David Burton Houck Lance Corporal, United States Marine Corps

NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense
No. 1219-04
November 29, 2004

The Department of Defense announced today the death of six Marines who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Corporal Kirk J. Bosselmann, 21, of Napa, California
Lance Corporal Bradley M. Faircloth, 20, of Mobile, Alabama
Lance Corporal Jeffery S. Holmes, 20, of White River Junction, Vermont
Lance Corporal David B. Houck, 25, of Winston Salem, North Carolina
Lance Corporal Joshua E. Lucero, 19, of Tucson, Arizona
Sergeant Nicholas S. Nolte, 25, of Falls City, Nebraska

Nolte died November 24, 2004, at the National Naval Medical Center Bethesda, Maryland, from injuries received November 9 as a result of enemy action in Al Anbar Province, Iraq.  Holmes died November 25, 2004, Faircloth and Houck died November 26, 2004, and Bosselmann and Lucero died November 27, 2004, all as a result of enemy action in Al Anbar Province Iraq.

Bosselmann, Faircloth, Holmes and Houck were assigned to 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.  Lucero was assigned to 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.  Nolte was assigned to 2nd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point North Carolina.

For more information on Nolte contact the Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point Public Affairs Office at (252) 466-4241.  For information on any of the other Marines contact the 2nd Marine Division Public Affairs Office at (910) 751-9033.

Tuesday, 30 November 2004

Marine on 2nd tour dies in IraqMemorial service for lance corporal to be held Sunday in Mooresville

Bob Houck believes more than ever that the fight for the Iraqis' freedom must go on.

“I feel that any place worthy of shedding my son's blood is a place that's worth doing the right job for,” said Houck, 57, of the Mooresville area.

His son, Lance Corporal David B. Houck, 25, of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, died Friday while fighting in Iraq's Anbar province, the Department of Defense said. Houck was assigned to 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Lejeune.

Bob Houck said he knew what to expect when he saw Marines in full dress uniform knocking on his door in the Millbridge community north of Mooresville.

He used to have the same job, he said, when he was in uniform himself. The elder Houck spent a career in the Navy working as an electronic technician senior chief and later as second in command in Arkansas.

“It's really hard to do when you see the sorrow and grief that families are going through,” he said.

Bob and Beth Houck deal with their grief by remembering the funny songs they invented for David and his four siblings to help them fall asleep at night.

They also remembering how happy they were in February 2002, when David Houck called and asked if they could store his belongings.

He was joining the Marines.

“I was overjoyed,” Houck said. “He had no direction. He had been floundering and working at UPS at night and delivering furniture during the day, wearing himself out.”

The Marine Corps was a good fit for his son, Houck remembers thinking. David Houck knew right from wrong and had a strong sense of duty, he said.

In February 2003, Houck left Camp Lejeune for the Iraqi coast. His son fought at the airport in Mosul and helped quell riots, surviving on one meal a day, Bob Houck said.

According to The Associated Press, in the midst of the airport battle, Houck found a rose growing among the rubble. He enclosed petals from the flower in a letter he sent his mother.

In his letter, he wrote: “It seems strange that beauty can be found in the midst of chaos.”

In later e-mails, he discussed how he had killed others.

“I've actually killed a couple of people,” he wrote, according to The Associated Press report. “It's kind of strange how something that I've been trained to do can sit so heavily on my mind.”

David Houck returned to Camp Lejeune in October 2003 and trained in urban warfare.

In June 2004, he was deployed again to Iraq.

With that kind of training, which focuses on fighting in tight spaces, the family knew their son would likely face situations where he could be injured or killed.

“We were hoping that wouldn't be true, but that's just reality,” his father said. “We are both confident that David is in heaven and that we'll see him again.

“That's really what sustains us through the day.”

A memorial service for David Houck will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday at Peninsula Baptist Church in Mooresville.

