Photo Information

Lt. Gen. John Toolan, Marine Corps Forces, Pacific commander, speaks to more than 100 guests during an honorary Marine ceremony in Jonesville, Virginia on Oct. 15, 2014. Jacob Sprinkle received the title posthumously after a complication with a heart transplant took his life in January.

Photo by Cpl. Samuel Ellis

Fought war, gained title

15 Oct 2014 | Cpl. Samuel Ellis Headquarters Marine Corps

Jacob Sprinkle had been tied to the Marine Corps since birth, born little more than a short 13 years ago on November 10 — the Marine Corps' birthday. Sadly, Jacob would never live to serve in the Corps, but now, in death, he bears the title of "Marine."

More than 100 guests filled the Jonesville, Virginia Lee County High School auditorium tonight to participate in a ceremony posthumously honoring Jacob with the title “Honorary Marine,” an award less than 100 people have ever been recognized with. Nine months prior, friends and family gathered to grieve after his death, tonight they gathered to celebrate his entry into the Corps.

The nomination for honorary Marine must come from a general officer.

“I made that recommendation to the commandant of the Marine Corps and appeared today to honor Jacob,”  said Lt. Gen. John Toolan,  Marine Corps Forces, Pacific commander. “The Marine Corps is very, very proud to welcome Jacob into the ranks of our Marine Corps.”

Jacob was born to Rick and Monique Sprinkle on Nov. 10, 2000, with a severe heart defect that he fought for the rest of his life, causing him numerous surgeries, heart-valve replacements, a stroke and a heart transplant. Despite the numerous pain-filled treatments, surgeries and recoveries he endured, the die-hard Notre Dame fan never cried, or gave up.

“He was a very strong child to go through all that he had to go through, and to fight as hard as he did.” said Donna Arnold, a family friend. “He fought hard and has made a lasting impression on everyone that ever got to know him.”

Despite his physical restraints, the 5ft. 2in., Star Wars-fan aspired to be a third-generation Marine eager to step on the yellow footprints that his father, an 8-year mortarman, and his grandfather, a combat engineer, did years before. He loved playing “drill instructor” with his dad, and would frequently ask, “will I be able to be a Marine if I get my heart fixed?”

“Jacob was not going to be able to serve due to his physical condition, but it was something that was important to him,” said Rick Sprinkle.

    Knowing the importance to his son, Rick researched the honorary Marine process. After going through the processes of review from a general officer recommendation, to the Marine Corps commandant’s approval, Rick and Monique got a call telling them their son’s dream was about to come true.

“It is an incredible honor for me and my family that Jacob has earned the title,” Sprinkle said. “Thanks to all the people involved who helped him to become a Marine.”

At the conclusion of the ceremony, the crowd stood, tears creasing faces and chills sprinting down spines during an acapella singing of the Marines’ Hymn. The last lines of the final verse finished, “if the Army and the Navy ever look on heaven’s scenes, they will find the streets are guarded by United States Marines.”

The newest devil dog can began his first heavenly patrol.