Operation Iraqi Freedom, Fallen Heroes, Iraq War 03/19/03

Dustin Lee Sides

Dustin Lee Sides

Yakima, Washington

May 31, 2004

Age Military Rank Unit/Location
22 Marine Cpl

9th Communications Battalion, I Marine Expeditionary Force

Camp Pendleton, California

Died from hostile fire in Al Anbar Province, Iraq.

For Some Memorial Service Snapshots, Click photo below:

Click To See Snapshots from June 12th, 2004 Memorial Service

June 12, 2004

Yakima Herald 06/13/04 

 

'The War's Hit Home' -- Dustin Sides Laid to Rest

By ED STOVER

and MARK MOREY

YAKIMA HERALD-REPUBLIC

 

Three rifle volleys crack, crack, crack fired by seven Marines in full dress uniform.

The 24 golden notes of "Taps" being mournfully played.

The red, white and blue stars and stripes of two American flags being slowly folded and presented, one to each parent.

A dozen white doves flashing as one across a sun-drenched green lawn, then wheeling upward into a brilliant blue sky.

With those lasting images, an estimated 400 relatives, friends, comrades and admirers gathered Saturday morning at Yakima's Tahoma Cemetery to bid farewell to U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dustin Lee Sides.

Sides, 22, is the Yakima Valley's first casualty of the war in Iraq. He was killed in an ambush May 31, Memorial Day, while returning from a mission to Fallujah, one of the hot spots of the war.

That conflict seemed suddenly much closer Saturday morning as nearly 100 Marines, some of them Iraq war veterans, performed the solemn ritual of burying their fallen comrade as Sides' friends and family looked on.

"It's our responsibility as Marines," said Gunnery Sgt. David Gregory, who led the detail of seven pallbearers who bore Sides' flag-draped coffin the 200 feet from a silver Keith & Keith Funeral Home hearse to his final resting place adjacent to the Yakima Valley Veterans Memorial, which overlooks the military section at Tahoma.

 

Gregory, an adviser to the Marine Corps Reserve's Bravo Company, 4th Tank Battalion in Yakima, said he and his men had practiced all week for Saturday's 45-minute ceremony.

"It's how we take care of our own," he said.

"... And Dustin did love the Marine Corps," Rear Adm. Darold Bigger told Sides' mother and father, Wendy Billings and John Sides, who sat facing the grave site with other family members and close friends.

Bigger, of Walla Walla, is deputy chief of Navy chaplains for U.S. Naval Reserve matters for the United States. He officiated at the ceremony, which also included the presentation of the Purple Heart Medal, the Good Conduct Medal and the National Defense Service Medal to Sides' parents.

Bigger, a pastor in civilian life who teaches religion at Walla Walla College, said he travels all over the country as part of his reserve duties, and he visited Iraq last summer.

"These young men and women do us proud," he declared following the ceremony, referring to the Marines at the ceremony and the military personnel he sees elsewhere.

 

"Most people I see wherever I go are grateful we're there (Iraq). It's a very small number who create the kind of sensations you hear about in the news."

One who attended Saturday's burial service who expressed gratitude was William Craven, who with his wife Virginia made the journey all the way from Roslyn. The Cravens know what it's like to lose a loved one; their son, Tom, 30, was one of four U.S. Forest Service firefighters to die in the Thirtymile Fire on July 10, 2001.

"I just saw it (funeral notice) in the paper and we thought we'd attend," said Craven. "Everybody should be here. It's because of him (Sides) that we can stay home and be safe."

Craven surveyed a photo display of Sides at various stages of his life that stood near the grave site. He shook his head.

"Another young kid gone," he said. "It's a long way down here, but it's worth it. After all, he (Sides) went a long way for us."

There were those, too, who expressed frustration with a war that has now spilled the blood of a native son.

"It's nonsense," said Frank Beard, 78, a World War II Navy veteran who served in the South Pacific and is immediate past commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 379.

"It's different now," said Beard, who was attending with another veteran, Herbert Matsen, 78, who also served in the South Pacific. "They don't fight to win anymore, just to pacify. When we went in, we went to win, to whip their fannies. This is nonsense."

 

"But we're here on behalf of our post to pay our respects to this young fellow."

