LUDLOW, MA, USA
SGT, 1ST BN 6TH MAR (RCT-7, I MEF FWD) 2D MARINE DIVISION, CAMP LEJEUNE, NC
MARJEH, AFGHANISTAN 05/12/2010
It’s a long way from the sun-blasted terrain of Afghanistan to the green grass, blue skies and singing birds that graced the Base Ellipse at Westover Air Reserve Base late Friday morning.
The late Marine Sgt. Joshua D. Desforges, who grew up in Ludlow, was honored by family, friends and military personnel in a private ceremony here. Desforges, 23, a six-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, died May 12 while supporting combat operations in Marjeh, Afghanistan.
His body, borne by a private aircraft, touched down on Western Massachusetts’ soil late Thursday morning at Westover.
Friday’s ceremony marked the first time, at least in recent history, that a military funeral has been conducted at the base, Westover officials said.
It included remarks from retired Sergeant Major Edward C. Mitrook, leader of the Westover Young Marines program that set the young Desforges out on his quest to become a Marine.
Mitrook, at the request of the young Marine’s parents, David and Arlene Desforges, accompanied their son’s body from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to Westover. “It wasn’t something I looked forward to,” Mitrook said after the ceremony. “But, what a privilege, what a privilege.”
Desforges was a squad leader assigned to the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 7, I Marine Expeditionary Force. He was midway through his second tour in Afghanistan, having been deployed there in December, the statement read. His previous tour was March through September 2008.
In his prepared remarks, Mitrook spoke of his first impression of Desforges in September 1999 when he spotted the young future Marine, then 13, standing amidst a gaggle of young boys and girls at the start of a Young Marines session. He had “a slight smile on his face and a glint in his eye,” Mitrook said.
Mitrook said he remembers Desforges as being quiet during the group’s boot camp. But, “he was intent and completely absorbed as if he had a greater purpose. … I would later learn that he did have a life plan and the Young Marines was a stepping-stone.”
Desforges parents knew early on that their son was born to serve in the Marines. “His dad will tell you that as a child and others were playing Army, Josh made it clear he wanted to play a Marine,” Mitrook said.
Desforges’ leadership led him to being selected by the national director of the Young Marine’s program for its first ever trip to Iwo Jima. That trip evoked, for Mitrook, memories of a topic he touched on several times during his eulogy: Desforges’ sense of humor and penchant for mischief.
“It took me almost a year to figure out how he loaded the screen-saver on my personal computer showing him on top of Mount Suribachi with that same slight smile on his face and glint in his eye,” he said, referring to the mountain on Iwo Jima where Marines raised a flag in World War II.
Mitrook concluded his eulogy by wishing Desforges well as he begins what he described as “his new journey.”
“We hope and pray that some day we too will get to walk alongside you in this new journey,” Mitrook said. “God bless you Josh and Semper Fi.”