killed by small-arms fire while his unit was clearing houses in Fallouja. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton.
“We were praying for his safety, but God moved differently. We trust God’s judgment, but we don’t care much for his time schedule,” Stewart’s father said. “But we have real peace…. We’re confident we’ll see him again, and that beautiful smile of his, in heaven.”
Being the son of missionaries, Ian Stewart “had to work through what his faith meant to him,” his father said. And joining the Marines was part of that quest, said Roy Dull, who led a weekly Bible study in his home that attracted 20 to 30 teens, including the young Stewart.
“He picked the Marines because he thought it would give him the discipline and the focus he needs in figuring out who he’s supposed to be,” said Dull, a captain with the Los Angeles County Fire Department. Though faced with the same peer pressure as other teenagers, Stewart never smoked or drank. A strong moral core helped him resist such temptations, Dull said.
“Ian was a very quiet, calculated young man. There was a real deep side to him,” Dull said. “His relationship with his parents meant the world to him. His parents gave him a great foundation.”
Dana Stewart recalled how the last day he saw his son became a family reunion of sorts. He and his wife, Dawn, took their youngest son, Benjamin, 13, to Orange County to see Ian the day before he shipped out. On the way, they stopped by Los Angeles International Airport to pick up their daughter, Julia, 24, who had just begun a vacation from her job working for a ministry that helps homeless teens in Seattle.The five of them walked around the harbor at Dana Point, ate lunch at a Mexican restaurant in San Juan Capistrano and watched the sunset over Laguna Niguel
“It was just the most special day. We realized it at the time, but we realize it more now. We just enjoyed ourselves,” Dana Stewart said. “It’s not that we did anything special, but it was all special what we did.”