He will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Robert and Beth Houck prayed for their son, Lance Cpl. David Houck, and his Marine unit every day. But they had a bad feeling when he told them that he would be part of an operation that would include house-to-house fighting against insurgents in Iraq.”He told us, ‘If I don't come back, here are some things I want done.' He knew it was a strong possibility (that he would be killed),” Robert Houck said. “He told me, ‘Dad, every Marine coming out of there is coming out with a Purple Heart. It's a dangerous, dangerous area that we're going to.'”

The Houcks, who live in Rowan County, were notified Friday night that their son, who had lived in Winston-Salem, was killed that day in Iraq by enemy action in Anbar Province, which includes Fallujah and Ramadi.

As they plan his funeral and burial in Arlington National Cemetery, they recall his joy for life and his caring heart, the times he seemed to lose direction, and how the Marine Corps got him back on track.

“David was just a spark of life and joy wherever he went,” his father said. “Wherever you went, he would bring life and liveliness and joy and happiness.”

David Houck, 25, 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighing a trim 175 pounds, enjoyed rock climbing at Pilot Mountain State Park or going on long jogs with other Marines.

He and his four siblings had been home-schooled by his parents, and he graduated from high school in 1998. Robert Houck was a senior chief petty officer in the U.S. Navy who retired in 1997, and his family has lived in several states. As a teenager, David Houck wanted to be a pilot.

After high school, David Houck enrolled at Piedmont Baptist College in Winston-Salem, a training school for missionaries. But he only attended for a semester before dropping out. After that, his father said, he got involved with drugs.

His father said he was not sure of the exact nature of his son's problems – only that he overcame them. He worked for United Parcel Service, and for another company delivering furniture.

“The Marine Corps gave him his direction, and it gave him his purpose,” his father said. David Houck joined in February 2002.

He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Lejeune.

He was deployed to Iraq in February 2003, not long before the war began.

In Iraq, Houck fought in Mosul, where the Marines took control of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party headquarters, his father said.

David Houck wrote to his parents to tell them that he had killed men and that he had mixed feelings, his father said.

“He came to reconcile himself. It was people shooting at his buddies, so it was us or them. And he told me, ‘If it's us or them, it's going to be them, it's not going to be us.'”

The Salisbury Post reported last year that in one e-mail to his parents, Houck said, “I've actually killed a couple of people. It's kind of strange how something that I've been trained to do can sit so heavily on my mind.”

Houck returned from his first deployment in October 2003, and did extensive training in urban warfare while he was back in the United States. He and his fellow Marines trained to work in five-man teams looking for insurgents in cities.

“David told us … he would be No. 1 or No. 2 through the door. If there was somebody there waiting for them, he would be one of the guys who would catch it first,” his father said.

When he was home, Houck told his parents about the other Marines in two squads – about 60 people, his father said. “David could tell us things about each one of them. He was interested in people.”

Houck left for his second deployment on June 20.

He told his father not to worry about him, saying, “I know what we're doing is right. I believe what we're doing is right, and I'm good at what I do,” his father recalled.

One thing that comforts family members, Robert Houck said, is their religious faith. “That is the biggest comfort,” he said. “We believe (David) is in heaven and we believe we will see him again.”

Houck said his son told him that the war was the right thing to do for the Iraqi people and the United States.

“I've been asking for people to pray for Iraq to be free,” Robert Houck said. “For me, that's the best thing that will honor my son and his death, is a real, true free Iraq.”

Thursday, December2, 2004
By Rose Post
Courtesy of the Salisbury Post

Sometimes a family has to wait months for a funeral service at Arlington National Cemetery.

But not the Houcks of Millbridge.

Bob and Beth Houck's middle son, 25-year-old Lance Corporal David Houck, “goes straight to the head of the line,” says Sergeant David Brown, who handles media questions for the Marine Corps' Charlotte office, “because he was on active duty and died in a combat zone.”

The family has not yet received details of his death.

That, they know, will come later.

But he's home now, and his family and friends are dealing with their loss.

