JACKSONVILLE, FL, US
U.S. MARINE CORPS
CPL, H CO, 2ND TANK BN, 2ND MAR DIV, CAMP LEJEUNE, NC
10/21/2006, BALAD, IRAQ
Marine Corporal Joshua Watkins planned to come home from Iraq on October 31st, and his Jacksonville family dreamed of meeting him in a joyous reunion. They wanted to be at the base in North Carolina as he walked off the bus.
On Monday night, they changed their travel plans amid overwhelming grief. Their son was scheduled to arrive in Dover, DE, today. They wanted to be on the tarmac as his body was transported from the aircraft into a vehicle. CPL Watkins, 25, died Saturday after being shot in the stomach while on foot patrol in Fallujah. Military doctors struggled for hours in attempts to save him, according to information provided to his mother, Amy Watkins-Vazquez.
“The hardest part for me is going to be to learn to live without him in my life,” Mrs. Watkins-Vazquez said. “Because he was everything to me. He was my life, and he was the joy of my heart. And I told him that since he was a baby, that he was the joy of my heart.”
“He was supposed to come home next Tuesday, and instead we’re going to bury him,” added Mrs. Watkins-Vazquez. “He’s coming home, but not the way I want.”
Joshua Watkins was born and raised in the Jacksonville area, like his mother before him. After graduating from Allen D. Nease High School in 1999, he took classes at University of North Florida for three years Joshua enlisted in the U.S. Maine Corps in 2002. His goal was to become an officer. He believed that being an enlisted service member would give him the experience he would need to become an officer.
“He felt like that gave you better experience to lead other men,” Watkins-Vazquez said.
He was serving his second tour of duty in Iraq. Joshua was promoted to corporal. He became the leader of a Humvee crew. He had one more tour to go, and then he wanted to go to college to become an officer, his mother said.
The family members are handling the grief as well as they can, said his grandmother, Gail Tillis. She said the family was very close, and Joshua was their heart.
“He was tall and good-looking,” Gail Tillis said. “He had a beautiful, million-dollar smile.”
Joshua’s family takes pride in knowing that he believed in his mission. He had a great respect for the Marine Corps, and felt it was an honor to become a Marine and serve his country.
“He told me by phone not long ago that he and the Marines knew they were there for a reason,” Mrs. Watkins-Vazquez said. “They would rather fight the fight there than to have anybody touch American soil. It was heartfelt. He loved his country.”