Stephen R. Bixler
Corporal, United States Marine Corps
RELEASES from the United States Department of Defense
No. 400-06 IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DoD Identifies Marine Casualties
The Department of Defense announced today the death of two Marines who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Captain Brian S. Letendre,
27, of Woodbridge, Virginia
Letendre died May 3, 2006, while conducting combat operations against enemy forces in Al Anbar province, Iraq. He was assigned to the Marine Forces Reserve's Inspector and Instructor Staff, 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, Plainville, Connecticut.
Bixler died May 4, 2006, while conducting combat operations against enemy forces in Al Anbar province, Iraq. He was assigned to the 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
Media with questions about Letendre can call Marine Forces Reserve Public Affairs at (504) 678-6539. Media with questions about Bixler can call the 2nd Marine Division Public Affairs Office at (910) 451-9033.
2nd Reconnaissance Battalion memorializes fallen Marine
Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
Story by Gunnery Sergeant Mark Oliva
CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq (May 12, 2006) -- Marines from 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5 in Fallujah, paused to honor Corporal Stephen R. Bixler. Bixler was killed in action May 4, 2006. He was 20-years-old.
Bixler was assigned to 2nd Recon Bn.’s Headquarters and Service Company, Provisional Rifle Platoon.
“Corporal Bixler was a vibrant, active man,” said Lieutenant Colonel James M. Bright, the battalion’s commander. “He died fearlessly leading and willingly sacrificing his own safety for those around him.”
Bixler was Boy Scout as a child, attaining the rank of Eagle Scout. He attended Suffield High School in Hartford, Conn., where he ran cross-country and indoor and outdoor track. He graduated in 2003 and joined the Marine Corps.
He graduated recruit training from M Company, 3rd Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina. He completed the School of Infantry and was assigned the infantry military occupational specialty.
He was later assigned to 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment and deployed to Haiti and Iraq.
“Along the way, he became a noncommissioned officer, a leader of Marines,” Bright said. Later, he volunteered to join 2nd Recon Bn. He passed the screening and was awaiting eye surgery before attending the Basic Reconnaissance Course, when the battalion was searching for leaders to fill the ranks of the Provisional Rifle Platoon. He, once again, volunteered.
“He was exactly that type of Marine we were looking for,” Bright explained.
Bixler’s platoon commander, First Lieutenant Nicholas J. Lodestro, said his first impressions of the Marine was he was “loyal, knowledgeable and dedicated.”
“He was a warrior I felt comfortable to serve with,” said 26-year-old Lodestro from Jamestown, New York. “He was the man in front protecting us. He was a dedicated, unselfish, charismatic warrior."
Sergeant Mike C. Phelan, a 22-year-old fellow Recon Marine from Seyreville, New Jersey, said Bixler had several nicknames from “Scuba Steve” to “Smelly Steve.”
“They were all terms of endearment,” Phelan said. “There were two Steve’s. There was the quiet leader … and the other – loud, surfing, lady-chasing.”
Phelan described Bixler as man with a great sense of humor, but profound insight.
“He used to say when it rains, it’s not the atmosphere changing,” Phelan recalled. “But God crying for us and what we’re about to do.”
The short, quiet ceremony was marked by Bible verses and prayers honoring Bixler. Corporal Jeffrey D. Sullivan, a 22-year-old from Annapolis, Maryland, assigned to 2nd Recon Bn.’s A Company, played “Amazing Graze” on the bagpipes.
Final Roll was called and three times, Corporal. Stephen R. Bixler’s name was called only to be answered by silence. “Taps” followed in a final farewell.
“He was a loving son and brother, devoted friend … Marine,” Bright said. “No more could be asked of any man. When final roll is called and Stephen no longer answers, Steven’s still here. He’s emblazoned on our hearts.”
Bixler’s awards include the Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon with gold star in lieu of second award, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon with bronze star in lieu of second award.
Bixler is survived by his parents, Richard
and Linda Bixler.
Services will be held next week for a local Marine who died in Iraq May 4, 2006.
Lance Corporal Stephen R. Bixler, 20, a 2003 graduate of Suffield High School, was killed while on patrol in Al Anbar province.
Mass will be at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Sacred Heart Church, 446 Mountain Road in Suffield. He will be buried the following day with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
Bixler, who was on his second tour of duty in Iraq, has received the Purple Heart and the Combat Action Ribbon.
Bixler, who was an Eagle Scout, joined the
U.S. Marine Corps in July 2003. He is survived by his parents, Richard
and Linda Bixler, and his twin sister, Sandra L. Bixler.
May 18, 2006
Marine Corporal Stephen R. Bixler of Suffield, Connecticut, made it clear to his parents that he wanted to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery if he was killed in Iraq.
Family, friends and other mourners found themselves fulfilling that wish Thursday as they gathered in a corner of the cemetery where the neatly tended, rolling lawns are marked by row after row of simple, white marble headstones.
Bixler, 20, who died May 4, 2006, in combat in Al Anbar province, was buried with military honors.
"He was a quiet, respectful person," said longtime family friend Kevin Goff after the burial. "He grew up knowing from an early age that he wanted to be a soldier. It was part of Stephen."
Goff said Bixler told his parents, Richard and Linda, to bury him at Arlington if anything happened to him in Iraq.
"He really is where he wanted to be, in Arlington," Goff said. "He is with his buddies who have given so much for freedom."