His body arrived at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware Monday and at Charlotte-Douglas Airport in Charlotte last night and is now at Linn-Honeycutt Funeral Home in China Grove.

And family and friends will comfort each other at the visitation at Linn-Honeycutt Saturday from 6 to 8 p.m., and they'll have two opportunities to say goodbye.

A memorial service will be conducted Sunday at 3 p.m. at Peninsula Baptist Church on Brawley School Road in Mooresville by the pastor, the Rev. Dr. Robert Jackson.

A burial ceremony will follow on Wednesday at 3 p.m. at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, adjacent to the nation's capital.

The Marine escort, which accompanied the body home, as well as Chief Warrant Officer Scott Thiesse, the maintenance officer at the Navy and Marine Reserve Center in Charlotte, and the Center's gunnery Sergeant David Brown were part of the escort which met the plane at Charlotte-Douglas Airport last night and will accompany the body to Arlington and serve as pallbearers at both services.

The body will be present at the Sunday memorial service and will then be flown to Washington on Tuesday, which the Marines have noted, is Pearl Harbor Day, for interment in Arlington.

Anyone who wants to attend the Arlington ceremony must be at the Administration Building at Arlington National Cemetery by 2:30 p.m. Wednesday or they will not be allowed to go to the burial site.

Not only friends from this area but others from California, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Florida, where the Houck family lived during the years that Bob Houck was in the Navy, have indicated they hope to attend.

Bob and Beth Houck learned their son had died in Iraq last Friday night when two Marine officers arrived at their home with the terrible news.

The Marines are limited in what they can tell families about their loved ones in Iraq, so the Houcks can only surmise that David, who had been a Marine for about 2 1/2 years, was one of the two reported killed in Fallujah Friday.

He was in his second tour of duty in Iraq and served as a semi-automatic gunner and a point man with Bravo Co., 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, which made him one of the first to encounter the enemy.

The family says he believed in what American forces are doing.

He is the fifth casualty with links to Rowan County, but the first whose home was still in Rowan when he went into the Marines.

And that didn't surprise his family any more than the sergeant's comment that David would go to the head of the line at Arlington.

Going to the head of the line was part of David's nature.

“He went right through skiing,” says his father, talking about his boy, his lost son, one thought pushing another out of the way.

“Skiing wasn't challenging enough. He went to snowboarding,” he says. “To the hardest, the fastest slope, the most difficult one, always trying different tricks.”

And earlier, when the family moved back to Rowan County from the north, “he would ride his bicycle up and down the roads. He was one of the last ones that wanted to come inside.”

And the first to find a friend.

“You never dropped David into a place where he didn't make friends. When he got older, he was the one who would go if there was an emergency, the one who would take the chances. He would push the envelope to see how far he could get.”

Maybe that was what he was doing in February 2002, when he called his dad and asked him if he could store his household stuff for a while.

He'd joined the Marines.

“And I was happy,” his father says. “I really believed that Dave would be good in the military, whatever branch he chose. He would do it with all his heart.

“I thought, and think now, that the Marines was a good fit. … He said we know things are brewing in the Middle East. Can you write me and keep me up to date on what's going on? We didn't hear from him much, but I would write him, and he said all the guys shared the information.”

And Bob Houck will never forget one thing his son wrote.

“We're a little scared,” he said, “a little worried, but we're ready to go do what we need to do.”

And that's what he did.

Thursday, December 2, 2004

War leaves a baby without her father

Marine David Houck, 1-year-old's dad, died last week in Iraq
By Patrick Wilson

Amanda Pajdo and her daughter, Chloe, who is now 13 months old.


“Well, maybe this is your first birthday card, and I know that it's a bit early, but I wanted to be sure that I could get your card in the mail in time. I've been hunting for a couple weeks for your present, but nothing here seems appropriate. I'll just have to take you shopping when I get back. I love you. – Daddy.”

Marine Lance Corporal David Houck was not expecting the news one of his supervisors gave him on his way to Iraq in the spring of 2003.

