ARABIAN SEA --
All hands celebrated the life and service of Petty Officer 3rd Class Kyler L. Estrada during a memorial service aboard USS Makin Island Feb. 17.
Salt dried on once-moist cheeks, but from others the tears kept flowing. Solemn tones complemented a poignant quiet throughout the ship.
The men of India Company – reinforced by Marines and sailors from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit and USS Makin Island – gathered to honor their corpsman, Doc Estrada, a Fleet Marine Force sailor who died during live-fire training in Djibouti on Valentine’s Day.
A display of more than 700 men and women pressed shoulder to shoulder and filled the ship’s aircraft hangar with heavy hearts.
“Doc died in the company of his brothers – brothers who trained and sweat with him, brothers who rushed to his side and would not give up on him after he fell,” said Capt. Matthew McGirr, commanding officer of India Company, Battalion Landing Team 3/1, Estrada’s company.
McGirr thanked everyone in the hangar for being at the service and said, “We will honor Doc by keeping faith in him in the manner that we have honored every single Marine and doc that has lived, trained, fought and died next to us and underneath our guidon. We are going to pick up our swords; we are going to lock our shields together, and we are going to step forward, together as one.”
One of Estrada’s squad mates, Cpl. David Zochol, took to the podium and spoke: “From my time in the Marine Corps, I have come to realize there are two types of docs. The first is a corpsman in a Marine uniform; the second is a Marine in a corpsman uniform. All those that knew Doc Estrada would agree that he was the latter.”
Zochol said the loss will be felt in India Company for a long time. He said, “No matter how terrible and long-lasting the pain, it pales in comparison to the pain felt by his wife and family back home.”
Eleventh MEU chaplain Lt. Cmdr. Jon Conroe said Estrada was “a young man full of life and humor and devotion to his family, to his fellow sailors and Marines, to his country and to his god.”
Said Conroe, “Doc Estrada’s presence in our life was truly a gift – a gift with which we will be forever blessed.”
A detail of seven Marines who served with Estrada fired rifle volleys in his honor and a Navy bugler sounded taps.
On his Facebook page, Estrada summed up his job: “Fix broken Marines.” The eulogies attested to his skill in just that.
McGirr added that although Doc is gone, he will never be forgotten.