‘A Marine By Definition’ — Casper Remembers LCpl Jerrod Warden
On a frigid January morning, hundreds of people filed into a Casper church to pay respect to one of their own.
They were there to honor Jerrod Warden, a United States Marine who died December 14 at Camp Pendleton California at the age of 20. His cause of death is under investigation.
And for those who knew him, there was no shortage of memories.
Matthew Goodwin met Jerrod as a freshman at Kelly Walsh High School and he and Jerrod quickly became friends.
"From that moment I knew Jerrod was more than a friend. He was family. He was a brother to me," Goodwin said. "Jerrod lived life to the fullest. As most of you can attest, the music always flowed through him.
"Jerrod was always there making us smile."
Jerrod was known for always pushing his friends to be their best. He would call or text anyone to make them feel better.
"The stories we will tell about Jerrod will always be something special and different because all of us have different memories of him," Goodwin said. "Jerrod will be something that is missed by everyone here today.
"But let us use these battle scars of the loss of Jerrod to push us to remember the impact he left on all of our lives. So let's go out and follow our dreams like Jerrod wanted us to do."
Writing about his friend, fellow Marine and Kelly Walsh grad Devan Linaman recalled meeting Jerrod at football practice their freshman year.
After graduating, Jerrod and Linaman attended United States Marines boot camp with each other. Then, after that, they found themselves stationed at the same Marine base.
There was the time Jerrod threw a trash can off a third-story balcony. There was the time Jerrod got a tattoo of Linaman's name. Jerrod did those things simply because Linneman told him he wouldn't do it.
Every time Jerrod and Linaman would go out, Jerrod would insist on paying for Linneman's meal or filling up his gas tank.
"To Jerrod, letting someone know that he cared about them was far more important than a few extra dollars in his wallet," Linaman wrote.
He continued, "I remember our last conversation was when he'd just gotten home from his deployment. At the time, I was still in Israel.
"We talked about how the first thing that we were gonna do when we got back was grab a beer together. Although I'll never get to have that beer with him, I'm so grateful for the years I got to spend with him and the unbreakable bonds that we forged over those years. Jerrod was an amazing son and uncle. He was also a damn good Marine and even better friend."
Highland Park Community Church Pastor Mike Fackler said he never got to meet Jerrod, but has loved getting to know Jerrod from his family and his friends.
Following tributes to Jerrod, Fackler took the stage and said everyone should strive to live up to Jerrod's legacy.
"If I was a Marine recruiter, I'd just play that. 'That's what we produce.' That's a legacy. If I was a parent in this room — and I am — I'd just play that. And I'd look at my boys, I have two, and I'd say 'That's what you're striving for,'" Fackler said. "If I was a coach, I'd play that and say 'This is what we're making here.' If I was a school administrator, I would play that at the pep rally and say 'This is what we're making here.' If I was a mom, I'd hold that dear and I'd treasure that. If I was a dad, I'd hold that and say 'By God's grace, we did something really good there.'
"As hard as it is, it's powerful."
At the end of the Marines' grueling boot camp, they undergo a 54-hour challenge. They get maybe six hours of sleep and two meals. At the end of that, they put on 65-70 lb packs and hike up a mountain known as the Reaper. At the end, they officially become United States Marines.
As Jarrod completed the Reaper, he could be seen picking his fellow marines up, physically, emotionally and mentally.
"He'd implore them to keep going. He would pick them up and bring them along. He would encourage them," Fackler said. "He was the embodiment of his training."
Following the service at Highland Park Community Church, a procession of Jerrod's family, his fellow Marines and close friends made its way to Oregon Trail Veterans Cemetery in Evansville.
There, they filed into a small chapel.
The sounds of a 21-gun salute and "Taps" filled the air.
As the service concluded, a Marine presented his family with an American flag.
Lance Corporal Jerrod Lee Warden is finally home.