Cpl. Stephen R. Bixler
20, of Suffield, Conn.; assigned to the 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; killed May 4 while conducting combat operations against enemy forces in Anbar province, Iraq.
2nd Reconnaissance Battalion memorializes fallen Marine
CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq (May 12, 2006) -- Marines from 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5 in Fallujah, paused to honor Corporal Stephen R. Bixler. Bixler was killed in action May 4, 2006. He was 20-years-old.
Bixler was assigned to 2nd Recon Bn.’s Headquarters and Service Company, Provisional Rifle Platoon.
“Corporal Bixler was a vibrant, active man,” said Lieutenant Colonel James M. Bright, the battalion’s commander. “He died fearlessly leading and willingly sacrificing his own safety for those around him.”
Bixler was Boy Scout as a child, attaining the rank of Eagle Scout. He attended Suffield High School in Hartford, Conn., where he ran cross-country and indoor and outdoor track. He graduated in 2003 and joined the Marine Corps.
He graduated recruit training from M Company, 3rd Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina. He completed the School of Infantry and was assigned the infantry military occupational specialty.
He was later assigned to 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment and deployed to Haiti and Iraq.
“Along the way, he became a noncommissioned officer, a leader of Marines,” Bright said. Later, he volunteered to join 2nd Recon Bn. He passed the screening and was awaiting eye surgery before attending the Basic Reconnaissance Course, when the battalion was searching for leaders to fill the ranks of the Provisional Rifle Platoon. He, once again, volunteered.
“He was exactly that type of Marine we were looking for,” Bright explained.
Bixler’s platoon commander, First Lieutenant Nicholas J. Lodestro, said his first impressions of the Marine was he was “loyal, knowledgeable and dedicated.”
“He was a warrior I felt comfortable to serve with,” said 26-year-old Lodestro from Jamestown, New York. “He was the man in front protecting us. He was a dedicated, unselfish, charismatic warrior."
Sergeant Mike C. Phelan, a 22-year-old fellow Recon Marine from Seyreville, New Jersey, said Bixler had several nicknames from “Scuba Steve” to “Smelly Steve.”
“They were all terms of endearment,” Phelan said. “There were two Steve’s. There was the quiet leader … and the other – loud, surfing, lady-chasing.”
Phelan described Bixler as man with a great sense of humor, but profound insight.
“He used to say when it rains, it’s not the atmosphere changing,” Phelan recalled. “But God crying for us and what we’re about to do.”
The short, quiet ceremony was marked by Bible verses and prayers honoring Bixler. Corporal Jeffrey D. Sullivan, a 22-year-old from Annapolis, Maryland, assigned to 2nd Recon Bn.’s A Company, played “Amazing Graze” on the bagpipes.
Final Roll was called and three times, Corporal. Stephen R. Bixler’s name was called only to be answered by silence. “Taps” followed in a final farewell.
“He was a loving son and brother, devoted friend … Marine,” Bright said. “No more could be asked of any man. When final roll is called and Stephen no longer answers, Steven’s still here. He’s emblazoned on our hearts.”
Bixler’s awards include the Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon with gold star in lieu of second award, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon with bronze star in lieu of second award.
Bixler is survived by his parents, Richard and Linda Bixler.
Services Next Week For Marine
Lance Corporal Stephen R. Bixler, 20, a 2003 graduate of Suffield High School, was killed while on patrol in Al Anbar province.
Mass will be at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Sacred Heart Church, 446 Mountain Road in Suffield. He will be buried the following day with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
Bixler, who was on his second tour of duty in Iraq, has received the Purple Heart and the Combat Action Ribbon.
Bixler, who was an Eagle Scout, joined the U.S. Marine Corps in July 2003. He is survived by his parents, Richard and Linda Bixler, and his twin sister, Sandra L. Bixler.
May 18, 2006
Family, friends and other mourners found themselves fulfilling that wish Thursday as they gathered in a corner of the cemetery where the neatly tended, rolling lawns are marked by row after row of simple, white marble headstones.
Bixler, 20, who died May 4, 2006, in combat in Al Anbar province, was buried with military honors.
"He was a quiet, respectful person," said longtime family friend Kevin Goff after the burial. "He grew up knowing from an early age that he wanted to be a soldier. It was part of Stephen."
Goff said Bixler told his parents, Richard and Linda, to bury him at Arlington if anything happened to him in Iraq.
"He really is where he wanted to be, in Arlington," Goff said. "He is with his buddies who have given so much for freedom."
Six Marines in dress uniforms carefully removed the flag-covered casket from the hearse and carried it to the grave site amid a sudden rain shower. After a eulogy, a seven-member Marine guard fired three shots.
A Marine presented Bixler's parents with the American flag that had covered his casket.
Bixler served in the 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force. He was on his second tour of duty in Iraq, Goff said.
Bixler joined the Marines after graduating from Suffield High School in 2003. He was an Eagle Scout and a runner.
Bixler was the 31st person from Connecticut to have died since March 2002 in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was the 233rd person killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom to be buried at Arlington.
Goff said Bixler was proud to serve in Iraq, where he believed he was making a difference in the lives of ordinary Iraqis struggling to rebuild their country.
"He'd say, 'Those people really need us over there,"' Goff recalled. "You'd look into his eyes and the message was very clear. We knew he was making a difference in people's lives over there."
A hearse bearing Bixler's casket traveled from Connecticut to the cemetery with police escorts from various cities and states during the drive. Family and friends were overwhelmed by the many salutes along the way from average citizens, many of them stuck in traffic because of the motorcade, said Goff.
"It was a true American tribute to a guy who gave his life for all of us," said Goff.
Suffield renames post office for fallen Marine
The town won congressional approval tonight to re-name its post office in honor of Marine Corporal Stephen Bixler.
BIXLER, STEPHEN RICHARD