'Ode to Joy'

'Ode to Joy'

May 23, 2011

Marines dedicate Afghanistan compound to fallen lieutenant colonel

Marines bow their heads in prayer during a dedication ceremony at the Marine Air Control Group 28 compound at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, May 21. The ceremony was held in honor of Lt. Col. Benjamin Chili Palmer, the former commanding officer of 2nd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion, who was killed in action in Helmand province, Afghanistan, May 12. (Photo by Cpl. Rashaun X. James)
By Cpl. Rashaun X. James, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Fwd) 

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan  — Deployed Marines and sailors honored the life and service of former 2nd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion commanding officer, Lt. Col. Benjamin J. Palmer, by dedicating to him the Marine Air Control Group 28 compound on Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, May 21.

“Marines, this is not a day of sadness,” said Lt. Col. Thomas P. Bajus serves as the MACG-28 detachment commander in Afghanistan. “We should remember Lt. Col. Palmer as a hero who gave his life for us.”

Palmer served with 2nd LAAD Bn., part of MACG-28, through December 2010, at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C.

Bajus and Palmer served together with the group – Palmer as the commanding officer 2nd LAAD Bn., and Bajus as the commanding officer of Marine Tactical Air Control Squadron 28. 

“Today was not a memorial ceremony, but rather a dedication ceremony to remember a fallen hero,” said Bajus. “We have chosen to name our compound after Lt. Col. Palmer, one of our own.”

Palmer deployed to southwestern Afghanistan with II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) in April and was killed while working with a mentoring team that provides support to the Afghan National Civil Order Police in Helmand province, May 12.

“What he has left us all is the passion he had in being a Marine,” Bajus said.

 The control group’s compound will now be known as “Chili’s Corner,” in honor of Palmer’s call sign. A sign at the entrance to the compound also states that it is dedicated in the memory of the fallen Modesto, Calif., native.

“Marines like Lt. Col. Palmer are the reason why we will not be defeated here,” Bajus said. “We all look after our own, just like he did.”

 “You don’t realize how much someone means to you until they’re gone,” said 1st Lt.  Joel R. Searls, a close battle coordinator with MTACS-28.  “I worked for Lt. Col. Palmer at 2nd LAAD as a platoon commander, adjutant, safety officer and battery executive officer.  He was my battalion commanding officer and he was very down-to-earth. You could talk to him about any problem that you had.”

Palmer’s personal decorations included the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Republic of Korea Joint Service Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with two gold stars and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with gold star. Palmer is survived by his wife and four children.

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