The rest of Captain Freeman’s team finally arrived in country. Captain Freeman arrived several weeks ahead as part of the advance team. Instead of a being a reunion of Marines, they would attend their teammate’s memorial service. Unlike some of the previous services held here, this one was a bit different. To begin the service, several songs were played. Three Marines stood stoically 1 pace in front of a wooden box.They were holding the symbolic helmet, weapon, combat boots, and identification tags. On cue, a Marine inserted the M-4 rifle bayonet into the wooden slot. The helmet was then placed on top of the butt stock. A set of identification tags were draped over the pistol grip and a pair of combat boots was positioned on each side of the bayonet. On an adjacent table with a white cloth were two pictures of Captain Freeman along with his Purple Heart and Bronze Star medals.
At the podium, several speakers spoke about the life of Captain Matthew Freeman and the Army Chaplain provided some spiritual words too. Behind the memorial, stood several rows of Marines, Airman, Soldiers, and Sailors at attention. A roll call was announced and Capt Freeman did not respond to his name being called out. Seven Marines who assumed the position of Honor Guard stood ready with their weapons. With crack precision they raised their weapons to their shoulders and fired a volley of shots. A command was given and the entire formation came to attention and rendered a sharp salute. In the background, the somber notes of “Taps” echoed across the speaker.
Once the final note of “Taps” was played, everyone formed a single line to pay their final respects to Captain Matthew Freeman. One by one, each person approached the memorial. After executing a facing movement, they slowly brought their right hand up from their side and performed a precision salute. Then each member would remove their hat and kneel in front of the memorial. Some personnel would touch the helmet, while others touched the boots or held the identification tags in their hands. A few individuals placed mementoes at the memorial to include a Sergeant Major insignia, Army metal cross sabers, patches, and the Marine Corp emblem. Although I stood a few paces away, I could feel the powerful emotions expressed by his teammates. It just wasn’t Marines saying their final goodbye, instead this long line was composed of Army, Air Force, Navy, and some coalition forces from Turkey and Greece. We all felt the same way; we have lost another brother in arms.
It’s not easy taking these pictures because at times I feel as though I’m violating a person’s privacy. But at the same time, I also know the families appreciate them. After everyone filed through, I also approached the memorial. I recognized his picture and recall seeing him at the dining hall when he first arrived. I knelt down and held on to his ID tags and said “Capt Freeman, your death was not in vain and you are a hero.”
Later that night, I was invited to the pavilion area to smoke a cigar with the Marines. I felt honored and was curious if this was a Marine tradition. The pavilion was filled with smoke and Marines smoking cigars in honor of Capt Freeman; even Marines who don’t smoke still honored him.
As you can see here (and in the additional slide show pictures), he enjoyed a good cigar. Not just any cigar either. Over here, it’s rather easy to buy foreign-made cigars and Capt Freeman had an exquisite taste for them. I too, participated in the honorary cigar smoking. This is when one of his teammates gave me a CD with pictures on it. I also learned a few more things about Captain Freeman. His team was working on a motto and had plans to have it embroidered on their t-shirts. According to his team, Capt Freeman with the assistance of his newly married wife Teresa crafted “Locus Pendeo”. This is a Latin variant for situation dependent meaning—making the right decisions based on the situation on hand. In honor of Capt Freeman, they have adopted this motto. In the words of his Marine Staff Sergeant teammate, “I think he lived up to it [motto], taking in the situation around him, analyzing it to the best of his ability, and based his actions on his conclusion.”
Through my blog and talking with others, I was able to find out some interesting information too. Captain Freeman came from a proud military family. Son like father, they both graduated from the US Naval Academy and flew fighter jets. Capt Freeman initially flew the Navy Harriers and then trained on C-130 aircraft. He also served as a General’s aid. When he was promoted to Captain, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was present at the Army-Navy football game and posed for a picture.
Semper Fidelis Captain Matthew Freeman, may God comfort your family and rest your soul.
Please take a moment to click on the link below and read the documents announcing Capt. Freeman’s Bronze Star for Valor.
If you’d like to have the slide show move faster, click on the “+” sign in bottom left corner to reach desired speed. You can also click on “View all images” and look at the photos at your own pace.
Some additional notes: Family members can request the video and all of the pictures of the memorial service through the Casualty Assistance Officer. Michael Jordan, freelance photographer and president of Cosmos Mariner Productions was also present. He will incorporate the memorial service into a movie he has been filming for the past few days.