Nicholas Cain Kirven
Lance Corporal, United States Marine Corps
RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense
May 11, 2005
Media Contact: Marine Corps Public Affairs - (703) 614-4309 Public/Industry Contact: (703)428-0711
DoD Identifies Marine Casualty
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
Lance Corporal Nicholas C. Kirven, 21, of Richmond, Virginia, was killed May 8, 2005, as a result of enemy action in Alishang, Afghanistan, while conducting combat operations. He was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.
Media with questions about this Marine can
call the Marine Corps Base Hawaii Public Affairs Office at (808) 257-8840.
He was a young Kane'ohe Marine who told his stepfather in an e-mail three weeks ago that his dreams for life after the Corps included going off to college, perhaps as early as this fall.
The Marine from Richmond, Virginia, was ready now, he said, given the maturity and perspective he had gained from having served the past six months in Afghanistan.
But those dreams of college died with the dreamer, Lance Corporal Nicholas C. Kirven, 21, who was killed Sunday during a firefight with Afghan insurgents in the Alishang District of Laghman Province.
Family friend Cam McIntyre said Kirven was due to return home from Afghanistan in less than a month.
McIntyre said Kirven's stepfather, Michael Belle, and his mother, Beth, knew the worst had happened when they saw a Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant and Navy Chaplain approaching their front door in Fairfax, Virginia, about 9:30 Sunday night.
"He was one of the most wonderful 21-year-olds you're ever going to meet — brave, caring, dedicated to the service and to what he was doing in Afghanistan, which included befriending many of the native people he met there," McIntyre said.
He sent his family an e-mail from the Afghanistan front almost every week, and most contained at least a mention of an Afghan national whom he had met or tried to help, McIntyre said.
The gunnery sergeant told his mother and stepfather that Kirven's unit had been involved in a long firefight about 60 miles east of Kabul, and had called in air strikes after chasing a group of insurgents into a cave. Kirven, the squad leader, and Corporal Richard Schoener, 22, of Hayes, Louisiana, were ambushed and killed when they entered the cave to see what had become of the insurgents, the Gunnery Sergeant said.
Kirven was an infantry rifleman assigned to Company K of the Kane'ohe-based 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, which was attached to Combined Joint Task Force-7 while serving in Afghanistan. Schoener was assigned to the same unit.
Kirven enlisted in the Marine Corps December 13, 2001, and reported to his unit at Marine Corps Base Hawai'i in Kane'ohe on March 26, 2003. In addition to his mother, stepfather and father Leo Kirven, Nicholas Kirven is survived by sister Pride, 22, and brother Joseph, 14.
Funeral services are scheduled for Monday at
Arlington National Cemetery, McIntyre said.
Bob Hawthorne knew his Marine Corps nephew was dead, but he sent the e-mail message anyway.
"I was hoping it was a mistake," Hawthorne said. "But there was no answer."
Hawthorne, a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force, cried a little. He realized that there would be no more funny notes home and no more pictures of Marines in desert camouflage posing next to Afghan orphans, camels and mud huts.
"His life ended so soon," Hawthorne said. "He just wanted to do something good for his country, for folks to be proud of him. I wish I could hug him."
Lance Corporal Nicholas Kirven was killed Sunday, at age 21, while leading his fellow Marines into a cave in eastern Afghanistan.
A firefight broke out in the cave. In a matter of seconds Kirven, a 2002 graduate of Douglas S. Freeman High School who joined the Marines at 17, was gone and more than 20 insurgents were dead.
Kirven, one of two Marines killed in the attack in Alishang, outside Jalalabad, was supposed to come home in three weeks.
Instead of planning his homecoming party, Kirven's family has spent the past few days talking about what a wonderful kid he had been, and planning for his funeral.
"For us, it was beyond father and son," said Rusty Kirven, Nick's father, who now lives in Florida. "We were best friends, partners in life. We had a lot of things we wanted to do together."
Kirven was serving with the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, based in Hawaii. Before graduating from Freeman, he had attended Benedictine High School.
Whenever Kirven came home to Richmond, he would make celebrity appearances at Buckhead's Restaurant, which his father once owned.
"He would go around in his dress uniform, go back to high school and to the mall to recruit new Marines," said Hawthorne, Kirven's uncle.
Not only did Kirven encourage other high schoolers to join the military, he also inspired his older stepbrother, Joe Purcell.
"I always wanted to join the military and be a pilot. But it wasn't working out," Purcell said. "When I saw that kid graduate from boot camp that day, it motivated and inspired me. I am an officer in the Air Force now and am almost done with pilot training. I would not be where I am today if he didn't inspire me."
It's hard for Purcell, 26, to believe his stepbrother is gone.
