Services held for fallen Marine in Pickel Meadow |

Services held for fallen Marine in Pickel Meadow

by Jonni Hill

American flags, flown half-staff at the high school and the post office, were two of many along Highway 395 through the Walker/Coleville communities, to honor U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Phillip Allen Bocks, 28, who was returning Monday to the Mountain Warfare Training Center at Pickel Meadow, for his last tour of duty.

Bocks was killed in action during an ambush in Afghanistan’s Nuristan province along with five other Marines on Nov. 9, after meeting with village elders to make sure the villagers had enough medical supplies and food.

A memorial service took place in the Marine base theater at the training center for a standing-room-only crowd of family, friends and military personnel, who gathered to remember Bocks.

Services were led by Chaplain Wayne Hall, who remembered Bocks as a loving son and a good friend.

“This is a celebration of his character,” Hall said, “…and he was one. He loved the mountains, to ski, to be in the woods. Most of all he loved freedom and he loved the service.”

Words of remembrance were spoken by friends, Nate Trapp, Sgt. Noah Hunsaker and a special letter from Staff Sgt. Ron Forristal, still deployed in Afghanistan, which was read by Staff Sgt. Aaron Wiebusch. Memories of happier times all had a common thread as they spoke of Bocks’ request to work in the stables, how he wanted to work with the animals and use them in the rugged back country. He volunteered for training as a farrier, earning the title of “Mule Pack Master.”

“He always seemed to have a 5 o’clock shadow, even if he had just shaved, his hair may not have been cut often enough to keep his superior officers happy and his appearance may have been a little disheveled but he was always a Marine and he always got the job done.” Hunsaker said. “He was our brother and our lives are all a little richer for having known him.”

“He always spoke of his parents and how much he loved them,” Forristal’s letter read. ” He was a very focused young man who went forward with his mission without hesitation.”

A Roll Call was performed by Sgt. Maj. Michael Redmyer and as Bocks’ name was called out, echoing throughout the silent room, the only sound in the large theater was gentle sobbing, as a Marine reported Sgt. Phillip Allen Bocks, killed on the field of honor. The silence was broken by three sharp reports from a rifle and the perfect notes of “Taps.” The flag and posthumously awarded Purple Heart were accepted by his father, Kent Bocks.

“He died doing what he wanted to do,” Kent Bocks said of his only son. “It was his decision, he didn’t have to go, he felt he was where he needed to be.”

Bocks volunteered to be a member of an embedded training team, working to train the Afghan army and was deployed to Afghanistan for his second tour of duty in July.

Bocks was born March 1, 1979, in Oakland County, Mich. His family moved to Truckee from Michigan when he was in seventh grade. He attended Truckee schools until the 11th grade when he returned to Michigan and graduated from Niles Community High School. He enlisted in the Marine Corps May 9, 2000.

He survived by his father and stepmother Kent and Monica Bocks of Truckee; his mother, Peggy Bocks of Troy, Mich.; uncle Spence Bocks of Reno; cousins Mike, Gretchen, Arlo, Meagan, Ryan and Jenna Bocks, all of Reno; his grandmother Catherine Hunt of North Carolina; and other relatives.

“He will be cremated and his ashes will be scattered, half in Michigan and half in the mountains he loved so much near MWTC.” his father said.