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Sgt. Jeffery Lynn Kirk

(reprinted from the Baton Rouge Advocate, December 22, 2004)
As Marine, Kirk made a difference

U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Jeffrey Lynn Kirk, 24, lived a life that family and friends say set him apart.

The Baton Rouge native grew up wanting to be a Marine and encouraged others, including his best friend, to pursue the same path.

The young man didn’t always focus on his grades, but participated in the gifted-and-talented program at McKinley High School, where he graduated.

He loved poetry and art.

Instead of talking a lot, Kirk chose his words carefully and preferred to communicate through his actions.

On Tuesday, his family and friends gathered at Florida Boulevard Baptist Church to remember Kirk’s life – his coffin positioned in the center of the church near the altar, draped with an American flag and bathed in bright light.

Kirk’s family, including his widow Carly, sat in the front center pews of the sanctuary with rows of Marines sectioned on either side.

Marine Sgt. T.J. Palmer, Kirk’s best friend, described Kirk and himself as “strong-willed, courageous and rebellious.”At 16, Palmer said he didn’t know what he would do with his life, but Kirk changed that.

“He told me about the Marine Corps,” Palmer said. “Everything that’s important to me came from him.”

Palmer also related a favorite quote from the late President Reagan that the two men sometimes included on correspondence to each other: “Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they’ve made a difference. The Marines don’t have that problem.”

Palmer said he will always remember his best friend and the life that he led. He said that when he argues with his wife, he will remember Kirk’s love for Carly, and when he lacks the physical strength to accomplish a particular task, he will find it because of Kirk’s example.

Marine 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.

“I pray that my sons will grow up to be half the man,” Goodrich said.

Kara Root, a neighbor of Kirk and his wife, described her relationship with the couple as a “breath of fresh air.”

“It’s tough for Marines to show their love and concern for their wives around other Marines,” Root said.

She said Kirk was different.

Kirk had a fun-loving side, which was communicated by the Rev. Louis Boyd, associate pastor at Florida Boulevard Baptist Church who conducted the memorial service. Boyd said Kirk’s great sense of humor should be embraced.

Kirk loved to listen to music by Lynyrd Skynyrd, so the memorial began with the congregation listening to one of Skynyrd’s tunes, “Simple Man.”

Kirk’s favorite movie was “Tombstone,” Boyd said, and so he showed a clip.

Boyd said Kirk also personified the values that he had tattooed on his body: honor, courage, intensity and fierce bravery.

When Kirk’s mother, Lisa Kirk, warned him that he could die in combat if he enlisted in the armed forces, the young man told her if it happened, he would die doing what he wanted to do with his life.

Sgt. Kirk was killed Dec. 12, during security and stabilization operations in the Al Anbar province of Iraq. It was his second deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, based at Camp Pendleton, Calif.

“He put his life on the line for someone else and that’s why we’re here today,” Boyd said.

“How long does a road have to be before a road is really notable?” Boyd asked.

“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.”

After the service, the family filed outside – with Carly being escorted by a Marine, to watch the folding of the flag and a rifle volley.

Kirk is survived by his wife, Carly, formerly of Central; his mother and father, Lisa and Peter Kirk, and his brother Benjamin Kirk, all of Abita Springs. Through a friend, they requested privacy on Tuesday.

A private ceremony and interment will take place today at Port Hudson National Cemetery in Zachary.