AR RAMADI, Iraq -- The Camp Lejeune, N.C., based Marines of 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment gathered at Hurricane Point to honor Cpl. Joseph A. Tomci, one of their fallen heroes, in a memorial service Aug. 5.
Tomci was killed Aug. 2 while conducting combat operations against enemy forces in the Al Anbar province. Tomci, 21-year-old from Akron, Ohio, was a squad leader in 2nd Squad, 4th Platoon, Company L, 3rd Bn., 8th Marines, which is currently deployed to Ar Ramadi, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Tomci was described by many as a role model who pushed himself to be the best in everything he did.
“He could be found leading from the front. He brought the best out of everyone including myself,” said Cpl. Daniel J. Tarantino. “Many of us would not be here today without his guidance.”
“I joined the Marine Corps to lead and fight next to Marines like Corporal Tomci,” said 2nd Lt. Ryan M. Hub, 4th platoon commander. “I say lead but more often then not I found myself learning from him. He made my job look easy. He took so much pride in his Marines and in himself.”
During the service, the Marines put together the traditional rifle memorial of a helmet resting on a butt stock of a rifle, dog tags hanging from the rifle’s pistol grip, and a pair of boots placed alongside a recent photo of Tomci. Cpl. Matthew E. Bucceri played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes, his platoon read Psalm 23 in unison and Lance Cpl. William L. Taylor offered a single reading of the Marine’s Prayer.
Lt. Col. Stephen M. Neary, the Battalion’s commanding officer, described why Tomci joined the Marine Corps.
“He joined following 9/11 because he believed he was equal to the emergency our country was facing,” said Neary, 40, from Boston, Mass. “He believed he could do anything and in the process he won the confidence of his fellow man.”
“He had a lot of meaning to his life. Meaning is doing for others, meaning is risking your life for others, meaning is leaving the comfort of your home to fight to make sure that there still will be a home for you, your family, your nation and free men and women everywhere,” he said.
Capt. Carlos M. Barela, the commanding officer of Company L, said Tomci had a choice stay home or to deploy to Iraq for a second time.
“One of the strongest squad leaders we had in this Company,” said Barela, 36, from Sandoval, N.M. “He chose to go on this deployment and to make one more trip with his brothers rather than going to Recon Battalion.”
“I remember watching him coming to the COC [command operations center] with some of his young Marines that he was training to take over COG [corporal of the guard] and squad leaders,” he said. “He took the time and would accept nothing but the best from each individual Marine in his charge. But more than that across, the company, he looked out for his brothers.”
“I never had a doubt that he would bring his Marines home,” he said.
During the ceremony Hub read a classic quote of Edmund Burke written on the back binding of Tomci’s squad notebook.
The passage read: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
“Cpl. Tomci was more than just a good man and he decided to do something,” said Hub, 25, from Calhoun, S.C. “He was a symbol of strength in our platoon both physically and mentally. I felt fortunate to have known him and to have fought with him. His personal strength helps guide us today and will help guide us tomorrow as we continue to fight.”
Tarantino described his best friend as the single greatest example of what a Marine should be.
“It is said you can tell a lot about a man from his friends, and no one had more friends then Joe Tomci,” said Tarantino, 21, from Hall, Ga. He continued to say that Tomci brought the squad and platoon together, not just as a squad or platoon, but as friends.
Tomci attended Marine Corps recruit training in 2003. He graduated from the squad leaders’ course in 2005. He has deployed to Haiti in 2004 and Fallujah in 2005 with the battalion. His awards include the Purple Heart, two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, Combat Action Ribbon, Navy Unit Citation, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Iraqi Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, and two Sea Service Deployment Ribbons.