GySgt. Herman Murkerson, Jr.
(reprinted from, October 1, 2007)

ADGER – Herman J. Murkerson Jr., 35, a Marine Corps gunnery sergeant from the Adger community in western Jefferson County, died Monday in combat in Al Anbar province, Iraq, the Marine Corps announced Tuesday.

The career Marine followed a path well-worn by generations of those in uniform. He married his high school sweetheart, joined the Corps right after graduation, and found direction in military service.

“He was more in tune with what was happening around him,” said his mother, Brenda Murkerson, recalling the change in her son after his enlistment. “He was more in tune with his family.”

Gathered at his parents’ home near the Jefferson-Tuscaloosa county line, his family wept and laughed together as they recounted stories from his childhood and tried to come to grips with their loss. He leaves behind his wife, Wendy, and three children, ages 8, 12 and 15.

Gunnery Sgt. Murkerson is the 90th service member from Alabama, and the 17th Marine with Alabama ties, to have died in the war on terror.

Gunnery Sgt. Murkerson grew up in the wooded hills near Adger, the oldest of five children. His father, Herman Murkerson Sr., described him as a fair student who loved practical jokes.

He played rough with his siblings, said his sister, Dee Musgrove, 32. But he was always the big brother, watching out for them, too.

“We had our moments. But when one of us was in trouble, he was always there,” she said.

“He helped cover it up!” said his mother, laughing through her tears.

His primary interests as a youth were hunting and fishing. He loved to fish on the Warrior River, just a couple of miles down the road, his father said. He had passed his love of the outdoors on to his children. All three, including his 8-year-old daughter Kristina, loved to go hunting with their dad. His other two children are sons, Daniel, 12, and Stephen, 15.

At Oak Grove High School, where he graduated in 1990, he met his future wife. But he found his career in the Corps. He spent 17 years in the Marines, and had planned to retire after his 20th.

After enlisting he developed a love for NASCAR and for University of Alabama football. He often came home with tickets in hand. His father reached into a curio cabinet to show a visitor an oversized souvenir bottle of Budweiser beer, bearing Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s No. 8, that he brought home to his dad.

Gunnery Sgt. Murkerson was based in Baghdad and was on his third deployment to Iraq, but he told his family little about what he did there. They knew his flak jacket was riddled with shrapnel after an incident during his second deployment, in Ramadi, but when asked for details he always said he couldn’t talk about it.

“He didn’t want to upset us,” his father said.

The Marine Corps on Tuesday released no information about the circumstances of Gunnery Sgt. Murkerson’s death.

As his family crowded into the living room of his parents’ home Tuesday, siblings living in Florida were on their way, as were his children and wife, who was arranging affairs in North Carolina.

Like many military spouses before her, Wendy Murkerson was leaning on her military family for support, Brenda Murkerson said.

Gunnery Sgt. Murkerson was assigned to Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron 2, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, II Marine Expeditionary Force at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C.