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James D Hirlston


A Marine lance corporal killed in Iraq grew up wanting to be a Marine and he played and worked to be the best at everything he did, his father said.

J.D. Hirlston, 21, of Murfreesboro was buried Thursday. He was killed Aug. 23 during combat operations in the Al Anbar province. Hirlston was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Survivors include eight brothers and sisters, said his father, James Hirlston.

J.D. Hirlston grew up in Rutherford County and attended Riverdale High School, his father said. He had worked at a grocery store and a fast-food restaurant in Murfreesboro before joining the Marines in June 2005. He went to Iraq early this summer.

It takes a whole lot to be a Marine. He wanted to prove he could be one, James Hirlston said. He liked the uniforms, the style, the way they walked, their honesty. The elder Hirlston said his slain son’s motivation was apparent in everything, including sports. He said J.D. loved athletics, wrestling and baseball as a teenager. He was one of a kind. Nobody else had a personality quite like him, Hirlston said. Anything he got into, he was dedicated. He wanted to see it through.

James D. Hirlston’s competitive drive came through when he was playing sports. As a wrestler, he didn’t mind losing a match by a decision. He just didn’t want to get pinned, said his father, James.

Hirlston, 21, of Murfreesboro, Tenn., was killed Aug. 23 in Anbar province. He was assigned to Camp Lejeune.

The first thing people noticed about him was his eyes, said his grandmother, Mary Hirlston. He had beautiful eyes. He was such a sweet, loving little child – always was to me.

James Hirlston said he last spoke to his son just before he left for Iraq.

He told me if he didn’t come back, what he’d want to happen, James Hirlston said. We told him we weren’t too worried about that, just that we wanted him to come back. Now I wish we had talked longer.

J.D.’s grandmother, Mary Hirlston, said she received a telephone message from him the day before he was killed.

He said he’d been patrolling, she said. He said, ‘This is my sleep time, but I wanted to talk to my granny.’

I didn’t get to talk to him, she said.

With a piper playing Amazing Grace, a Marine honor guard performed a rifle salute Thursday for Hirlston at a burial ceremony attended by strangers at Roselawn Memorial Gardens, including more than 100 motorcycle enthusiasts who attend military funerals.

Patriot Guard Riders member Mark Kidwell, who lives in Nashville now but is a former Murfreesboro resident, said his daughters attended Riverdale High School with Hirlston.

But I would have been here today, anyway, Kidwell said. This is all about the soldier and the family. That’s the only reason we’re here.


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