TACOMA, WA, USA U.S. Marines SGT, G CO, 2D BN, 7TH MAR, 1ST MAR DIV, TWENTYNINE PALMS, CA FARAH PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN 06/14/2008
Master Sergeant Michael Washington Sr. was driving to California with his teenage son, Michael, shortly after returning from Afghanistan in 2003. As they listened, a reporter on National Public Radio was extolling the virtues of the Marines the reporter had traveled with in Iraq.
“I looked at my son and realized that was what he was going to do,” said the senior Washington, a Seattle firefighter.
His son, Sergeant Michael T. Washington, 20, died Saturday when a roadside bomb exploded in the Farah province area of Afghanistan.
A graduate of Stadium High School and a longtime soccer player, Sergeant Washington joined the Marines when he was 17. He served last year in Iraq and received commendations for bravery, providing fire to get other Marines out of a combat zone. He was deployed to Afghanistan in April. He served in Golf Company, 2nd Batallion, 7th Marine Regiment, based in Twentynine Palms, Calif. His deployment was to have ended in October.
The senior Michael Washington said his son told him he wanted to join the Marines to help those who couldn’t help themselves. “He said, ‘Dad, I want to defend people who can’t defend themselves. It takes people to stand up and do this,’ ” he said.
The father has been a firefighter since 1994 and now works at Fire Station 27 in Georgetown.
He’s struggling to cope with the death of his only son. “I’m starting a marathon now, a horrible, horrible marathon,” he said. “It’s trying to hurt a little less every day.”
Washington said he will fly to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to retrieve his son’s body.
“It’s important that everyone knows what a fine man he was,” said Washington. “He was his own person. He loved being a Marine. He had the world at his feet.”
His son was a third-generation Marine, and his daughter, Aja Collins, served as a Korean linguist in the Army. She now lives in South Korea.
Firefighters are helping Washington deal with the loss of his son. “I was proud to have known [Sergeant Washington] for the short time I did,” said Mark Lundquist, a Seattle firefighter. “I watched him grow up at the fire station and would hear his exploits from his dad.”