CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. --
Civilians and service members from across the nation filled the seats in attendance during a memorial service for the victims of the July 16, 2015 Chattanooga shooting Aug. 15, at the McKenzie Arena at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
“Today we honor the faithful service of five great Americans,” said Maj. Michael P. Abrams, the commanding officer of Battery M, 3rd Battalion, 14th Marines. “We honor their families who will carry on their legacy, and as Marines and sailors, we say farewell to our fallen brothers.”
The victims of the shooting consisted of four Marines and one sailor. The Marines were killed at the Navy Operational Support Center in Chattanooga.. The sailor was shot on the same day at the center in the city, and later succumbed to his wounds.
In the midst of the shooting, the service members made it their priority to ensure the safety of one another as well as the local community, warning the facility of the danger and moving civilians away from the danger.
“I am deeply proud of how our Marines and sailors responded,” said Abrams. “In the chaos of that moment, they were selfless in their efforts to take care of one another, and they acted with unquestionable courage.”
The victims’ names are Gunnery Sgt. Thomas J. Sullivan; Staff Sgt. David A. Wyatt; Sgt. Carson A. Holmquist; Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall S. Smith; Lance Cpl. Squire K. Wells.
Special guests for the event included Joseph R. Biden, the Vice President of the United States, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, 36th Commandant of the Marine Corps Joseph F. Dunford, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert and family members of the deceased service members, who came to the ceremony to express their condolences and pay respect to the fallen.
“As a military organization, we have experience far too often the searing pain of combat losses, and honored the many who in Lincoln’s words ‘laid their lives as sacrifices on the alter of freedom,’” said Mabus. “Today we honor five patriots who have made the same sacrifice in the service of their nation, this time in their home.”
Vice President Biden spoke on behalf of the fallen service members, citing their courage as an element ingrained in them.
“It was no surprise to anyone who knew them, who grew up with them, that they chose the profession they did,” said Biden. “It was stamped in their DNA. Being a sailor [or] Marine is not what they did, but who they are.”
In the aftermath of the incident, Chattanooga has demonstrated the country’s strength in the midst of adversity, according to Biden.
“The country has and still stands with you, and will remember what you’ve done,” said Biden. “It will remember and remind everyone of who we are at our best.”