Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Marine 2nd Lt. Joshua L. Booth

Remember Our Heroes

Marine 2nd Lt. Joshua L. Booth, 23, of Fiskdale, Mass.

2nd Lt. Booth was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines, 3rd Marine Division, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii; killed Oct. 17 while conducting combat operations against enemy forces in Anbar province, Iraq.

Slain Sturbridge Marine was ‘a natural'

STURBRIDGE— A 23-year-old Sturbridge man who was destined from his youth to be a Marine died a Marine Tuesday in Haditha, Iraq.

Marine 2nd Lt. Joshua L. Booth was killed at 11:45 a.m. Tuesday, Iraqi time, by a single sniper shot, his parents said yesterday. He was a platoon leader in the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Echo Company, deployed to the AnBar Province last month. Before his deployment, he was stationed at the Marine Corps base in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.

Marine Capt. Mathew W. Tracy called 2nd Lt. Booth's parents, John E. “Jack” and Debra L. Booth, within 12 hours of their son's death. Reading off notes that he jotted down from the conversation, Mr. Booth repeated what Capt. Tracy said: “The enemy is terrified of Josh. The people of Iraq love him. He was a natural. Everything he touched turned to gold. Nobody follows ferociously as Josh or worked as lovingly with the people.”

Mr. Booth said his son's mission was to build trust between the Marines and the Iraqi people. Because 2nd Lt. Booth was having great success finding weapons caches, his parents said, he became a target for snipers.

“What the captain told me is that they have a very advanced intelligence unit that speaks Iraqi, all of them, and they said Josh got more out of the neighbors in Haditha in his two weeks there than they have in six months,” Mr. Booth said.

When it comes to his son's love for the Marines, Mr. Booth said Joshua's was “hard core.”

“Josh wanted to be in the military since he was a little boy,” Mr. Booth said. “He was in the Sea Cadets in Worcester when he was going to St. John's (High School in Shrewsbury) and he just fell in love with the Marines. And from that point forward, he was not going to be denied.”

When he was 7 years old, Joshua hopped on the bus and went to Burgess Elementary School dressed as Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

“When we first moved up here (from Virginia), they had a class on American history and the teacher encouraged him to present the other side,” Mr. Booth recalled. “So Josh dressed up and went in school as Robert E. Lee.”

“Josh was too little and did not realize that the bus would be a vicious place for someone dressed as Robert E. Lee,” Mrs. Booth said with a laugh.

Their son chose the Marines because it was the hardest of all the U.S. armed services, his parents said.

“Josh loves his country and he believes that we are only here because of people that did what he did,” Mr. Booth said. “He was committed. He wasn't changing anything.”

A 2001 graduate of St. John's High School in Shrewsbury, and a 2005 graduate of The Citadel Military College in Charleston, S.C., the young Marine earned a degree in criminal justice.

“Josh was offered a full ROTC scholarship from the Army (to go to Norwich University) and he turned it down because he wanted to be a Marine,” Mr. Booth said. “He said, ‘Dad, you can do this to me. I got to be a Marine.' So we paid a full ride at Citadel.”

“To the world, he was a soldier. To his family, he was the world,” state Sen. Stephen M. Brewer, D-Barre, said after meeting with the Booths yesterday.

Besides his parents, Joshua Booth leaves his wife, Erica, 21, their 1-1/2-year-old daughter, Grace M. Booth, and a son on the way, Tristen Joshua Booth, all of Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.

“She is an amazing Marine wife,” Joshua's mother said of her daughter-in-law. “She's the most wonderful mother I've ever seen. And my son loves her dearly. She told me the worst part of this is that she lost her best friend.”

Born in Virginia Beach, Va., and a longtime resident of Sturbridge, 2nd Lt. Booth also leaves a sister, Melissa L. DeVera of Fredericksburg, Va.

The last time the Booths talked to their son was 10 days before he died. His father said his son told him his tour was “very dangerous.” When he talked to his mother, the two joked about whether NetFlix would send DVDs to Iraq. She said they were very alike and shared a weird sense of humor.

“We would laugh at the most inane, insane things and people would just look at us,” she recalled. “Jack (her husband) always said that we were more like brother and sister than mother and son. We shared in every activity in every school. Every interest he had, we had. We just hope that we can share with his children what a wonderful person he was.”

The Booths wanted their son to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery, but he didn't think he was worthy of that, his mother said, and instead wished to be buried in the family plot in Longwood Cemetery in Virginia.

As she clenched her son's dog tags dangling around her neck, Mrs. Booth praised her son as being one of those rare kids who was always focused. She had not planned to take off the dog tags until her son returned safely. She said she doesn't know what to do with them now.

“Joshua had a strong sense that he was going to be giving his life for his country,” Mrs. Booth said. “A Marine believes that their name is written in a book on a certain day. … Unfortunately, that was his day. We love him. We're proud of him. He supported what he did, so we supported what he did.”

Mrs. Booth is spearheading a collection drive for care packages to be sent to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment in Iraq. Packages can be sent to GZA GeoEnivronmental Inc., 1 Edgewater Drive, Norwood, MA 02062. For more information, send an e-mail to her at dbooth@gza.com.

Marine 2nd Lt. Joshua L. Booth was killed in action on 10/17/06.

Grace Booth

Tristan Booth

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