Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Marine Sgt. John P. Phillips

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Sgt. John P. Phillips, 29, of St. Stephen, S.C.

Sgt. Phillips was assigned to the 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Okinawa, Japan; died Aug. 16 at Brooke Army Medical Center, San Antonio, from wounds sustained March 7 while conducting combat operations in Anbar province, Iraq.

Marine fought to the end
St. Stephen native was badly burned 5 months ago in Iraq roadside bombing
Saturday, August 19, 2006

Schuyler Kropf contributed to this report.

John Phillips grew up hunting and fishing in St. Stephen. On Wednesday, the Marine Corps sergeant lost the battle for his life after five months in a Texas military hospital. He was 29.

Phillips, a graduate of Macedonia High School, had been critically wounded in a March explosion during his second tour of duty in Iraq.

"He was a Marine's Marine, a stand-up guy," his father, Allen Phillips, said Friday night from a cell phone at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. "He loved his country, and he didn't mind going to fight for it."

John P. Phillips, the youngest of three brothers, was a bomb disposal technician assigned to the 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force in Okinawa, Japan.

March 7 was like many of his days, which were spent disarming explosives, his father said. His group was in a little town outside of insurgent-plagued Fallujah at about 9 p.m. when the vehicle he was traveling in hit an improvised explosive device and, in the explosion, the vehicle's burning fuel spilled onto John, his father said.

"He had third-degree burns over 77 percent of his body," Phillips said.

Phillips remembers getting the phone call the next morning at his St. Stephen home, and recalls the sinking realization that he and his wife, Linda, would once again face a long recovery for one of their sons. Their oldest son, Will, had died in 2003 after a seven-year struggle with a brain injury from an automobile accident.

"I thought, 'Not again,' " Phillips said. "We went from one nightmare to the next."

John Phillips was flown to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio five days later. His burns were cleansed and redressed every morning, and afternoons were spent in painful physical therapy.

By early June, doctors were hopeful for a recovery, and the sergeant married his longtime girlfriend, Stephanie Neart, from his bedside.

"She stood by his side and didn't leave him to do anything," Phillips said. "She stayed beside him faithfully to the last."

The Marine's condition turned for the worse a few weeks after the wedding, when infection set into his wounds.

"It was downhill from there," the father said.

As the infection spread, doctors amputated the soldier's fingers, and then his legs.

"His organs shut down, and they rallied it a couple of times with dialysis and what-have-you, but it just got to be too much," Phillips said. "The doctors had been fighting for months. They just lost the battle."

After a long day of airplane flights, Allen and Linda Phillips made it home to Berkeley County at about 9 p.m. Friday. They had spent most of this year at the hospital with John.

Their son's body is due to arrive in the Charleston area next week with a military escort. Dial-Murray Funeral Home of Moncks Corner is handling the arrangements.

Phillips said he does not regret the sacrifice his family made.

"We knew that John was doing what he wanted to do, serving his country and protecting all of our lives," he said. "He was a great son, a very devoted son, and a great Marine."

Marine Sgt. John P. Phillips died as a result of injuries sustained in action on 08/16/06.

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