MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII --
Three pedestals of wood, three pairs of combat boots, three rifles, and fond memories — these items were but a mere representation that paled in comparison to the three missing sons of 3rd Marine Regiment. Family, friends and fellow service members bid one last farewell to their loved ones during a memorial service at Dewey Square, Oct. 29.
The two-dimensional likenesses of Staff Sgt. Scott E. Dickinson, Cpl. Richard A. Rivera Jr. and Lance Cpl. Gregory T. Buckley seemed to smile at the large audience of loved ones, who brushed away tears.
Even thousands of miles away, commanders and senior enlisted leaders with III Marine Expeditionary Force observed a moment of silence for them aboard Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan that same day.
All three were killed Aug. 10, while serving in Afghanistan. Dickinson, Rivera and Buckley each posthumously received a Purple Heart medal, which was presented to their families.
Dickinson, 29, of San Diego, enlisted in August 2001. During his last deployment, Dickinson served as the senior enlisted logistics adviser to the Garmsir District Police in Afghanistan.
Staff Sgt. Roger Ruiz approached the podium, and told the story about Dickinson. He hadn’t had a decent meal in seven months and upon finally being able to eat luscious food, he went for the cake first.
Ruiz who served as the battalion food service chief in Afghanistan, said Dickinson helped him through the check-in process when he was a new Marine at the S-4 shop.
“He was someone I could count on for anything no matter what it was, no matter what time of day it was,” Ruiz said. “Giving me a ride, watching my dogs or helping me out with something at work.”
Rivera, 20, of Ventura, Calif., enlisted in July 2010. While deployed, Rivera served as a security team gunner and precinct adviser for the Garmsir District Police Adviser Team in Afghanistan.
“No matter what job he had, he would never complain,” said Lance Cpl. Jake Prochnow, who, like Rivera and Buckley, was also a security team gunner and precinct adviser for the Garmsir District Police Adviser Team in Afghanistan.
“He made sure it was always done right,” Prochnow added. “He would never leave a job incomplete.”
Rivera’s mother, Linda, attended the service with other family members.
“He’s a very special person,” she said of her son.
Prochnow described his friend as “super motivated” and “the best in the shop.” He added that Rivera’s section valued his exceptional work so much that it was difficult for Rivera to deploy.
“He really is a great person,” Prochnow said. “Amazing, selfless, loyal, dedicated and compassionate … I love you Richie.”
Buckley, of Oceanside, N.Y., enlisted in the Corps in August 2009. The 21-year-old served as a security team gunner and precinct adviser of the Garmsir District Police Adviser Team in Afghanistan.
Speaking on his behalf, 1st Lt. John P. Rose recalled how eager Buckley was to be deployed. Rose was the Headquarters Company supply officer while deployed with Buckley. Lighthearted laughter spread like tiny rays of sunlight on a dark day, as Rose remembered this young, humorous Marine who challenged him to races on the beach and taught friends how to dance “The Dougie,” a hiphop move.
“He’d open up to us about his girl issues, how he saw life when he grew old. Greg had dreams of one day being a police officer, being a husband and a father ... ” Rose said.
Dewey Square became quiet for a few moments.
“… and have a big house in the suburbs, walking his son to school by the hand,” Rose said. “I remember Lance Cpl. Greg Buckley as being extremely proud. He was proud to be from New York … he was proud of being an American and to serve his country. Lance Cpl. Buckley was proud to be a United States Marine.”
As the service members rendered salutes, three shots cracked from the rifle detail, followed by buglers playing “taps.” Attendees lingered after the service to pay respects to their loved ones.
“Each of these men served their entire careers in the Marine Corps during a time of war. Each of these men served honorably,” said Col. Nathan I. Nastase, the commanding officer of 3rd Marine Regiment. “Each of these men willingly accepted the call to deploy into harm’s way without hesitation … we stand together with (the families) in (their) time of grief and our thoughts and prayers have been and will remain with (them). Our fallen brothers will be remembered forever.”