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Mom's Moving Memorial to a Marine Son

The slain serviceman and nine comrades are remembered on a specially painted Hummer.

Comfort said her Hummer memorial is a way of coping with the grief over the loss of her son on Dec. 1. (Glenn Koenig/LAT)

By Tony Perry
Times Staff Writer

March 3, 2006

CAMP PENDLETON ' When her son joined the Marine Corps, Karla Comfort took to wearing a green USMC sweatshirt.

Barely a year later, on Dec. 1, Lance Cpl. John Holmason, 20, was killed along with nine other Marines by an insurgent bomb outside Fallouja.

Comfort has now found a new way to show love and support for her son ' an Eagle Scout, golfer and fisherman who joined the Marines and became a "grunt" despite his family's misgivings.

She commissioned an Arkansas artist to paint pictures of the 10 Marines, as well as patriotic scenes and slogans, on her 2006 Hummer, the midsized H3 model.

On Thursday, she brought the vehicle to Camp Pendleton on a journey from Arkansas to Oregon, where her ex-husband lives and their son is buried.

Comfort, 39, a dermatology technician, says she has been touched by sympathetic gestures from motorists.

"I just want to tell people that these boys are doing something honorable, whether you agree with the war or not," she said, her voice wavering. "I don't want them to forget these boys ' not ever."

The faces and names of the Marines killed are part of the design by artist R. Powell of Benton, Ark., who did the work without pay.

The Marines, members of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Regiment, Marine division, based at Twentynine Palms, died when a bomb exploded after a promotion ceremony at an abandoned flour mill controlled by Marines. How the bomb was overlooked during a sweep of the area remains a mystery.

Comfort said she got the idea for an automotive memorial after seeing something similar for Vietnam veterans.

It's her way of coping with the grief that started with a knock on the door at 3 a.m. by Marines bringing her the awful news.

Holmason was just weeks away from completing his tour. His letter announcing his departure date arrived a day before his death.

Three months later, the sense of unreality remains. "I still feel he's coming home, it's so hard to grasp," she said.

Even with the memorial there are dark days. "You wake up and try to find a reason to go on," she said. "There are days you don't want to get off the couch."

When her son was killed, Comfort had lived in Farmington, Mich., for five years but has since returned to Scappoose, Ore., to be near his grave.

"I can't imagine not thinking about him every day," she said. "I need to be close to him, to take flowers to his grave, to make him part of my life."

At Camp Pendleton, which has had more personnel killed in Iraq than any other U.S. military base, Marines and family members were drawn to the Hummer.

"A lot of people seem to forget the fallen and doubt their ability to do things," said Nancy Beamer, whose husband is in Iraq for his second tour. "They should never be forgotten or looked down on."

 


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