“Kilo Company held a memorial service to honor heroic deaths of Corporal Schoener and Lance Corporal Kirven at FOB Mehtar Lam, Laghman Province.” — Source: 3/3 Command Chronology for the Period 01 January to 30 June 2005
18 May – “CTF Trinity’s FOB at JAF was re-designated Camp Schoener-Kirven in honor of the Battalion’s fallen Marines.” — Source: 3/3 Command Chronology for the Period 01 January to 30 June 2005
3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines remembers spirit of fallen brothers
By Cpl. Rich Mattingly | Headquarters Marine Corps | May 10, 2005FORWARD OPERATING BASE MEHTAR LAM, Afghanistan — The squad and platoon-mates of two Marines killed in a bloody clash with insurgents May 8 gathered throughout the past week to reflect on memories of their fallen brothers.
Sitting in a tent where just a week prior they had prepared for their latest mission with Cpl. Richard Schoener and Lance Cpl. Nicholas Kirven, the mood among the squad-mates was somber, the sounds of battle still ringing in their ears.
From the rafters hung the American flag they had all signed, two signatures slightly more noticeable than the rest as afternoon light filtered through the fabric. There was a lingering sense that the tent should have been filled with laughter and talk of what the Marines planned to do when they returned home next month.
However close to the surface their feelings of loss and grief were, the Marines of Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment only spoke of the positive light they say their friends “Nick and Ricky” brought to everything they did.
As they took turns telling stories and sharing memories, they said they will remember the two Marines as friends, heroes and as Sgt. Charles Bennett, Kilo Co. squad leader recalled with emotion, “The two finest young Marines I have ever seen.”
“They were happy go-lucky guys,” said Cpl. Jason Valencia, rifle team leader with 2nd Platoon, Kilo Co. “They were both the kind of Marines who were serious enough to always do their job or give you the shirt off their back, but never ones to take any situation too seriously or let you be down.”
The other Marines agreed, every man sharing stories of Kirven and Schoener’s incredible ability to make the best out of any situation, their irrepressible spirits and their love of their families.
“We were in this place called Paitak,” said Lance Cpl. Nick Collier, rifleman and close friend of Kirven, “and it must have been twenty below and we were miserable. Nick came up to me and started taking stupid pictures of us just to relieve the misery. By the time we were done, I’d forgotten just how bad of a time it was. That’s the kind of guy he was.”
Kirven was well known for being a practical joker, and for his flashy style of dress and concern for his looks. Squad members jokingly called him “Paris” and teased him for the time he spent fixing his hair. But he was also known to his Marines and his superiors alike as a strong leader and a proficient instructor in his specialties as a Marine Corps Water Survival Instructor, normally a staff noncommissioned officer billet, and as an assault climber.
“He was a great teacher,” recalled Staff Sgt. James Horvath, Kilo Co., second platoon sergeant. “He taught me how to be a better swimmer at 3/3 in about ten minutes. He had that maturity to handle and instruct all levels of Marines and all levels of abilities.”
“We also had him as a team leader,” continued Horvath, “usually a noncommissioned officer’s billet, but in our line of work you have to put the right man in there to do the job and he was the right man.”
“He was one of the original ‘Kilo guys,’” said 1st Sgt. Vincent Santiago, Kilo Co. first sergeant, referring to Kirven’s two-deployment tenure with the company. “He was always joyful, always had a smile for everyone. I remember sitting down with him for lunch and discussing his future. He told me that he was considering staying with Kilo for another deployment, helping to mentor the younger Marines. When a Marine makes statements like that, you know he really cares about those around him.”
Corporal Schoener, or “Ricky” to his friends, is remembered as an intellectual young man who read voraciously and always had a story to share for any situation.
“You could be more pissed-off than you’d ever been in your entire life,” said one of his squad mates, “and then Ricky would come out of nowhere with some off-the-wall comment or joke or he would bother you about something else, just bugging you until you forgot what you were mad about in the first place.”
Schoener came to Kilo Co. in August of 2004, just in time to begin training for deployment to Afghanistan. After spending the first part of his enlistment in Marine Corps Security Forces as a sentry at Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base, Ga., his company says he made the transition to his new “grunt” unit seamlessly.
“He didn’t have problems transitioning his style of leadership to work in Kilo,” said Horvath. “Without trying to force a round peg in a square hole, he integrated his prior skills into what we did,” he continued, referring to the valuable knowledge of close-quarters battle Schoener possessed.
Other Marines mentioned his prowess as a pitcher in their flight line games of pick-up baseball and his glowing talk of family from his small hometown in Louisiana.
“He adored his sister and his mom,” said one Marine. “He was always talking about them and how he couldn’t wait to get home to see them.”
The hours that changed the lives of everyone surrounding these two young men were a final testament to the strength of their character and spirit.
When Schoener and Kirven led the way toward the lifeless body of an insurgent and were fired on from a nearby cave with automatic weapons, wounding both, their squad said they never wavered. As their fellow Marines opened fire on the cave, both men continued fighting the fortified enemy until the blast from two enemy grenades took their lives.
The rest of the platoon continued the assault, clearing the cave of enemy fighters and trying to resuscitate the fallen Marines.
With helicopters unable to reach their position, the Marines and Corpsmen of 2nd platoon were forced to make an arduous journey through the mountains back to their patrol base, humping for miles while low on ammunition, out of water and under continuing fire from the enemy. They carried Schoener and Kirven the entire way.
“They would not let go of their brothers,” said Sgt. Rob Campbell, 2nd squad leader talking about his squad. “We could only walk maybe a few hundred feet or so before we had to switch guys up, but we would never leave them behind. They’d have done the same for us.”
“These Marines are a family. Those two were the kind of men whose Marines refused to put them down even though they looked like they couldn’t possibly take another step,” said Horvath, finishing, “That says a lot about a man.”
The operation during which Schoener and Kirner gave their lives effectively broke the back of a significant insurgent cell operating in northern Laghman province. That cell had long targeted Coalition and Afghan government forces in the region. Afghan authorities confirmed 15 insurgents killed and an additional six wounded and captured. Three of those killed were cell leaders and it is suspected that more died in the action.
A few nights later, a Marine aimed a projector at the side of a tent and showed pictures and movies of Nick and Ricky to a group huddled around the glowing, makeshift screen.
For another night with Kilo Company, the memory of two Marines who were always “larger than life” made Marines laugh and smile, and the memory and celebration of their lives sustained their Marines again. It’s reflected indelibly across every face that no Marine or Sailor who served their country alongside them will ever be the same.
Lance Corporal Nick Kirven of Fairfax, Va. was 21 years old. He is survived by his mother Beth, sister Mary-Pride, brothers Joe Purcell and Joseph Belle, father Leo Kirven and stepfather Mike Belle.
Corporal Ricky Schoener of Hayes, La., was 22 and is survived by an extended family including his mother, Bonnie Breaux.
Source: Headquarters Marine Corps