Six Marines in dress uniforms carefully removed the flag-covered casket from the hearse and carried it to the grave site amid a sudden rain shower. After a eulogy, a seven-member Marine guard fired three shots.
A Marine presented Bixler's parents with the American flag that had covered his casket.
Bixler served in the 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force. He was on his second tour of duty in Iraq, Goff said.
Bixler joined the Marines after graduating from Suffield High School in 2003. He was an Eagle Scout and a runner.
Bixler was the 31st person from Connecticut to have died since March 2002 in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was the 233rd person killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom to be buried at Arlington.
Goff said Bixler was proud to serve in Iraq, where he believed he was making a difference in the lives of ordinary Iraqis struggling to rebuild their country.
"He'd say, 'Those people really need us over there,"' Goff recalled. "You'd look into his eyes and the message was very clear. We knew he was making a difference in people's lives over there."
A hearse bearing Bixler's casket traveled from Connecticut to the cemetery with police escorts from various cities and states during the drive. Family and friends were overwhelmed by the many salutes along the way from average citizens, many of them stuck in traffic because of the motorcade, said Goff.
"It was a true American tribute to a guy who
gave his life for all of us," said Goff.
Suffield renames post office for fallen Marine
1 October 2007
Suffield, Connecticut, is renaming their town post office in honor of home town hero who was killed in Iraq.
The town won congressional approval tonight to re-name its post office in honor of Marine Corporal Stephen Bixler.
The 20-year-old Marine died in Fallujah in 2006.
The new name of the Suffield Post Office will
now be the Corporal Stephen R. Bixler Post Office.
Monday, June 16, 2008:
SUFFIELD, Connecticut — Two years ago, not long after taking up surfing and off-road four-wheeling in his free time, 20-year-old Marine Corporal Stephen R. Bixler was killed while on patrol in the Al Anbar province of Iraq.
The citation accompanying the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal posthumously awarded to Bixler says that on May 4, 2006, Bixler was conducting a nighttime route clearance operation when he identified an improvised explosive device, or IED, site and warned fellow Marines, allowing them time and space to protect themselves.
Bixler moved forward to conduct a more thorough sweep of the area when a buried IED exploded, killing him.
“Corporal Bixler’s selfless and courageous actions allowed the members of his platoon to gain enough distance from the blast and undoubtedly saved several lives,” the citation reads.
Five years ago, a school track star, Bixler graduated from Suffield High School. The same year, 2003, he’d also attained the level of Eagle Scout after demonstrating exceptional skills as a Boy Scout.
Described by his family as happy, dedicated, movie-loving, and quiet, and by fellow Marines as dedicated, unselfish, loyal, and loud, Bixler was awarded the Purple Heart, presented to his family in May of 2006. He was later buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.
Last July the Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to honor Bixler by supporting the naming of the post office 235 Mountain Road after him. Just short of one year later, it’s going to happen.
On Tuesday, June 17, at 9:30 a.m., a ceremonial dedication will take place in the auditorium at Suffield Middle School, 350 Mountain Road, and the post office will be designated the Corporal Stephen R. Bixler Post Office.
But getting it done took more than a quick signature on a simple form. Because the post office is a federal building, the town needed the proper authority to change its name.
There was also a bit of hesitation from some community members that the renaming of the building would set a precedent.
However, U.S. Representative Joseph D. Courtney, D-2nd District, did not hesitate to spearhead the effort to name the post office after Bixler and requested comments and feedback from local officials.
Letters sent to Courtney last July by First Selectman Scott R. Lingenfelter, Representative Ruth C. Fahrbach, R-Windsor, Senator John A. Kissel, R-Enfield, and Gov. M. Jodi Rell all spoke to Bixler’s highly regarded position in the community as well as to his military service.
“Hundreds of friends, relatives, and strangers attended his wake to show their love and support,” wrote Fahrbach. “In my opinion, naming the Suffield Post Office in honor of Corporal Stephen R. Bixler is appropriate and well deserved.”
Kissel wrote that, “Corporal Bixler, who selflessly gave his life for his country, fellow service members, and all of us, deserves to be commemorated for his bravery and sacrifice.”
Rell wrote in her letter to Courtney that she joined Fahrbach in urging him to pursue legislation to preserve the memory of “one of our fallen heroes,” and Lingenfelter’s letter called the naming of the post office in honor of Bixler “an appropriate tribute to a man who sacrificed his life for his country.”
Courtney last week called Bixler a 20-year-old, high-achieving young man who had almost limitless opportunities coming out of high school.
“For him to have chosen military service — and arguably the most challenging part of the military, the Marines, when it was pretty certain it would result in a deployment — says something extraordinary about him,” Courtney said.
Richard Bixler, Stephen Bixler’s father, said the naming of the post office was made possible through a grassroots effort that involved hundreds of e-mails, telephone calls, and letters of support from town citizens.
“It just shows a community’s gratitude toward Stephen and his sacrifice,” he said.
Patriot Guard rider Richard Yager of La Plata, Maryland, left, stands with Bob Ellis of Waldorf, Maryland,
as they salute the casket of Marine Corporal Stephen Richard Bixler of Suffield, Connecticut, during funeral services
at Arlington National Cemetery May 18, 2006.
Posted: 3 May 2006 Updated: 16 May 2006 Updated: 11 June 2006 Updated: 7 July 2006 Updated: 4 November 2006 Updted: 1 October 2007 Updated: 16 June 2008 Updated: 10 October 2008
Photo Courtesy of Holly, November 2006
Photo Courtesy of Holly, July 2006