Houck was on the USS Nashville, somewhere off the coast of Africa, when he was told that his girlfriend back in Winston-Salem was pregnant.

At first, Houck was shocked and worried, but he soon accepted the situation and was excited about becoming a father, according to letters that he sent to the baby's mother, Amanda Pajdo.

Between deployments in Iraq, Houck was able to see his child, Chloe Isabel Houck. He wrote letters to his daughter reassuring her that he would always be there for her.

“No matter what happens in the coming years, I will always be here to hold you, or just hang around and have fun if that's what you need,” he wrote in a Sept. 1, 2003, letter to his daughter, a month before she was born.

Houck, 25, of Winston-Salem was killed Friday in action supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Pajdo, a waitress at the West End Cafe in Winston-Salem, met Houck in 2000 when her friends introduced them. She said yesterday that she had been unimpressed with him at first, but they became friends and started dating.

“We were best friends to start with,” Pajdo said. “He was nice. He was really intelligent. I thought he was cute.”

Houck, the son of a retired U.S. Navy officer, Robert Houck of Rowan County, worked in the flooring department at a Lowe's Home Improvement store and lived in an apartment in Winston-Salem.

In the letter to his daughter, Houck described what he felt when he learned that he would be a father.

“I experienced a large degree of shock and confusion, but in my own defense I was halfway to Iraq at the time,” he wrote. “I'll have to admit that your Dad is only human and went through a very rebellious stage, just like any other guy.”

Houck told his daughter that he wanted her to think of him as a friend as well as a parent.

He also wrote a letter to Pajdo saying that he hoped to be home for the birth of their child, or arrive shortly after.

“I'm just very concerned that I will mess up at the whole parenting thing, but I'm going to give it the best shot I can,” he wrote. “Honestly, I'm really scared.”

Chloe was born on October 4, 2003. Houck returned home from his first deployment when she was 3 weeks old.

He learned how to change diapers and give the baby baths when he wasn't reporting to Camp Lejeune or training in California.

Pajdo said she noticed that the war made him think differently.

“Unfortunately, he had to use his weapon…. It changed him. He had a different view on things,” she said. “He was just a different person.”

In December, Houck and Pajdo decided to break up during an emotional phone call that lasted several hours.

“He said, ‘I'm different. I don't know how to feel things anymore,'” Pajdo said. “He said that the only emotion he really could feel was the love for his daughter.”

Houck went back for his second deployment in June 2004. He continued to send $200 a month to Pajdo for Chloe.

He was killed in the Anbar Province, which includes Ramadi and Fallujah.

His father said that Houck had extensive training in urban warfare, and probably was on a mission rounding up insurgents house to house.

Whatever killed him hit him in the face, the Marine Corps told Robert Houck.

Pajdo couldn't imagine what it would have been like to tell an older child that her father was dead. “It's good that she's this little,” she said.

Houck had sent Chloe an early birthday card dated Sept. 19.

The front has a picture of a cat, with the words “Miss you.”

“Hey Chloe,” the letter began.

“Well, maybe this is your first birthday card, and I know that it's a bit early, but I wanted to be sure that I could get your card in the mail in time. I've been hunting for a couple weeks for your present, but nothing here seems appropriate. I'll just have to take you shopping when I get back. I love you. – Daddy.”

December 5, 2004

Bob Houck, right, speaks with Chief Warrant Officer Scott Thiesse about funeral arrangements for his son, U.S Marine Lance Corporal David Houck Tuesday in Millbridge, North Carolina

A Rowan County Marine was remembered Sunday as his family shared his final words — a letter Lance Corporal David Houck wrote to his parents in Morresville just before he died in Fallujah.

The letter was written just six days before the 25-year-old Marine, who was stationed at Camp Lejuene, died. His parents received it one week after learning he had been killed.

“Mom and Dad, I'm smack dab in the middle of Fallujah. The action is very intense right now,” he wrote.