Kathy Garlock, a friend of Sides' mother, said it's a "terribly difficult time" for Wendy Billings and John Sides and their surviving children. She said she supports the troops in Iraq.

"That's not to say I'm particularly happy with the situation anything that kills our children is not a good thing," she said.

Garlock's husband, Duane, a Vietnam veteran, said he, too, supports the troops. In some ways, though, the situation in Iraq is worse than Vietnam, he said, because the troops are so vulnerable.

"Me? I'd rather fight in the jungle. This (Iraq), it's so difficult to see the end of it. But we've got to support our people there."

One woman who came, Paige Olney-Hammond of Wiley City, presented the family with an eagle feather wrapped at the base with red, white and blue beads. Olney-Hammond, whose husband is serving his second tour in Kuwait with the Navy, said she felt the feather honored Sides' service.

"He gave his life for all of us. He gave his life for our children," said Olney-Hammond, whose 4-year-old son, Tanner, had Nancy Sides (Sides' stepmother) as a teacher's aide. "He gave the ultimate sacrifice."

Olney-Hammond said Saturday's funeral magnified the scary prospect that her own husband might not return alive.

"The war's hit home. It's a reality check," she said.

 

Yakima resident Saul Chacon, a former Marine sergeant who left the service last year after spending six months in Iraq, said he considered Sides' fate next to his own.

"I've been thinking about that all day," Chacon said at a reception after the funeral at Eisenhower High School, where Sides went to school.

"It's kind of weird. I can't explain it," Chacon said, noting that the environment around Fallujah has grown even more tense and violent since he left.

Tesa Peterson, 23, of Yakima said Sides' youth added an extra element to her feelings about his death.

Peterson and Sides knew each other from when they attended Wilson Middle School. She last saw him at a party before he headed off to boot camp.

"It makes me sad to think about how young he was, but it sounds like he was having fun being over there, so that was important to him," Peterson said.

By all accounts, Sides did enjoy the service, even his time in Iraq, where he served with the 9th Communication Battalion from last February until he was killed. He drove a specialized wrecker that was used to keep the battalion's equipment on the move in difficult places.

 

"He was willing to take the risks," said Bigger at the funeral.

"He had that look of happiness, of joy, of excitement," said Master Sgt. Kevin Berry, who was Sides' motor transport chief and is stationed at Camp Pendleton in California. Berry was one of several Marines from Camp Pendleton who attended Saturday's service.

Not that Sides was oblivious to the danger he was in. John Sides said his son had arranged beforehand for his younger sister, Katie, to receive part of his life insurance toward her education in case of his death.

"He didn't want his sister going into the military to get money for school," Sides said.

In brief comments Friday, Sides also repeated his gratitude for the support shown to his family.

"I can't thank them enough," Sides said. "What this community has said and done for my family and the biggest thing is the honor for my son is just unbelievable."

Trying to keep track of those to thank became impossible after the list of names he was making grew to six pages long, he said.

Notes of sympathy have poured in from across Washington, Oregon and California, among other states. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his wife, Maria Shriver, even sent a letter.

 

* A memorial fund established in Dustin Lee Sides' name at the Yakima Valley Credit Union is continuing to accept donations for the near future, a credit union representative said Friday. Contributions may be dropped off at any branch or mailed to the main office at 401 Tieton Drive, Yakima, WA 98902.

 

A Tribute to Dustin Sides
U.S. Marine Corps Master Sgt. Kevin Berry flew up with several other Marines from Camp Pendleton, Calif., to attend the funeral of Lance Cpl. Dustin Lee Sides on Saturday.

At the funeral, Berry read the following tribute, which he said he was moved to write Friday after meeting with members of Sides' family:

 

To Dustin:

When you checked in to the unit, I knew you were different you had that look in your eye, that look of happiness, joy and excitement.

And I said to myself, "What is it about this young man? How can he smile when there's so much he doesn't know? So much more he needs to see, and, as a Marine, he must grow."

But that's how Dustin lived happy to not know.

Dustin taught me to seize the day! Take a chance on love, friendship and life. So because of you, Dustin, I'm a better husband, father and Marine master sergeant.

I'll live each day to the fullest. Yes, each and every one. Just like my brother Dustin, not knowing if tomorrow will come.

