Caleb John Powers
Lance Corporal, United States Marine Corps
DoD Identifies Marine Casualties
The Department of Defense announced today the death of three Marines who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Lance Corporal Caleb J. Powers, 21, of Manfield,
Washington, died Aug 17, 2004, due to
Lance Corporal Dustin R. Fitzgerald, 22, of Huber Heights, Ohio, died August 18, 2004, in a non-combat related vehicle incident in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. Lance Corporal Fitzgerald was assigned to Battalion Landing Team 1/2, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
Sergeant Harvey E. Parkerson III, 27, Yuba City, California, died August 18, 2004, due to enemy action in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. Sgt. Parkerson was assigned to Battalion Landing Team 1/4, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), Camp Pendleton, California.
For further information related to Lance Corporal
Powers and Sergeant Parkerson, contact the Camp Pendleton Public Affairs
Office at (760) 725-5044. For further information related to Lance
Corporal Fitzgerald, contact the 2nd Marine Division Public Affairs officer
at (910) 451-9033.
The Iraq conflict claimed the life of a Central Washington Marine. Family and friends of Lance Corporal Caleb Powers, along with the entire town of Mansfield, gathered Friday to remember him.
Among those grieving for the young Marine, his sister Rosanna. Herself a Marine, Rosanna got the news of her brother's death, the day before learning her fiancé had also been shot and killed in Iraq.
Rosanna and her baby boy will return home to
Florida Saturday to bury her fiancé, Sergeant Richard Lord. Her
brother will be honored with a marker in Arlington National Cemetery as
well as the one in Mansfield.
In life, Caleb Powers was a hero, pure and simple.
In death, depending on one's point of view, the young Marine might be considered a hero, a martyr, a victim--or all three.
His wrenching and complex story of triumph and tragedy, ending with his August 17, 2004, death in Iraq crystallizes the conflicting emotions currently raging over the war.
The 21-year-old Marine Corps Lance Corporal never saw the sniper who shot him while on guard duty in Ramadi, Iraq. This time he never had a chance to fight back the way he did during a troubled childhood.
Powers grew up battling unseen forces that might well have crushed most others.
Doctors were puzzled by Caleb's childhood emotional problems, his mother, Tracy Powers of North Stafford, said. She said attention deficit disorder and bipolar disorder were suggested as possibilities and Caleb was put on different drugs including Ritalin and lithium.
A professional who saw Caleb as a child said he diagnosed the boy with both attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and post traumatic stress syndrome. The second illness is a problem that, ironically, is often associated with soldiers returning from war.
Caleb was traumatized by an incident that occurred when he was 8 years old, the newspaper was told. The principal at his elementary school reportedly called his mother to come pick him up because he had acted up in class, apparently due to ADHD.
Tracy Powers put Caleb in her car, which was running, and got out to talk to the principal. Caleb, who was bouncing around in the car, accidentally threw the vehicle into drive. It ran over the principal, breaking his leg.
Caleb reportedly was tortured by that memory for years before being convinced he could not blame himself for an accident that happened when he was so young.
His mother gave up custody of Caleb so he could be placed at the Culpeper County location of Childhelp USA, which works with abuse, abandoned or emotionally troubled children.
In photograph after photograph of the young boy at parties early in his time at Childhelp, Caleb looks detached and numb while other children are laughing and frolicking.
"Caleb never played" as a child, said Eunice Haigler, who worked with him at Childhelp. Many of her photos show him dressed in Marine Corps garb. Almost eerily, several also show him in the role of an angel wearing wings and a halo in a Childhelp play.
The indomitable will of a young boy who dreamed of becoming a Marine persevered, friends said. But the dedication and enthusiasm of a young Marine could not.
The only battle in life he could not win was against an enemy crouching in the dark with a rifle during a controversial war some contend was at best ill-timed and, at worst, unnecessary.
His mother is comforted by her belief that if Caleb and other American troops had not gone to Iraq, U.S. citizens would be dying at home now.
On the other side is his mother's boyfriend, Lee Russell Sr. of North Stafford. Russell, who grew close to Caleb in recent years and also has a son who has fought in Iraq, is bitter. He says Caleb might be alive if President Bush had focused on Afghanistan instead of deciding to invade Iraq last year.
