GRANTSBURG, Wis. --
Two flags fluttered in the wind as they traveled through the green fields of Wisconsin: the stars and stripes of the American flag, and the crimson and gold of the Marine Corps emblem. The flags traveled slowly along the winding country road on the back of a motorcycle, leading dozens of vehicles as they escorted the body of Sgt. Carson Holmquist, a fallen husband, father, son, brother and Marine, to his final resting place in Grantsburg, Wisconsin, July 25, 2015.
Holmquist, 25, a motor transport maintenance chief with Battery M, 3rd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve, was one of five service members killed in an attack at the Naval Operation Support Center and Marine Corps Reserve Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee, July 16, 2015. He is survived by his wife, Jasmine, and their 2-year-old son, Wyatt.
“What everyone needs to know about that day is that those Marines and that sailor were defending our nation,” said Capt. Chris Cotton, the Inspector-Instructor for Battery M, 3/14. “They were taking care of each other. After that day, we have received support from the communities of Chattanooga and Grantsburg, and you can see the outpouring of support we have received from communities across the U.S. and service members from all branches.”
The town of Grantsburg gathered in the gymnasium of Grantsburg Senior High School, where Holmquist graduated in 2008, to pay their respects to him and his family. Family and friends gazed at dozens of pictures of Holmquist as he grew from a happy child to a smiling Marine, husband and father.
“He was a man’s man, a family man, and a good man,” Cotton said. “He loved his hometown. He loved his wife, he loved his son. He made me and all of the Marines around him feel better about themselves, because that was his personality and that was how much he cared about the mission. He and his brothers made the ultimate sacrifice that day, and we will never forget that.”
Holmquist had joined Battery M a mere 90 days before his life was taken. During that fleeting span of time, he was able to build strong connections with his fellow Marines, bonds that his brothers will never forget.
“I’ve never gotten so close to a person so quickly as I did with Holmquist,” said Sgt. Donovan Walters, Battery M ordinance maintenance chief. “He was my friend. He came to the unit about four or five months after I did. About three days after he got to our unit, he came up to me and said, ‘hey, we’re going to be friends.’ Since that day, we were attached at the hip.”
Walters said it was easy for other Marines to see Holmquist’s passion for his work.
“He had the work ethic of a mechanic, a good one,” Walters said. “He loved to fix things, and he lived that passion through his entire life in his roles as a husband, a father and a Marine.”
According to Walters, being a mechanic and a Marine was only Holmquist’s second passion. His first was waiting for him at the end of every work day.
“He just loved his family; that was all he would talk about,” Walters said. “He loved to talk about his wife and son. That was his priority over anything else. He would rather go home and hang out with his family than go out with friends after work.”
Since that fateful day, Holmquist’s brothers-in-arms in 3/14 have spent the following weeks mourning the loss of their fellow Marines and Sailor and gearing up to move forward.
“We’re still going, we’re still hooking and jabbing, but sometimes throughout the day I just stop and think about what happened, how it could have been any one of us,” said Sgt. Jeremie Francois, the motor transport maintenance chief for Battery G, 3/14. “It could happen to anyone anywhere. I stop and think a lot about his family. It feels like someone took my brother away from me.”
Citizens and service members alike have held memorial services, rallies and motivational events in honor of Holmquist, Staff Sgt. David Wyatt, Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan, Lance Cpl. Squire “Skip” Wells and Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith. The Marines and sailors of Battery M were brought closer together by the tragedy, while also banding together to support the families of their fallen brothers.
“There was an initial shock, then anger, then immediate resolve,” Cotton said. “They’re ready to honor the fallen, to honor their brothers, and then, they are ready to get back to work. They know what we do as Marines, that we are warriors, and that what we do is a special calling to serve the nation. They’re ready to go back. There will be healing, and it will take some time, but the Marines are ready to get back to work and get mission capable.”
The Marines of Battery M refuse to let the loss of their brethren be a stumbling block. According to Walters, their grief has evolved into a new motivation.
“Weakness grows from idleness, and we will not be idle,” Walters said. “There will not be a stutter in our step, in honor of our brothers.”