Houck was awarded the Purple Heart posthumously. A military representative presented it to his parents during Sunday's memorial service.

Houck's family said that faith in God helped them through this time.

“We know we'll see him at the reunion,” said mother Beth Houck.

Houck will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. A date has not yet been set for the service.

When David Houck's regiment returns home from Iraq, his parents plan to have a reunion with the men that served with their son and to thank them for serving their country.

Monday, December 6, 2004

Remembering a hero
Friends, family pay tribute to Rowan Marine killed in Iraq

By Steve Huffman
Courtesy of the Salisbury Post

Proud parents: Beth and Bob Houck, parents of Lance Cpl. David Houck, return to their seats after a brief stop at their son's casket

MOORESVILLE — Hundreds crowded the sanctuary of Peninsula Baptist Church on Sunday to bid farewell to a Marine from Rowan County who died fighting in Iraq.

David Houck, a lance corporal and the son of Beth and Bob Houck of Millbridge, died November 26, 2004. He's believed to have died while involved in house-to-house fighting in Fallujah.

Houck, 25, was remembered Sunday as a loving son and brother who died doing something to which he'd grown strongly committed — protecting the United States.

David's older brother, Rob, said his brother decided to enlist in the Marines following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

“David saw something wrong and wanted to do something about it,” Rob said, speaking during the memorial service that was attended by everyone from Marines to grandmothers.

“One thing I want you to know,” Rob continued, “is that David was a great American. You're a great American if you see a problem and you do something about it.”

David's younger brother, Micah, said he could remember a time when his brother didn't want to shake his hand, much less hug him. But Micah said he knew David had experienced a change of heart when he returned home last year following his first tour of duty in Iraq.

Micah said that when he saw David upon his return to Rowan County, the first thing his older brother did was hug him.

“That told me right there there'd been a change,” Micah said.

He said that after graduating from high school in 1997, David struggled for several years for a purpose to his life.

“My brother floated along,” Micah said. “He didn't have a lot of directions.”

But he said that changed with David's enlistment in the Marines. Micah said he refuses to look at David's death as the end, but merely a stepping stone.

He said he has a vision that one of the first ones his brother saw in heaven was God. “And he got a hug,” Micah said of the manner in which David and God surely greeted one another.

“I know where he is, and he isn't lying in this casket,” Micah continued, motioning to the flag-draped coffin at the center of the sanctuary. “He's standing at the side of Jesus, waiting to come back.”

Sunday's service was punctuated with plenty of patriotic tunes. Those in attendance joined to sing everything from “The Star Spangled Banner” to “God Bless America.” Steve and Tracy Mangum joined for a duet of “God Bless the U.S.A.”

Memories: Bob Houck talks about his son's life during the service. ‘David was laughter. David was life,' he said

The memorial program that was distributed to everyone attending Sunday's service included a Bible verse from John 11:25. It reads: “Jesus said unto her, ‘I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.' ”

At the front of the sanctuary, beside the casket, were pictures snapped during David's lifetime, showing him growing from a child to a strapping young man. The largest picture on display was of David in his Marine dress uniform.

Bob Houck, David's father, told those gathered for the service that his middle son was an energetic young man with a good sense of humor.

“David was laughter,” Bob said, “David was life.”

He said that in those years following his son's graduation when his boy struggled for purpose, he frequently drove to Winston-Salem where David lived to have lunch with him.

“I can't say I always agreed with his choices,” Bob said, “but they were his to make.”

He said that as his son aged and matured, his decisions grew sharper. Bob compared David to an arrow.

“As he improved,” Bob said, “he had a straight shaft and a sharp point.”

Then he paused.

“We're so proud of David,” his father continued, “who he is, what he did.”

Bob thanked those who attended Sunday's memorial service, noting that some who came didn't know his son or his family, but were merely grateful for the job that David and countless other members of the military are performing in Iraq.

Bob said that if David could have spoken Sunday, he'd have reminded those in attendance not to give up the fight.

“I think we need to finish the task,” Bob said.

