Camp Hansen Marines honor a fallen comrade
CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa — The 3rd Intelligence Battalion here dedicated its newest building Friday to its only Marine killed while serving in Iraq.
The sign “Courtney Hall” was unveiled from Building 2818’s front before an audience including family members of its namesake, Sgt. Kelley L. Courtney.
A counterintelligence and human intelligence specialist attached to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, Courtney was in a convoy truck near Fallujah, Iraq, on Oct. 30. As it passed over a bridge, a sport utility vehicle loaded with explosives suddenly appeared and rammed its side, killing him.
Parents Robert and Gena and uncle Michael Courtney traveled from Macon, Ga., for the dedication.
“This is a great honor,” Gena Courtney said. “We’re dealing with our own personal struggles of Kelley’s death … it seems very surreal to be here.”
The parents said their son kept telling them of Okinawa’s beauty and saying they had to come visit. Robert Courtney said now is about the time they probably would have made that trip.
The Marine also is survived by wife Cindy and children Kellie Marie, 6, and Robert Logan, 2.
Robert Courtney said his son, “always searching for a way to make his mark,” had found his calling in Marine intelligence work.
Kelley Courtney first joined the Marine Corps in April 1998 with his youngest brother, Donovan — also a sergeant in the intelligence field, who is leaving the Marine Corps at the end of this month — and a friend, Mark Foley. Kelley first was a welder and held several desk jobs in the Marine Corps. His father said he was ready for a change, and the intelligence field seemed challenging.
Said Michael Courtney, the uncle: “When Kelley got his mind set on something it was going to get done.”
Robert added that his son “didn’t travel the interstates; he went the back roads.”
Of the battalion naming a building after her son, Gena Courtney said expressing the gratitude family and friends feel is difficult.
“It’s overwhelming,” Robert Courtney said. “The thousands of Marines that will come through here and the first thing they’ll see is Kelley.”
In addition to the name “Courtney Hall” above the doors, a plaque outside bears a picture of Kelley and a case just inside displays numerous photos of the fallen Marine and a pair of boots, an overturned rifle and a helmet.
“Your son was truly a warrior and a hero,” commanding officer Lt. Col. James Werth told the parents at the ceremony. “The Marines of this battalion will be reminded of your son’s sacrifice and service every day when they enter this building.”
One of the ceremony’s final speakers was Maj. Dawn Alonso, the 31st MEU intelligence officer who served in Iraq with Kelley. Calling him a “brave young man and a true hero to those who knew him,” Alonso said his work in Fallujah undoubtedly saved the lives of many other Marines.
“I’m honored to have served with Sgt. Courtney,” she said, her voice quivering.