"You see stories every day of people that don't come back. It desensitizes you," he said. "You think surely it's not Nick when you see a casualty on Fox News. You become numb to it, and then it happens."
Yesterday, the family waited at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware for the plane carrying Kirven's body.
"I am so heartbroken," Purcell said. "He could have done anything in the world."
Margaret Whitlow, Kirven's grandmother, found out on Monday that her grandson had been killed.
"The family always referred to him as the peacemaker," Whitlow said. "I never saw him mad. He was always laughing, always had a way of making a joke out of everything."
She said her daughter, Robin Purcell, Kirven's stepmother, is heartbroken.
"She couldn't love him more if he were her own," Whitlow said.
Kirven, never a devoted student, excelled in Marine life.
"He was highly trained, not just a grunt," said Rusty Kirven, adding that his son had received additional training in swimming and mountain warfare.
He had a soft side too, and enjoyed the humanitarian work that he and his fellow Marines were doing in Afghanistan. He would pass out Beanie Babies to the children and rebuild houses and schools, his father said.
"I was proud," he said. "I am proud. My son gave his life for something he believed in. He wanted to make a difference. He did that."
Kirven's mother, Beth Belle, and stepfather, Michael Belle, live in Fairfax. Kirven also had a sister, Pride Kirven, and a younger brother, Joseph Belle.
A funeral Mass will be held Monday at 10 a.m.
at St. John Neumann Church, 11900 Lawyers Road in Reston. Burial will follow
at 1 p.m. at Arlington National Cemetery.
The ceremonial end of Lance Corporal Nicholas Kirven's life was as soft and delicate as his death was hard and brutal, coming as it did on the mildest of spring days.
His funeral yesterday drew about 200 people to the green lawns of Arlington National Cemetery, including the sister he called Pridie, the brother he called Jobes, friends, high school basketball coaches, a U.S. senator, fellow Marines and the father of the comrade who carried Kirven's body out of a cave and down a mountainside in eastern Afghanistan two Sundays ago.
Kirven's unit had engaged in a firefight with insurgents that day, driving them into a cave in an area called Alishang. Aircraft were called in to bomb the cave, but when Kirven, the squad leader, and another Marine went inside afterward to assess the situation, they were ambushed. Their deaths were the 142nd and 143rd since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001.
Kirven, a big-hearted and magnetic 21-year-old who was finally ready to go to college, recently had confided to his sister that he was exhausted and was headed home to Fair Oaks, in Fairfax County, in just 30 days. He was buried in grave 8180, section 60, of the cemetery, the area reserved for service members killed in Afghanistan and Iraq.
About 1 p.m., the crowd followed his wooden coffin up a green slope to the designated spot. It was quiet except for the leaves blowing in the sprawling trees. White-gloved Marines lifted the coffin up before setting it down, then held the edges of the flag covering it, standing still while a priest offered the last few words.
"We pray our brother Nicholas will sleep here in peace," he said. "Lord, hear our prayer."
A line of Marines fired three shots into the blue sky. The bugler, standing apart, played taps, and Kirven's mother, Elizabeth Belle, and his father, Leo Kirven, received the folded flag.
These were the standard honors, said an Arlington spokeswoman, which, in the hierarchy of military death, include pallbearers, a firing party and a bugler, though not, she explained, the full band and horse-drawn caisson reserved for officers and top-ranking enlisted personnel, who receive full honors.
Leo Kirven did not know of full honors and standard honors, though; he just said the service was beautiful. He was somewhat surprised at the large crowd that showed up, people from New Jersey, Massachusetts and North Carolina and as far away as Hawaii; politicians such as Senator John W. Warner (R-Virginia) and others he did not know but who came and shook his hand and said kind things.
"I don't even know all the names," Kirven said afterward. "State senators from Richmond -- they all made a point of coming up and offering us condolences and sympathy. You saw how dignified it all was."
The crowd, he figured, was a reflection of who his son was, of the large numbers of people upon whom he managed to make an impression in a relatively short time.
"My son was the kind of person who, when he
touched someone's life, they shined," Kirven said. "He was a bridge to
other people. He always made people feel good and happy, and always brought
people together. . . . I was very proud of him."
Marine Nicholas Kirven dies in Afghanistan
By Matthew Perrone
Courtesy of Times Community Newspapers
Small American flags fluttered in the breeze along the streets of Century Oak last week, a quiet neighborhood in Fair Oaks of stately brick homes and lush, green lawns. It was a tranquil scene of tribute to the life of 21-year-old Nicholas C. Kirven, who died thousands of miles away in the icy mountains of Afghanistan only days earlier.
