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Gravesite visit sparks proud memories

 A Marine pays respect to Marine Staff Sgt. David H. Stewart.
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Date published: 7/6/2014

Nineteen years ago, my Marine duties precluded me from attending the funeral of Jim Holbert, an Air Force veteran and father of a dear friend.

On July 1, 2014, duty called again, this time in the form of helping elderly parents deal with the challenges of old age. I would not trade that privilege.

My only regret was that I was unable to attend the funeral services of Marine Staff Sgt. David Stewart, who was killed in Afghanistan on June 20.

While driving home to Stafford Tuesday evening, God and Corps drew me to Quantico National Cemetery. David was not yet listed in the cemetery registry, so I was even more attentive as I searched the grounds for his resting place.

David's gravesite was not hard to find. Just a few feet from the roadside on Quantico Drive, his grave was adorned with red, white and blue bouquets.

As I stood in the darkening quiet, I tried to envision the throng of family, friends and fellow Marines who had turned out earlier in the day to honor David's service and sacrifice.

There, alone, I noticed something I might not have had I attended the burial service. Hundreds of tombstones, regimented in neat rows and leading out of the tree line, with David's out front as if beckoning "follow me."

Inspired, I took this occasion to visit others. Lt. Col Keith Sweaney was a friend whom I did not know well enough.

I remember the snow starting to fall as the bugler played taps for Keith just a few days before Christmas in 2000. Keith's epitaph reads "Husband, Father, Son, Hero."

And finally, after all these years, I gave a proper farewell to James Grady Holbert. As I had with David and Keith, before leaving Jim's grave I rendered a hand salute.

And as I remembered all of our fallen heroes and the families they left behind, I mourned--with pride and gratitude.

Scott Campbell