Monday, March 22, 2010

Marine Lance Cpl. Justin J. Wilson

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Lance Cpl. Justin J. Wilson, 24, of Palm City, Fla.

LCpl Wilson was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 10th Marines, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; died March 22, 2010 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

Marine Lance Cpl. Justin Wilson of Palm City was scheduled to come home from Afghanistan in less than two months. Instead, Wednesday morning his parents were on a plane to Delaware to meet his body. Wilson, 24, was killed Monday in Afghanistan by a roadside bomb.

Wilson always had to be first, cousin Donna Forte said. “He was the first in the family to get married. The first to be a Marine. He had to be the best,” Forte said.

The last time Lance Wilson spoke to his son was March 17 — Justin’s 24th birthday. The phone connection was crackling as Justin spoke from somewhere in the Helmand province, Lance Wilson said, shortly before boarding a plane Wednesday morning.

“He was a little afraid. I could hear it in his voice,” the 53-year-old Wilson said. “He didn’t want to talk about what was going on there. He wanted to talk about his wife, the family. He wanted to know what was going at home.”

Wilson joined the Marine Corps in January 2009 and deployed to Afghanistan 10 months later. Promoted to lance corporal earlier this month, Wilson was a motor vehicle operator assigned to 3rd Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 7, Marine Expeditionary Brigade-Afghanistan.

Justin’s assignment was driving a 7-ton armored truck with a machine gun on top. But recently, Justin had been doing foot patrol. He was killed by an improvised explosive device, said his father. “I was so proud of him. He had commitment, honor, respect,” Lance said.

Standing across from the Wilson home Wednesday, Dale Davant, a 78-year-old Korean war veteran, said he encouraged Wilson to join the Marines while delivering equipment for an ice skating show to Tampa.

“By the time we got back from Tampa he made up his mind that’s what he was going to do, and I encouraged him to do that,” said Davant, who served in the Marines. “He was considering joining before that trip, but I think that trip kind of sealed it.”

Davant said Wilson changed significantly when he completed boot camp. “He had a whole different attitude,” Davant said. “He was a good Marine.” Davant said he talked to Wilson’s family on Tuesday and said they’re in shock.

“If we lose anybody it’s sad, but then I’m having trouble with I encouraged him to join, so I know I’m not supposed to feel that way, but I do,” Davant said.

Justin and Hannah McVeigh were married by a justice of the peace in North Carolina on Oct. 30. They planned a big family wedding in Palm City after he returned from Afghanistan. Justin was a talented artist, making graffiti-style artwork, Forte said.

“He met Hannah, the girl of his dreams. After he and Hannah married, he was deployed the next day,” Forte said. “He was a tough guy on the outside. But inside, he was a softy.”

Handing out candy to children in Afghanistan was one part of the deployment his son enjoyed, Lance said. The Marines had recently helped rebuild a school in Justin’s area.

“Justin believed in what he was doing. He told me him and other Marines would use candy from their packages from home and give to the children,” the father said.

After graduating high school, Justin tried college. When that didn’t work, he decided to join the Marines, Lance said. “He had to be the best. But I told him it was not a good time. I told him if he signed up, he was going to go over there and fight,” Lance said.

Justin’s body will be returned to Palm City for a funeral. He will be cremated. Half the ashes will go to Hannah, the other half to his parents and brother and sister, Lance said.

At the Wilson’s home Wednesday, purple and yellow ribbons were affixed to two palm trees in the front yard. Another purple ribbon adorned the mail box. Purple ribbons also had been tied to trees and mailboxes of neighboring homes. A Marine Corps hat sat in the back of a silver BMW parked in the home’s brick driveway.

Wilson’s awards include the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, National Defense Service Medal and Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Purple Heart.

His guest book can be viewed at and includes: We are all sick with grief over this tragic loss. We have known Justin since the day he was born and feel like we have lost a family member. It's devastating and words can not express our sorrow to Fran, Lance, Chris & Jamie and the entire Wilson/Forte family. Our love is with you all. Drummond Family, N Bellmore, New York

Justin grew up with his parents Francis and Lance, brother Christopher, 20, and sister Jamie, 16, in Commack, N.Y. The family moved to Palm City in 2004 when Lance had an opportunity in his business, the sign industry. He is also survived by his wife Hannah McVeigh.

Marine Lance Cpl. Justin J. Wilson was killed in action on 3/22/10.

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