According to The Associated Press, 967 American troops had been killed in Iraq as of Wednesday.
Tracy Powers, who recently worked at Costco at Spotsylvania Mall and now for a computer software company in Richmond, backs President Bush.
"If they weren't fighting the war on terror in Iraq, they might be doing it here in the streets," Caleb's mother said.
She said she is "not political," but believes anti-American forces crossing the borders into Iraq to fight would have come here.
Russell sides with opponents of the president's policy.
"I firmly believe we should have finished the job in Afghanistan before we went anywhere else," Russell said. "I believe we got rid of a bad guy [Saddam Hussein], but I wish we would have kept focused on al-Qaida and chased them down. There's still a threat today."
Lee Russell Sr. emphasized that Caleb never had doubts about his mission, nor does his own son, U.S. Army Sergeant Michael Russell.
"But I'm really ticked off that Caleb got killed over there," the elder Russell said. "It's devastating. We all really lost someone special."
Four other friends of Caleb from Virginia to California said invading Iraq was the right thing to do.
No one believed that Caleb ever disagreed with anything the Marine Corps did--even though he was busted in rank from Corporal to Lance Corporal for an unspecified infraction.
Haigler said the fact that Caleb handled the demotion without bitterness showed both how far he had come and how much he loved the Corps. She said he thrived on Marine discipline.
Every Halloween, Caleb "dressed up like a soldier," Tracy Powers said. "I found an Army cot at a yard sale, and he slept on it every night. He knew all his life [that being a Marine] was what he wanted to do."
Caleb's father left before he was born, his mother said. By the third grade, a crippling mental illness placed the boy firmly under a cloud of stigma.
He was kicked out of a grade school that couldn't deal with his emotional problems, she said. Childhelp USA, however, set him on his desired course.
There was a service for Caleb yesterday in Mansfield, Washington - a tiny farming community of 350 where he spent his high school years with an aunt and uncle, Jackie and Mike Tupling.
Friends want him to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, but it could take time for that to be approved.
John Bacon, who was commander of Caleb's Young Marine unit at Quantico who gave him his first bike and remained close to him until the end, said Arlington is where Caleb belongs. "That's the place for heroes on the battlefield."
But Bacon added that the desires of the family are paramount.
It wasn't clear yesterday what would happen, Haigler said.
"I'd like to see it," Lee Russell Sr. said about Arlington. "For a kid that grew up looking at the Marine Corps the way he did, that's the place he probably should be."
Tracy Powers, though, said Caleb was more at ease in the slow-paced environment of Mansfield than in bustling Northern Virginia. She thinks Mansfield might be a better final resting place because her son loved farm life and had many friends there.
And, she said, "I'd like to have closure" rather
than waiting for a government decision.
Caleb Powers, who overcame severe emotional problems as a boy to attain his dream of becoming a Marine, and then died in Iraq last month at age 21, will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery at 10 a.m. on October 14, 2004.
"That's the place for heroes fallen on the battlefield," said John Bacon of Los Angeles, a lifelong friend who commanded a Young Marines unit based at Quantico that Powers joined at age 10.
Lance Corporal Powers, the son of Tracy Powers of North Stafford, was only two weeks from being sent home when he was killed by a sniper while on guard duty in Ramadi, Iraq, about 40 miles from Fallujah, on August 17, 2004.
It was a week of unimaginable agony for the Powers family.
The next day, the man who was to become Caleb Powers' brother-in-law, Marine Sergeant Rick Lord of Florida, was killed in action in Anbar province, Iraq. The 24-year-old Lord and Caleb's sister Rosie planned to marry upon his return from Iraq. Rosie Powers, also a Marine, lives in Manassas.
Caleb Powers' uplifting and tragic story of heroic perseverance, then death at the hands of an unseen enemy has attracted the attention of national media including CNN and USA Today.
A funeral was held for Powers on August 27, 2004, in Mansfield, Washington, a tiny farming community with a population of just 350. But more than 200 people attended the service at Mansfield High School, where Powers played football.
His mother said she was overwhelmed that little Mansfield closed all its shops and its grocery store for the funeral.