Lance Corporal Nicholas Kirven was serving as a squad leader with the 3rd talion of the 3rd Marine Division out of Kaneohe Bay. He was killed Sunday, May 8, in a firefight with enemy insurgents 60 miles east of Kabul.
According to the Department of Defense, Kirven's unit had been engaging enemy fighters for five hours along the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan when Kirven and Corporal Richard P. Schoener were ambushed in a cave. Inaccessible to medevac helicopters, Kirven's mother, Beth Belle, said the bodies of the two soldiers were carried seven miles down the mountain by their fellow Marines.
Sitting at the family's dining room table last week, Belle said she was honored to have her son buried in Arlington National Cemetery this past Monday, adding that "he deserved it."
"He was a great Marine because he gave it more than 100 percent," said Belle, 50. "He could accomplish anything he wanted to when he was determined."
With just three weeks left in an eight-month tour of duty, Belle said her son was determined to go to college after getting out of the Marine Corps.
Only weeks before his death, Belle said her son was talking about attending George Mason University and working for his stepfather Michael Belle's construction company on the side. Beth Belle said they were planning to throw Kirven a huge "welcome home" party next month at the family's beach house in Rehoboth, Delaware.
But those plans and many more evaporated around 9 p.m. May 8 when a gunnery sergeant and Navy chaplain arrived at the Belles' home to deliver the devastating news.
The making of a Marine
Kirven grew up in Fairfax County and attended area schools for most of his life. Belle described her son as being a "bright but bored" student, who attended six different schools during the last six years of his formal education.
After passing through Chantilly and then Paul VI high schools, Kirven moved to Richmond to live with his father, Leo Kirven. He graduated from Douglas S. Freeman High School in 2002.
A natural athlete, Kirven played on CYA basketball teams for six years and was a longtime member of SYA's Division I soccer team, the Rangers.
More than anything else, though, Beth Belle said Kirven's friends and family remember him as a charismatic jokester.
"Everyone wanted to be around him because he just had this infectious personality," Belle said. "He was the guy who would moon everybody from the bottom of the pool. That was just the way he was."
Despite his penchant for clowning around, Belle said her son took his military career extremely seriously. While still in high school, 17-year-old Kirven got special permission from his parents to enlist in the Marines early.
"He said to me, 'Mom, I know this scares you, but this is what I really want, and, when I turn 18, I'm going to do it anyway," Belle remembered. With his family's blessing, Kirven entered boot camp and after graduating was stationed at the Marine Corps' Kaneohe Bay base in Hawaii.
After completing a physically grueling program to become a scout swimming instructor, Kirven told his family he would be shipping out to California. But in mid-October of last year, he received a new assignment.
"He told me, 'Mom, I'm not going to need to know how to swim where I'm going,'" Belle said.
While serving in Afghanistan, Kirven designed a Web site to keep in touch with his family, featuring photos of himself and his Marine buddies. The site made no reference to the dangerous operations the Marines were mounting.
"He was very careful to shelter things from me," Belle said. "He'd say, 'Oh mom, you know I'm not allowed to talk about what I'm doing.'" It was only when Belle peeked at the e-mails Kirven sent to his stepfather that she realized how much danger her son was in.
Despite being in a combat zone, photos of Kirven from the Web site show a cheerful, confident young man who seemed at ease in his surroundings. According to Belle, when Kirven did request items from home, he would ask for food or beanie babies to pass out to Afghan children.
"The photos he loved the most were the ones of the children," Belle said. "He would tell me, 'Don't worry about us, mom; we're fine, it's the children that need things.'"
Son, brother, hero
As hundreds of mourners gathered to pay their last respects to Kirven at St. John Neuman Church in Reston Monday, family and friends spoke about how the young Marine's life had inspired them.
Michael Belle, Kirven's stepfather, who coached him in soccer, said he learned many lessons from his stepson during the 16 years they shared.
"As a coach and a father, he showed me an extraordinary amount of respect, when the fact was, he knew the game better than I did," Michael Belle said, adding, "Nicholas was not my blood, but our relationship was deeper than blood."
Looking down at Kirven's flag-draped coffin, 26-year-old Joe Purcell, Kirven's older stepbrother, revealed how the younger man's service had pushed him to join the military himself.
"He inspired us to have the courage to pursue our dreams. When I saw Nick graduate from boot camp, he motivated me to follow his lead and join the fight," said Purcell, who is now a lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force. "The only reason that I'm where I am today is because of Nick."
Kirven is survived by his mother, stepfather
and father, as well as a sister, Pride Kirven, 22, and half brother, Joseph
Posted: 12 May 2005 Updated: 17 May 2005 Updated: 19 May 2005 Updated: 21 August 2005 Updated: 14 May 2008
Photo By Michael Robert Patterson, May 2008
Photo Courtesy of Holly, June 2006