God bless all your family and friends.

From KOMO TV komonews.com 06/01/04:

2 Washington Marines Killed In Iraq
Published: Jun 1, 2004 at 9:45 AM PST Last Updated: Jul 24, 2009 at 10:37 AM PST
LAKE STEVENS - Two local families are in mourning after their sons were killed in Iraq over the weekend.
Pfc. Cody S. Calavan, 19, of Lake Stevens, Wash., died Saturday when is convoy hit a roadside bomb, and Lance Cpl. Dustin Lee Sides, 22, of Yakima, was killed Sunday night in an ambush near Fallujah.

For the Calavan family, it's the second tragedy for the family in less than a year.

Nineteen-year-old Pfc. Cody Calavan joined the Marines right out of high school. Calavan was a machine gunner assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, based in Camp Pendleton, Calif.

He had always wanted to be a Marine. He believed strongly in the Iraq war, just like his father.

"Will I miss my son greatly? (nods yes) Is it worth something? It's worth a great deal if we finish," said his father David Calavan.

Calavan graduated from Lake Stevens High School, but his family moved to Stanwood two years ago.

It's been really hard on our community to lose such a nice young man; a patriotic young man," said teacher Brent Barnes.

The loss for Cody's dad is unspeakable. His only other son, 15-year-old Joey, was killed in a drinking-and-driving accident nine months ago.

As sole-surviving son, Cody could have come home from the war. "But the direct answer was: ' I'm trained at what I do, these people are depending on me, so I'm going,' " said David Calavan.

David also lost his wife to breast cancer six years ago and has since remarried.

David and his wife Pamela, who says she loved being a stepmother to both boys, now say it's their faith that's keeping them going.

"We know they're safe now," Pamela Calavan said. "We've just got to get past feeling really lonely and figure out what to do next."

They still have two stepsons to raise together. They're planning a family memorial in Everett once Cody's body is returned to the United States.

Yakima Marine Killed In Fallujah Ambush

Lance Cpl. Dustin Lee Sides, 22, of Yakima, was killed Sunday night in an ambush near Fallujah, his family told the Yakima Herald-Republic.

Sides, a 2001 graduate of Yakima Alternative School, was a wrecker driver assigned to the 9th Communications Battalion, also based out of Camp Pendleton, Calif.

His stepmother, Nancy Sides, told the newspaper that a team of Marine sergeants notified the family of the death at their Yakima Valley home about 1 a.m. Tuesday, Nancy Sides said.

Sides joined the Marines about a year ago, following in the footsteps of his older brother, Derek, and a cousin, both of whom also served in the Corps, his family said.

"That's what they are trained to do. He was proud to be there, proud to be a Marine - and we are proud of him," Nancy Sides said.

His father, John Sides, said he spoke with his son by satellite phone just two hours before his death.

Although he wasn't able to divulge details, Dustin Sides he had just completed a mission and was on his way back to base.

Friend Amie Wakefield said she last spoke to Sides two weeks ago when he telephoned from Iraq.

"He wanted to be there, and he wanted people to be proud of him," she said.

His mother, Wendy Billings of Naches, said Dustin had been planning to come home in September for a possible six-month stay. He intended to marry a girlfriend in California, relatives said.

From 1 Marine Expeditionary Force marines.mil 06/04/04:

Sides 'loved to make you smile'
By Sgt. Colin Wyers | | June 04, 2004
CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq -- Lance Cpl. Dustin L. Sides, a motor transportation operator with 9th Communications Battalion, I Marine Expeditionary Force, was honored at a memorial service June 4 at the Camp Fallujah Chapel. 

The 22-year-old Yakima, Wash., native was killed May 31 when the convoy in which he was riding struck a homemade, roadside bomb when returning from Al Asad. 

"It's just one of these things where you start out in a lot of denial and you just can't believe it," his stepfather, Paul Billings, told the Yakima Herald-Republic. 

Cmdr. Emilio Marrero, the I Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group chaplain, shared a story he had heard from Marines who knew Sides. 

"He went to a club and overheard someone talking of beating a young lady," he said. "Through that night he kept an eye on her, and when they left, he followed her to make sure nothing happened to her. And those assailants came out of the woodwork and they attempted to attack her, and he put himself between her and the assailants and he took the blunt of a bottle across his back. This, to help a totally perfect stranger." 

