Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Marine Lance Cpl. Michael C. Bailey

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Lance Cpl. Michael C. Bailey, 29, of Park Hills, Mo.

LCpl. Bailey was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif.; died June 16, 2010 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

PARK HILLS, Mo. -- A Marine from Park Hills was killed Wednesday in Afghanistan.

Lance Cpl. Michael C. Bailey, 29, was on security patrol in Helmand province when he was shot to death. Bailey was a rifleman who had been a Marine less than two years, said 1st Lt. Ken Kunze of the 1st Marine Division's public affairs office in Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Bailey's stepfather, Thomas Rodgers of Frankclay, Mo., said Friday that he was told Bailey had been seated in the fourth vehicle of a convoy when shots were fired. Bailey was shot in the neck, Rodgers said.

"He had a really good heart," Rodgers said.

Bailey was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, based at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif. This was Bailey's second combat deployment.

After high school, Bailey enlisted in the Navy first, was offered a bonus on the spot to sign again for another three years, and did, Rodgers said. After years in the Navy, Bailey switched branches and enlisted as a Marine in 2008, Kunze said.

Rodgers said he helped raise Bailey since he was in elementary school and called him his son. Bailey enjoyed his time in the service, Rodgers said. "Mike was funny about stuff like that. When he was in the Navy, he was in a nuclear sub. He liked that, top secret."

In 1999, Bailey graduated from West County High School in Leadwood, Mo. Every time Bailey would come home on leave, he would stop by the school and talk with teachers and the principal.

"Mike was a very special kid, he was highly thought of by people who knew him," said the principal, Eric Moyers. "He never failed, after he made the rounds with friends and family, he'd always come back to the school and visit with myself and teachers he had at the school."

They would catch up, reminisce. On his last visit to the school, Moyers recalled that Bailey said he was preparing to be sent to Afghanistan.

"I thought the world of him," Moyers said. "Our community is hurting right now."

Bailey's family has been hit hard by tragedy. His mother died unexpectedly in 2003. His sister was killed in a car crash when she was 25. A year before the sister's death, her baby died of sudden infant death syndrome, Rodgers said.

"My whole family is gone," Rodgers said. "Michael is the last of them.

"I figured he'd be the one to outlive us all. He always did the right thing, he never ran with the wrong crowd, he was just a good kid," he said.

Friends of Michael C. Bailey on Friday remembered the 1999 West County High School graduate as a warm, caring man who made everyone around him feel comfortable, even in stressful circumstances.

Marine Lance Cpl. Bailey, 29, was killed by small arms fire in an ambush while on a security patrol conducting combat operations against enemy forces in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

“He was an honorable young man,” said Eric Moyers, Bailey’s former principal. “It’s a tragedy. The community has suffered a great loss.”

Michael Bailey, who grew up near Frankclay, was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, Calif.

Bailey enlisted in the Navy Sept. 8, 2000 and served about six years. He enlisted in the Marine Corps Sept. 8, 2008. This was his second combat deployment.

Bailey joined the Marines because he wanted to serve in the same division as his father, said Rev. Jesse Barton, spokesman for the family.

In the service, Bailey earned several awards including the Purple Heart, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, Navy Presidential Unit Citation, Navy Unit Commendation, Navy "E" Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Navy Expeditionary Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.

Family losses ---

Denny Bouse grew up with Mike Bailey and said his friend was always a positive person, even though he had a lot of sadness in his life.

While he was in the Navy, Bailey lost his mother, Dorothy Turner, his niece, Eva Jo Linn Ketcherside, and his sister, Gina Ketcherside.

“I remember at Gina’s funeral he said ‘Every time I come back, it seems like I’m burying somebody.’” Bouse said. “How do you console somebody who’s back just to wish someone good-bye?”

Kim Womble said Bailey was an example of “it takes a village to raise a child.” When family issues cropped up in Bailey’s youth, the people of Leadwood stepped in to lend a hand.

“He knew our home was his home,” said Womble, whose daughter was friends with Bailey. When Bailey was over, Womble made sure to make him lasagna, one of his favorite meals.

Bouse had a great deal of respect for Bailey and his attitude toward life.

“Growing up with him and seeing how he dealt with situations in his life put me in awe and showed me his character,” Bouse said. “I could never have handled those (problems).”

Bailey was a volunteer in the Leadwood Fire Protection District while in high school, and was active in school activities. He joined band with Bouse and played trumpet. Bailey loved music, Bouse recalled.

“On the trips we would take, he was the kind of guy who could break the ice,” he explained. “Everyone was nervous about performing and meeting new people — new girls — and he had a way of making the people around him comfortable.”

Bouse remembers Bailey as a handsome guy in school.

“A lot of girls liked him, but I don’t think he was ready to settle down yet,” Bouse said. “He was a great friend and great person who will be very deeply missed by those who knew him.”

Good friend --

Messages to Lance Cpl. Bailey and his family flowed onto his Facebook page Thursday and Friday.

“Thank you for you everything you taught us all in your short time with us. You always had a way to make people smile, even if you felt you were a man of few words.”

“Thank you for fighting for our freedom and being one of the most selfless people I have met! You are loved by many and will be missed greatly!!”

“Heaven gained an AWESOME angel this year! Thank you Michael for the sacrifice that you have given so that we may live free!”

“Mike, although our paths have diverged since high school, you have always inspired me to be a better person. Thank you for all that you have contributed to our lives and in your service for our country.”

Moyers recalls Bailey as a “very special young man” who was caring and thoughtful.

“He would do anything for anybody,” Moyers said. “He cared deeply for his family, friends and community.”

His friends appreciated that.

You were a wonderful person to know and will continue to be in my heart,” one wrote on Facebook. “You are a very brave man who has touched more people’s lives than you were aware. Thank you for your service to our country and your continued bravery. Most of all Thank You for being a part of my/our lives. You will be dearly missed.”

Staying in touch --

Bailey’s father lives in Springfield, and his aunt lives in Australia, Bouse said. Aside from a cousin and a nephew, most of the family is gone. But when Bailey came home on leave, he always had plenty of places to stay, Bouse said.

Bailey was home on leave several months ago and made his rounds, visiting many people, Womble said.

“When he came home on leave, he always came to the school and visited with me and the teachers he had had,” Moyers added. “He told me that when he got back, he would be getting ready to be deployed to Afghanistan.”

Bouse spent a day with Bailey during his leave. The two old friends sat around and talked a lot, but the war was off-limits in their conversation.

“He made it a point not to talk about the war so nobody would worry about him,” Bouse said.

Although Bailey loved being in the military, he seemed to change his attitude about it during the past six months, Womble said.

“He didn’t enjoy being with the Marines as much as he did the Navy,” she said Bailey told her. “I believe he was in intelligence, and he had a lot of special clearances. He didn’t tell us details, but he was in areas that we were concerned about.”

Bailey had told Womble and Bouse that he hoped to be out of Afghanistan in August. He asked them to help him find a job when he moved back to Leadwood.

Although Womble had concerns about Bailey’s being in the war, she always thought he would return safely. The news on Thursday that he had been killed hit her hard.

“He’d been in Iraq for two or three tours in the Navy, and he always came back,” she said. “ I just can’t believe that our last visit was our last.”

Marine Lance Cpl. Michael C. Bailey was killed in action on 6/16/10.

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