Dr. Robert Jackson, pastor of Peninsula Baptist, said David's name had been on a prayer list at the church since he left in June for his second tour of duty in Iraq. He said that when the Bob called to tell him that David had died, he asked that his son's name be removed from the prayer list.

But he didn't want a void where his son's name had been. Bob asked that the people of Iraq be remembered in prayer now that his son was dead.

Jackson said David would have been proud of his father's request.

“David was there fighting for the freedom for those people to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Jackson said. “God truly does love the whole world.”

David Houck will be buried at 3 p.m. Wednesday at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. Anyone who wants to attend the Arlington ceremony must be at the Administration Building at Arlington National Cemetery by 2:30 p.m. Wednesday or they will not be allowed to go to the burial site.

6 December 2004

Family, friends, strangers honor fallen Marine
Lance corporal from Winston-Salem called `a great American'


MOORESVILLE – The audience of about 450 people sat quietly in Peninsula Baptist Church in front of David Houck's flag-draped coffin Sunday afternoon until the first few bars of “The Star-Spangled Banner” began.

Then the booming sound of voices rang out, with hundreds of family, friends and even strangers unified to celebrate the country and the Marine who died serving it.

Houck, a 25-year-old lance corporal, was killed the day after Thanksgiving in Iraq's Anbar province, according to the Department of Defense. He had been assigned to the 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Lejeune. He was serving his second tour of duty.

Though he lived in Winston-Salem, news of his death also hit Mooresville, where his parents live. It affected strangers, including retired Marines who drove from Taylorsville and Hickory.

“Many of you don't even know my family, and many of you just came because you heard what happened. There's one thing I want you to know about my brother David,” said Rob Houck, the soldier's oldest brother.

“He saw there was a problem, and he saw there was something to be done about it. And that's what I want you to know about my brother David. He is a great American.”

Family members also told of a young man who searched for direction as he worked delivering furniture and for UPS before joining the Marines in 2002.

His service in Iraq changed him, they said. Before, he had been hesitant to give his younger brother Micah a hug. But after his first tour, Micah Houck said, the Marine sought him out with a ready embrace.

At the funeral service, sniffles filled the church hall as Marines in full dress uniform awarded the family a Purple Heart for their son. It was then that Ruth Erwin, 83, of Salisbury broke down and wept in her husband's arms.

“I'm just broken-hearted,” said Erwin, Houck's great-aunt. “It just makes you sad. But we've got a great country, and we have to protect it.”

Houck will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Thu, Dec 9, 2004

Farewell to a fallen hero
Lance Corporal David Houck buried at Arlington National Cemetery

By Rose Post
Courtesy of the Salisbury Post

Military honors: The Marine Corps honor guard folds the flag from the casket of Lance Corporal David B. Houck before presenting it to his parents.

Surely the tears have fallen. The promises been made and made again. The promises to remember and to love him always and to see him again in his Father's house.

No stranger, no reporter, no photographer, no curious on-looker from afar needed to be close enough to the grave site to hear the words that were said when Lance Corporal David Houck, the son of Bob and Beth Houck of Millbridge, was laid to rest Wednesday afternoon as the sun prepared to set on Section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery in the nation's capital.

An escort of young Marines lifted the casket holding Houck's body from the hearse, after a ceremony at Fort Myer Chapel, and brought it with perfect military precision to his final resting place — for his last goodbye from about 50 family members and friends who drove hundreds of miles to be there.

The message couldn't be hidden from reporters and photographers, who had to stand some 50 yards away to witness the solemn ceremony, any more than the world itself could mistake the pride his family had in a son who'd given his life for his country on a foreign battlefield.

They believe David, the middle son of Bob and Beth, was probably one of two soldiers killed on November 26, 2004, in Iraq, though the official government spokesmen who brought the couple the news nearly a week ago knew only that he was gone.

Staff Sergeant Charles Dorsey presents Bob and Beth Houck, parents of Lance Corporal David B. Houck, the flag that adorned his coffin.

