Harry Chaires said he awoke with a start before dawn on Oct. 25 at his north Florida farm. Seven time zones away in Iraq, his 20-year-old son had just died from combat wounds in Al Anbar province.
The Marine Corps on Thursday honored Lance Cpl. Daniel B. Chaires and 22 others in the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Regiment, based in Hawaii. Chaires died during the unit’s most recent seven-month-long deployment to Iraq.
“I came out of a sound sleep,” Chaires recalled. “You hear these stories all the time, but we as parents feel, have a sense, that something’s wrong.”
About 1,000 Marines and Navy corpsmen stood at attention on an airfield fronting the pale blue waters of Kaneohe Bay as the names of their fallen comrades were read aloud one by one.
Battalion members planted 23 rifles upside down behind pairs of combat boots to symbolize those lost. They draped dog tags around each weapon.
“What can we say about so many lives snuffed out so early,” their commander, Lt. Col. James Donnellan, said to the crowd of about 120 family members and hundreds more friends. “I myself have asked myself why more times than is healthy.”
'You don't have closure'
Donnellan said he could see the impact of the troops’ work on the town of Haditha and the surrounding area they were responsible for securing. The Marines spotted and defused roadside bombs, went on patrols and worked with local leaders as insurgent attacks declined to an average of one a day from 13, Donnellan said.
Chaires said he would never fully get over the death of his son. But he knows Daniel Chaires was doing what he wanted. The family buried the young Chaires in the backyard of their farm 10 miles from Tallahassee, Fla.
“When you lose a child, you don’t have closure,” Chaires said. “You move forward in the day-to-day process. The tears get a little less. But when I die, I will still be just as sad.”