Marine Sgt. Jeffrey Lynn Kirk was just 24 years old when he died in 2004 — while serving during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Now, the fallen hero is being honored in a very special way by a university in his hometown.
When Jeffrey was considering enlisting in the armed forces as a student at McKinley High School in Baton Rouge, his mother warned him of the possibility of dying in combat. But the young man replied: “he would die doing what he wanted to do with his life.”
During his six-year military career, Kirk was awarded the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon and the National Defense Service Medal, according to the Marine Corps.
Kirk was posthumously awarded the Silver Star and the Purple Heart with oak leaf cluster.
Kirk’s father says his son rose through the ranks to become a platoon sergeant in the Marines’ Special Forces anti-terrorism security team, known as Fast Company. After the Sept. 11 attacks, he requested a transfer to an infantry unit to serve in Iraq, Peter Kirk said.
After being wounded once in the line of duty, Kirk asked to be sent back, family members said.
He was killed by enemy fire during “security and stabilization operations” in Anbar province, Iraq. According to the DOD, he was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, based at Camp Pendleton, Calif.
Lisa Kirk said her older son, who always had an interest in art and poetry in high school, graduated with honors. He had planned to enter the military even before graduation. “He wanted to be a Marine,” she said.
Master Sgt. Forrester Goodrich, who helped recruit Kirk into the Marines in high school, said he hopes his sons will share many of the qualities Kirk possessed.
At the time of his death, Kirk had been married to “the love of his life” Carly, for just under a year. Benjamin Kirk was only 10 years old when his older brother died. This past May, Benjamin graduated from SLU with a degree in accounting.
Kirk’s parents and brother Benjamin are all Southeastern Louisiana University alumni.
The Editor-in-Chief of the 2015 edition of the university’s student yearbook, talked about having difficulties finding artwork of a lion for the cover.
That’s when Lisa Kirk knew she had to find Jeffery’s drawing.
“I didn’t know if she would use it, but I said, ‘If you want it, it’s yours.’ It was like it was meant to be. It was fate.”
The artwork was “exactly” what the editor-in-chief had envisioned for the cover.
“It made me feel proud to know that I’ll be able to look at it in the future, and it will have the good memories of my college experience and of my brother,” Benjamin told the Advocate.
“It took on a new meaning for me to see the artwork on my senior yearbook,” he said.
Shortly after Kirk’s death, his best friend Marine Sgt. T.J. Palmer recalled their favorite quote from President Reagan: “Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they’ve made a difference. The Marines don’t have that problem.”
During the memorial service for Kirk at Florida Boulevard Baptist Church, the Rev. Louis Boyd said: “How long does a road have to be before a road is really notable? How many years do you have to live to make an impact in the world? …In 24 years, somehow he had an impact in your life.”
Boyd said Kirk also personified the values that he had tattooed on his body: “honor, courage, intensity and fierce bravery.”
“He was truly dedicated to what he was doing,” Lisa Kirk said.