Sides showed the same kind of devotion to his fellow Marines after being offered the position of headquarters commandant. 

"Sides was nominated to go take that job, and he took it, and he did it," said Maj. Charles S. Morrow, the commanding officer of Service Company, 9th Comm. Bn. "And he only had one request - that, 'if convoys go out, I still want to be on them.' He wanted to be with his motor-T Marines on convoys. That's all he asked." 

Sides' talents in motor transportation were many, including the ability to operate the 7-ton wrecker. It was this special skill Sides possessed that landed him the job of towing a disabled 7-ton truck back from Al Asad, when his vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device. 

"He was in the middle of the convoy when the blast went and it sent the vehicle airborne," said Lance Cpl. Brain M. Overbey, one of his fellow motor-T operators at 9th Comm. 

During the ceremony, Sides' friends told stories about him, occasionally smiling while recounting their memories. 

"They tell us as NCOs to watch out for our Marines, to take care of them," said Cpl. Stephen R. Vandecoevering. "With Sides, that was no exception, except for one. He looked after me, too, and took care of me. I ran into him out in a bar one night, and needless to say, I had a little bit to drink. He made sure I was alright, stuck with me the whole night, and made sure I got home." 

What came through the testimonials was the sense of joy that he brought into the lives he touched. 

"He loved to make you smile, even if he was having a bad day himself," Lance Cpl. David L. Gerstenberg said with a small chuckle. "He was always ready to have fun any time of the day. Treated all people like equals, no matter what. A couple of times, I took him out for the weekend, and he stayed at my place. Every time I woke up in the morning, he had already made breakfast - mostly for himself, but he saved me some. And he said, 'Thanks for getting me out of the barracks, you know, same old routine.'" 

At the podium, choking back tears herself as many of her fellow Marines were, Lt. Col. Loretta Reynolds, the battalion's commanding officer, spoke of their shared sense of loss. 

"I am proud to have served with Lance Corporal Dustin Lee Sides," said Reynolds. "I am in awe of his courage, and his sacrifice, and of yours."

From The Seattle PI seattlepi.com  06/02/04:

Marine from Yakima killed in Iraq ambush
Lance Cpl. Dustin Lee Sides had plans to marry

SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER STAFF AND NEWS SERVICES
Published 10:00 pm, Wednesday, June 2, 2004
Marine Lance Cpl. Dustin Lee Sides, 22, of Yakima became the 10th member of the armed forces with ties to Washington state to die in May when he was killed Sunday night in an ambush near Fallujah.

Sides, who had told his family that he was looking forward to coming home and marrying his girlfriend, was the second Marine from the state to die in as many days, becoming the latest casualty during the bloodiest month the state has seen thus far since the start of the war in Iraq.

Sides' death follows that of Marine Pfc. Cody S. Calavan, 19, of Lake Stevens.

Calavan, a machine gunner with the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, based in Camp Pendleton, Calif., was killed Saturday in combat in Al Anbar province, Iraq, the Marines announced Tuesday.

Sides, a 2001 graduate of Yakima Alternative School, was a wrecker driver assigned to the 9th Communications Battalion, also based at Camp Pendleton.

His stepmother, Nancy Sides, told the Yakima Herald-Republic that a team of Marine sergeants notified the family of the death at their Yakima Valley home about 1 a.m. Tuesday.

Sides joined the Marines about a year ago, following in the footsteps of his older brother, Derek, and a cousin.

"That's what they are trained to do. He was proud to be there, proud to be a Marine -- and we are proud of him," Nancy Sides said.

His father, John Sides, said he spoke with his son by satellite phone just two hours before his death. Although he wasn't able to divulge details, Sides said he had just completed a mission and was on his way back to base.

His mother, Wendy Billings of Naches, north of Yakima, said Sides had been planning to come home in September for a possible six-month stay.

As of yesterday, 813 U.S. service members had died since the beginning of military operations in Iraq last year, according to the Defense Department.

Since May 1, 2003, when President Bush declared that major combat operations in Iraq had ended, 675 U.S. soldiers have died.

 

 

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