CLEARLAKE, CA, USA U.S. Marines LCPL, F CO, 2D BN, 7TH MAR, 1ST MAR DIV, TWENTYNINE PALMS, CA HELMAND PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN 07/21/2008
The opening line of Ivan Wilson’s last letter home to his mother had a poignant resonance at his memorial service.
“I guess you might say we’ve reached our final destination.”
Father Ron Serban read Wilson’s words, describing his Marine unit’s arrival at a desert base in Afghanistan, for the overflow crowd gathered August 16, 2008 at his hometown church in the small Northern California town of Clearlake.
The 22-year-old Lance Corporal penned the upbeat note, complete with smiles and doodles, in May. He was killed in a bomb explosion July 21.
The letter reached his mother just days before his funeral at Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church, where Wilson grew up taking religious classes and attending youth group activities.
He was the first member of the military from Lake County, which stretches through the forests north of San Francisco, to die in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. A 2004 graduate of Clearlake Community School, Wilson enlisted in the US Marine Corps on Sept. 11, 2005. He was a rifleman with the Third Platoon, Second Battalion, Seventh Marine Division, Fox Company. Wilson was on his second tour of duty in the Middle East. He had served in Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom from Jan. 29 to Aug. 25, 2007.
Stocky, red-headed and with an inquisitive mind, Wilson struggled at times to find his way, Serban said, but appeared to have taken a turn for the better in the Marines, which he joined in September 2005. “It looked like he had found his niche,” the priest said. “I think his life was in a very positive transition.”
Fellow Marines recalled that Wilson would volunteer to be the point man, the first one to get out of their Humvee to check out a suspicious situation. “He had really risked his life, putting himself in front of other troops,” Serban said.
Wilson’s mother, Denise, told the Press Democrat: “He had his good days and bad days. Overall he was a very happy and well-loved young man with a promising future.”