As a boy, Powers spent three years at Childhelp
in Culpeper County because of behavioral problems. There, he was inspired
by Bacon and the idea of becoming a Marine that turned his life around.
At Childhelp, he was befriended by Navy Admiral William Owens, former vice
chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who became his mentor.
In a ceremony all too familiar to military families, an American flag, folded with precision into a crisp triangle, was gently handed to Rosanna Powers yesterday.
Powers, a Marine corporal on inactive reserve, gathered with family at Arlington National Cemetery to inter the ashes of her brother, Lance Corporal Caleb J. Powers.
The 21-year-old Marine was killed August 17,
2004, in western Iraq, the victim of an insurgent's bullet as he stood
guard at his unit's compound in Al Anbar province.
Rosanna Powers was still struggling to cope with her brother's death when she got word that her fiance, Sergeant Richard Lord, 24, the father of her young son, had been killed in Iraq. Lord died August 18, 2004, one day after Caleb Powers and also in Al Anbar.
Imagine "your worst nightmare," Rosanna Powers said yesterday. "I couldn't believe this could actually happen to someone."
Friends of Caleb Powers lovingly portrayed him as a young man who cobbled together the shards of a tumultuous childhood and transformed them into the stuff of role models -- offering hope to disadvantaged youth and children from broken homes.
Powers's parents divorced when he was a small child. Described by those who knew him as a high-energy child -- years later he was found to have attention deficit disorder -- Powers was sent to a group home, where he stayed until age 9, when he was placed in a residential facility run by Childhelp USA, a nonprofit agency that serves abused and neglected children.
Officials with the organization say Powers was among the first residents of the Alice C. Tyler Village of Childhelp East in Northern Virginia.
It was at a mentoring session that Powers met Adm. William A. Owens, former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who saw the shy, withdrawn boy standing apart from his peers and chose him to be his "special friend," a Childhelp designation for its big brother- styled program.
Officials said Powers flourished, and they credit Owens with drawing out the young boy, taking him on a special submarine tour and to the White House, among other high-profile excursions. They spent many weekends together, forging a strong bond, friends said.
"You can imagine what that did for Caleb's self-esteem," said Childhelp co-founder Sara O'Meara.
When he was 13, Powers was taken in by extended family in the farming community of Mansfield, Wash., where he lived until he joined the Marines in 2001, enlisting on his 18th birthday.
Childhelp officials say Powers returned often to lend a hand with fundraising events, sometimes appearing alongside celebrities and other notables. He also spoke to the children there, encouraging them to consider a bright future.
O'Meara recalled that one of Powers's pep talks went like this: "Believe these people when they [say] you can make anything you want out of yourself. It's true. Look at me."
She added: "He knew what life was about. Giving back."
At the time of his death, Powers was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division from Camp Pendleton.
Jay Cooper met Powers at the California base. It was a chance encounter at a movie theater, and the entertainment industry executive who works in fundraising said he and Powers were surprised to discover that they both had ties to Childhelp. They became close friends.
"It's been painful for everyone," said Cooper, who attended the service at Arlington.
"You just don't know who he could have been
and how great his contributions would have been," Cooper said, his voice
choked with emotion. "He touched so many people in his short life that
he'll always be remembered. We know that."
15 October 2004:
Lance Corporal Caleb Powers, the troubled child from Lignum who grew up to be a Marine, then died in Iraq in August 2004, was interred today at Arlington National Cemetery.
About 100 people attended the 15-minute graveside ceremony, complete with a rifle volley and bugler playing Taps.
Powers, 21, was shot by a sniper while on guard duty in Ramadi, Iraq, on August 17, 2004.
Today’s burial at Arlington National Cemetery was at least the third memorial service for the Marine. His unit — Fox Company, 2nd Batallion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division — held a memorial service for him in Iraq, and family and friends held another one 10 days after his death in Mansfield, Washington, where he graduated from high school.
Photo Courtesy of Holly, August 2005
POWERS, CALEB JOHN
Posted: 11 September 2004 Updated: 15 October 2004 Updated: 29 November 2004 Updated: 4 December 2004 Updated: 21 August 2005 Updated: 5 January 2007 Updated: 13 May 2008
Photo By Michael Robert Patterson, May 2008
Photo By M. R. Patterson, 2 December 2004