AR RAMADI, Iraq -- Private First Class Jon M. Turner remembers blasting Led Zeppelin, joking, and knocking back a few cold ones with his buddy.
“He was always joking around and acting silly no matter what mood you were in,” said Turner, morning the loss of his friend James. “All you could do was shake your head and laugh, whether it was a Harry Carry impersonation or a wise crack remark about a working party, James could make a bad situation better.”
May 17, 2006, Marines from 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment gathered for a memorial service at the Morale, Welfare and Recreation center at Hurricane Point to pay their last respects to a fallen Marine. Lance Cpl. Richard Z. James, a 20-year-old machine gunner from Seaford, Delaware, died due to enemy action May 13 during a mission north of the Government Center in Ramadi, Iraq.
James was with 1st Platoon, Kilo Company.
James, a member of 1st Platoon, Kilo Company was remembered by his fellow Marines as a comrade that served his nation, battalion, company and platoon with utmost dignity and respect.
“No man, no being, nobody could ask for anything more of their comrade,” said Capt. Andrew M. Del Gaudio, the 30-year-old company commander from Bronx, N.Y.
Growing up in a small New England town, James always dreamed of becoming a U.S. Marine.
“The most important thing all of us need to remember is that, yes, he was in fact a Marine, he lived as a Marine, and that he died in the arms of men that loved him,” said Del Gaudio, fighting back his emotions. “I know he will continue to protect us from above as we continue our mission here.”
Battalion Commander, Lt. Col Stephen M. Neary, spoke about James’ commitment to joining the Corps.
“He joined because he believed in something greater them himself,” said Neary. “He believed in his country and the traditions of the Corps and that being a Marine is not just a job. It’s a calling and a way of life.”
During the somber memorial, Turner described James as an outstanding Marine and even better friend. He also recalled placing James in a helicopter for his final flight home.
“We all suffered a great loss and I was tasked with doing one of the most difficult things I ever had to do,” said Turner. “A part of me left when I put our friend on that bird that night.”
“James said if something should happen to him that we should kill some bad guys and then carry on,” added Turner, a 21-year-old infantryman from Tolland, Conn. “This is what we must do as we carry on with our mission… we now have an angel looking over our shoulders.”
During the memorial ceremony Cpl. Matthew E. Bucceri performed “Amazing Grace” on his bagpipes, stirring the emotions of everyone, while 1st Platoon, Company K recited Psalms 23. Marines, sailors, and soldiers who attended the service also paid their last respects with a final salute to the fallen Marine’s memorial helmet, dog tags and boots.
James joined the Marine Corps June 21, 2004, after graduating high school. He completed the School of Infantry and Machine Gunner school the same year. He reported to 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment where he deployed to Fallujah, Iraq in 2005. He was killed during his second deployment to Iraq.
His awards include the Purple Heart Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.
He is survived by his mother, Carol L. James and father, Kenneth W. James.