LAFAYETTE, LA, USA U.S. Marines CPL, A CO, 2D AA BN, (RCT-6, II MEF FWD), 2D MAR DIV, CAMP LEJEUNE, NC FALLUJAH, IRAQ 04/26/2007
Corporal Willie Celestine Jr. went home Saturday.
As an overflowing crowd of family members, friends and veterans wiped away tears and prayed for strength, Celestine was laid to rest 10 days after being killed while serving his country in Iraq as a member of the U.S. Marine Corps.
“I looked up the word ‘tenacity,’ and it describes him so well,” said Celestine’s mother-in-law, Eva Dillon-Moore. “Willie was determined to do for his family. That was his utmost desire – to see his wife, Aporil, and his daughter, Nevaeh, taken care of.”
In 2003, the year before he graduated from Acadiana High, Lil’ Will, as he was known to family and friends, described his hopes and dreams in a vision statement. Dillon-Moore shared some of those at his funeral Saturday.
Celestine wanted to play in the National Football League. He wanted to own his own business, possibly a clothing line. He wanted to finish college and create enough financial stability for himself to send his own children to college. He wanted to maintain a strong relationship with God.
He also wanted to serve his country, and on Jan. 26, 2005, he enlisted in the Marine Corps. His first tour in Iraq was from September 2005 to May 2006. He had returned for his second tour on April 5.
“I still remember vividly when he left for his first Marine training,” said Rev. Michael Sucharski, pastor at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church. “I told him, ‘you’ll learn how to make your bed, you’ll know how to eat and you’ll become very respectful.’ And when he came back, I put my hand on his shoulder and said ‘they have made you a man.’ “
Sucharski said it is natural for such an untimely death to raise questions, but that in such times, trust must be placed in God.
“I do ask why … why a young person who is doing so much good has to go so soon,” he said. “But I have to go on faith, and know that God is still in charge.”
Sucharski also told Celestine’s family that although his body his gone, the spirit of their son, husband and brother will remain with them.
“Talk to him. He’s going to talk back to you,” he said. “In those quiet moments, you’re going to feel Willie. He’s going to tell you that he is all right, and he’s also going to tell you that he will prepare a place for you.”
In the funeral program, Celestine’s mother, Gertrude, wrote a goodbye to her 21-year-old son.
“Those 21 years were the best years of a mother’s life. … That silly grin, those stupid jokes and the way you dance, make us laugh so hard,” she wrote. “Whenever I think of you, all I can do is smile. You have taught Momma so much. You lived a wonderful life. God needed a soldier like you.”
Celestine’s wife, Aporil, also wrote a farewell poem to her husband: “A part of me doesn’t want to move on/And a part of me says you have to move along/A part of me asks you/Will I ever get better/And your reply, ‘Yes, because I’ll be in your heart