The family still has not received any information about how David died.

His unit — the 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, 11th Marine Expeditionary Force, based at Camp Lejeune — was in Fallujah, and two Marines were killed in house-to-house fighting on the day their son's life ended.

Eventually, they know, they'll get the details.

But for now? For now, they had to tell him goodbye.

They'd already greeted hundreds of family and friends at a funeral service Sunday at Peninsula Baptist Church on Brawley School Road in Mooresville.

At that service, 25-year-old David was remembered as a loving son and brother who died doing something he was strongly committed to — protecting the United States.

His oldest brother, Rob, told the overflow crowd gathered there that David decided to enlist in the Marines following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

“David saw something wrong and wanted to do something about it,” Rob said.

Doing it, he became the fifth soldier killed in that war who had close connections with Rowan County and this county's first native son.

And the dignity with which the burial ceremony was conducted Wednesday as well as the place where it took place said clearly that his country is grateful — and will remember.

You can't doubt that when you drive through the gates into Arlington National Cemetery, into what looks — and feels — like a sea of graves in front of you, behind you, on all sides.

His family and friends came not only from Rowan County but also from and Florida and California. His parents and his two sisters and two brothers and nephews and aunts and uncles and their children were here.

And it was no wonder, said his aunt Judy Halas, “because this is our family cemetery.”

She could count 10 in their immediate family who will wait for eternity at Arlington National Cemetery and more than that number will be there when a few years have passed.

And maybe most importantly, his daughter, Chloe Houck, was there, in a stroller pushed by her mother, Amanda, and accompanied by her grandmother, Sandie Padjo.

The service in the chapel didn't last long.

Possibly not as long as the service at the graveside, which followed a procession on Douglas MacArthur Drive with the Pentagon in the background.

The cemetery set up 10 chairs for family members, and others gathered round to hear a few words from the chaplain, Lieutenant Commander Harold Palmer, and watch the honors ceremony carried out by the U.S.Marine Crops Ceremonial and Guard Company, headquartered in Washington.

Standard honors at Arlington means that a precision-trained team of pallbearers — as well as a Marine Corps firing party, a bugler and a flag that covered the casket — and a second flag that had been carefully folded into a triangle by Sergeant David Brown of the Inspector-Instructor Office in Charlotte.

One was given to David's mother and the other, the one folded by Sergeant Brown, to his daughter.

And Brown pointed out, during the moment he was able to speak to news crews from the Salisbury Post, the Washington Post and wire services, that the flag the Marines folded during the service was a team effort.

“They all had hands on it at once,” he said. “They were always touching the flag and always touching the casket.”

And he looked toward the honors guard — seven Marines lining up with their rifles — as they fired the three rounds that made it a 21-gun salute.

A bugler plays taps for Lance Corporal David B. Houck, surrounded by the graves of fallen soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.

The sun was hanging low in the sky. Planes from Reagan International Airport cut through an azure blue sky as though to say goodbye.

And a far-away bugler raised a trumpet to his lips to play the traditional and haunting “Taps.”

Fading light dims the sight,
And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright,
From afar drawing nigh.
Falls the night.

Dear one rest!
In the west
Sable night lulls the day on her breast;
Sweet goodnight! Now away, to thy rest.
Love, sweet dreams!
Lo, the beams

Of the light fairy moon kiss the stream.
Love, goodnight! Ah, too soon! Peaceful dreams!

The burial service for David Houck — the 103rd Iraqi Freedom funeral at Arlington National Cemetery was over.

But more are coming.

On the day David was buried, the Department of Defense announced the names of five other Marines supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom who died on the day Lance Corporal David Houck gave his life for his country.

February 2006:

Bob and Beth Houck of Millbridge will never forget the sight of eight Marines holding their son's casket as he was buried at Arlington National Cemetery on December 8, 2004.

