Bronze Star goes to self-sacrificing engineer

Sgt. Luis R. Agostini

Lance Cpl. Justin M. Ellsworth was a fun-loving "cowboy" with a hard-as-nails work ethic who bore the brunt of an enemy mine so others could live. That's how combat engineers from Company C, 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Force Service Support Group, remember Ellsworth.

Ellsworth was memorialized and posthumously awarded the Bronze Star with the Combat Distinguishing Device Friday just a short walk from his old barracks on Mainside.

Ellsworth's parents, John and Debbie, from Wixom, Mich., accepted the award from Maj. Matthew N. Hess, Ellsworth's company commander, and met the Marines who served alongside their son in Iraq.

Ellsworth, a combat engineer who served with Company C, Combat Service Support Battalion 1, 1st Force Service Support Group, was killed while conducting security and stabilization operations in Iraq's Al Anbar province. He was one of two Co. C Marines killed during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

During a Nov. 13, 2004, reconnaissance mission in Fallujah, Ellsworth, one of several combat engineers attached to 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, received an initial reading on his metal detector indicating a possible improvised explosive device. He realized the potential IED was only 50 meters away from the patrol base and that numerous Marines were nearby, according to his award citation.

Undeterred, Ellsworth confronted the threat head-on. He positively identified the location and determined it was probably a remote-controlled explosive device.He immediately warned his fellow Marines to clear the area. Seconds later, the IED detonated, killing Ellsworth, as he attempted to defuse the bomb. He absorbed the brunt of the blast - preventing further loss of life or injury while sacrificing his own life, the citation said.

The Bronze Star Medal is awarded by all branches of military service for either combat heroism or meritorious service. The bronze "V" identifies the award as resulting from an act of combat heroism or valor, distinguishing it from meritorious achievement awards.Although the Bronze Star will commemorate his bravery displayed on that fateful day in Fallujah, his fellow Marines will always remember him for his positive mental attitude and sense of humor.

"He was always smiling," said Lance Cpl. Paul D. Abdullah, 21, a combat engineer who served with Ellsworth in Iraq. "Even if you were having a bad day, there was no way you could stay mad when you were around him."

"No matter how crappy the job was, he always did it with a smile," said Lance Cpl. Andrew J. Schmidt, 20, a fellow combat engineer with Company C. "He'd come back from a recon mission with his mine detector and tell everyone how much fun he had finding a weapons cache.

"During downtime between missions in Iraq, Ellsworth shared his plans on life after the Corps."He always talked about going back home and riding horses," said Cpl. James N. Padgett, 24, a combat engineer with Company C. "He loved the ranch."This wasn't the first time Ellsworth was remembered by those who knew him well. Shortly after returning from Operation Al Fajr, his company held a memorial in Iraq, in his honor.

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Debbie and John Ellsworth grieve during a ceremony here honoring their son, Lance Cpl. Justin M. Ellsworth, a combat engineer with 7th Engineer Battalion, 1st Force Service Support Group. Ellsworth was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star for actions in Iraq Friday. Photo by Sgt. Luis R. Agostini.

Last modified date and time: 04/18/2005 20:3004/18/2005 20:47