From The Detroit News, Tuesday, March 1, 2005

Bronze Star for fallen Marine stirs proud dad
Family hears of amazing valor as they wage own fight for e-mail from Iraq.

By Jennifer Chambers / The Detroit News

WIXOM -- John Ellsworth's fight for his son's e-mails from the battlefields of Iraq rages on, but news that Justin was awarded a Bronze Star for bravery brought more pride and more tears.

"I am so proud. It almost gives me the same feeling when he left for Iraq. I was so proud of him, and I was so scared," John Ellsworth said Monday. "I do know he didn't die in vain, and he did make a difference."

Justin M. Ellsworth, a 20-year-old lance corporal, was killed Nov. 13 during a foot patrol with other Marines in Al Anbar province.

Justin's family knew few details of his death, but a letter authorizing the Bronze Star with Combat Distinguished Service revealed that Justin, whose job was to locate and destroy hidden bombs, discovered a homemade explosive that morning and moved toward the bomb to investigate it.

Discovering the device lacked wires and was likely remote-controlled, Justin warned his fellow Marines to clear the area. By the time he discovered a cell phone was attached to the device, the explosive was detonated. Justin was directly over the bomb at the time.

His effort saved the lives of 11 Marines and spared many others from more serious injuries, the military stated.

"He has set an example of courage for all to emulate that has been an inspiration for the platoon as well as his fellow Marines," the statement read.

John Ellsworth said he knew when his son enlisted that he was a special young man. "I wasn't surprised by what he did. I was surprised that the information was even made available to me. It was pretty graphic. It took me back," he said.

In December, John Ellsworth found himself in a legal battle with Internet company Yahoo! when he tried to access Justin's Yahoo! E-mail account, which contained hundreds of communications between Justin and his family and friends.

The father pleaded with the company to give him access to the account to fulfill the family's wish of knowing Justin's last words, photographs and thoughts from the front lines in Iraq. While Justin was in Iraq, he and his father discussed the large volume of e-mails Justin had in his account and how John would make copies of all the correspondence for a scrapbook.

But without the account password, which only Justin and Yahoo! know, the family's request was repeatedly denied.

Yahoo! policy calls for erasing the entire account if, after 120 days, there is no activity.

On Monday Yahoo! officials said they have taken measures to preserve Justin's e-mail account.

John Ellsworth said his attorneys are negotiating with Yahoo! to get the e-mail password released. His lawyer, Brian Dailey, refused to comment on the case, which has become a probate matter and is assigned to Oakland Probate Judge Eugene Moore.

Yahoo! spokeswoman Mary Osako said Yahoo! has been working with Ellsworth on a "shared goal of finding a mutually agreeable resolution to a complicated and, in many ways, uncharted issue."

You can reach Jennifer Chambers at (248) 647-7402 or

Last modified date and time: 03/01/2005 17:06