Now they'll have more among the countless memories they have of their son, Marine Lance Corporal David Houck, and the letters he wrote from the middle of the war, his concern about killing two people and how he wondered at how heavily that weighed on his mind when he was trained to do it.

But it did weigh even though he was busy defending Mosul Airport and the battle in Fallujah.

Now the details of those memories come in a letter from his mother, Beth, and Gunnery Sergeant David Brown, who handled the media during her son's memorial service at Peninsula Baptist Church and also at Arlington.

“It looks,” Beth Houck writes, like her David “will finally be recognized for his service in saving the lives of two Marines on Thanksgiving Day, 2004, the day before he, himself gave up his life.”

The presentation will be at the Charlotte Marine Corps Reserve Center on Saturday, March 4, probably at 11 a.m.

In his letter to the Houck parents, Gunnery Sergeant David Brown wrote that he had “received a package in the mail this weekend from the Commanding General of 1st Marine Division. Inside is an award for David.

“I guess the reason it has taken so long to filter down is because of all the levels of administration stuff it had to go through,” said Gunnery Sergeant Brown.

“The award is a Navy Commendation Medal with a Combat ‘V' device for valor. Both Marines and Navy personnel are eligible to receive the award. The narrative outlines David's actions while under fire.

“I need to get this to you,” Gunnery Sergeant Brown wrote the Houcks, “but I want to make sure it is done the right way. It should be presented officially.”

And there was more.

Beth Houck also received a letter from their good friend, Karen Frederickson, “who is doing a superb job of connecting all us 13 families who lost sons in the battle for Fallujah. A native North Carolinian has recently published a book depicting this awesome battle.”

The title of the book is “Fallujah, With Honor, First Battalion, Eighth Marine's Role in Operation Phantom Fury” by Gary Livingston, and Karen got a copy and read it.

“It chronicles the 1st Battalion 8th Marine Regiment's part in the Fight for Fallujah, Iraq, also known as Operation Phantom Fury, in November and December 2004.

“When I got the book in my hands,” she wrote the Houcks, “I immediately sought out those chapters that focus on Bravo Company. I will read the entire book and the chapters about Alpha, Charlie and Weapons Company soon but for now I am riveted to the saga of Bravo Company,” which was David Houck's company.

“There are mistakes — spelling of names, proper rank, and other errors not caught when the book was edited — but no matter,” Karen wrote, “it is still riveting.

“It tells a story that we know all too well but in more detail than we may have known before. On every page in those chapters about Bravo Company I recognize every name.

“I picture their faces. I remember them recounting each of these battles, and the tears run down my face. It is so personal.”

In memory: David Houck decorated his helmet with the names of those lost in the battle of Fallujah.

David's mother has not yet seen the book but she is sure her son's story is in it.

“On Thanksgiving Day in a heavy fire fight, David and his friend, Dominic Esquibel, went in to rescue Tom Hodges and Mike Rodriguez, and they tried to go back to rescue two more, but an explosion stopped them. It broke David's heart.

“And for that he will receive the Navy commendation medal.”

The book also includes the stories of each of the 13 Bravo Co. Marines, including David Houck, who lost their lives in the fight for Fallujah.

“This is a very difficult book to read,” Karen said in her letter to Beth Houck, “especially if you are personally vested in the hearts and souls of these Marines. It brings the horrors of war right into your gut. Some of you would rather not go there, would rather not know about the realities of war, would prefer that it did not intrude on your daily life.”

But Karen felt strongly that this battle needed to be documented and the deeds of these Marines, by name, need to be remembered.

Another of the Marines whose injuries are well documented in the book is Sergeant Jacob Knospler.

He was so severely wounded that President Bush himself presented him with his Purple Heart at Bethesda Naval Hospital, and he was interview by Newsweek Magazine this week.



  • VETERAN SERVICE DATES: 03/11/2002 – 11/26/2004
  • DATE OF BIRTH: 10/10/1979
  • DATE OF DEATH: 11/26/2004
  • DATE OF INTERMENT: 12/08/2004

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