Marine Lance Corporal Christopher Blake Rodgers
May 4, 1990 September 1, 2010
Lance Corporal Christopher Blake Rodgers, 20, United States Marine Corps, beloved son, brother, grandson, cousin, nephew and friend, was killed in action on September 1, 2010 in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. He was 20 years old.
Christopher, or Blake as he was known to family and friends, was a lifelong Griffinite, having been born here on May 4, 1990; a birthday, May 4th, that he shares with his Father, Chris Rodgers. Blake attended Crescent Elementary School and Taylor Street Middle School before graduating from Spalding High School as a member of the Class of 2008.
As a child Blake was a builder; a builder of anything his vivid young imagination could conjure up – houses, buildings, ships, planes, you name it and Blake built it with his trusty Legos. As he grew older Blake took up baseball and played on several youth league teams. He enjoyed camping, hunting, fishing, paintball, airsoft, shooting and just hanging out with his friends. He was a highly accomplished artist. Blake was also an authority on aircraft, a passion he indulged through reading, building models, drawing aircraft, visiting airports and attending air shows. It wouldn’t have been difficult to imagine him as a fighter pilot or aeronautical engineer.
All that changed though on September 11, 2001, when Blake, then 11 years old, witnessed with horror and disbelief as airplanes were used as suicide weapons, to attack his people and his country; the United States of America. He sat in his living room and cried. It was on that day that Blake told his parents he wanted to help; that he wanted to serve and that he wanted to be a Marine. Having made that decision, even at so early an age, Blake set out to make himself as knowledgeable about being a Marine as he had earlier been about his beloved aircraft. He read, studied and played video game simulations in an attempt to glean information about weapons, strategy and tactics. He learned to shoot and became extremely proficient at it. He enrolled in the Spalding High School JROTC’s Jaguar Battalion and rose to the rank of First Lieutenant. While serving in his capacity as a Platoon Leader in Bravo Company he helped his cadets and their Company in winning the year’s Best Marching Company award. But it was his membership in the Battalion’s Raider Competition Team that meant the most to him. The Raiders were his friends and his brothers, particularly Mikel Parish, Josh Harp and his cousin and lifelong best friend, Johnny Lowrimore. These four young men, the Team’s top four competitors, constituted the bulk of the Jaguar’s competitive “muscle”. A grueling combination of endurance racing, orienteering, cross country running, simulated rescue operations, fitness testing, strength and agility courses, rope bridge building, field problem solving and team building exercises, a Raider competition is designed to last an entire day or longer and to test the very limits of the competitors’ mettle. Blake and the rest of the “Four Amigos” as they were known, relished the challenges and willingly took them on at competitions throughout Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee.
Blake graduated from High School in May of 2008 and enlisted in the Marine Corps in July. In October 2008 he left home for the first time, enroute to what is universally acknowledged to be THE most demanding, arduous and intensive Basic Training the US military has to offer; The Marine Recruit Depot – Parris Island, South Carolina and Marine Boot Camp. Almost immediately Blake began to excel, culminating with his selection as his Recruit Platoon’s Distinguished High Scoring Marksman. As one might imagine, in a branch of the military service wherein all Marines are riflemen first and anything else secondarily, earning the Expert Rifleman Badge is an accomplishment truly worthy of praise. Blake wore his with pride. His acknowledged marksmanship prowess notwithstanding, no one, no matter how fit, how smart or how gifted with a rifle, ever becomes a United States Marine without first having endured an ordeal dubbed The Crucible.
The Crucible is a 54 hour marathon of fatigue, sleep deprivation and limited rations designed to push the recruits far beyond their personal limits of performance and thereby expose the true “don’t quit, never give up” attitude and Marine spirit within them. Coupled with the running, forced road marches with heavy packs, and the constant barrage of simulated attacks, field problem solving and team and leadership building exercises, it is in The Crucible that all the training they have received, all the skills they have developed, are put to the test. It is there, in those seemingly unending hours of hell on earth, that the recruit proves, not so much to the instructors, but much more importantly, to himself, that he is worthy of being a United States Marine.
That vital self affirmation was memorialized in the small, desert camo New Testament that Blake carried during Boot Camp; where the quote, “I will never give up, never give in. Take it as it comes and grow stronger” was written in his hand, on its inside front cover. The meaning and the rewards that phrase portended were forever etched into Blake’s mind when on a cold Saturday morning in January 2009, following The Crucible’s final nine mile road march, he officially shed the moniker “Recruit Rodgers”, in what is known as the Eagle Globe and Anchor (or EGA) ceremony. The most sacred of all of Boot Camp’s coming of age evolutions, it was there, in that ceremony, having survived 13 weeks of Basic Training’s and The Crucible’s many tests, that Blake and his fellow recruits were, for the VERY FIRST TIME, deemed worthy of being called MARINES. It was there, that all his pain and suffering, all his fear and thoughts of self doubt, all the bone numbing fatigue, instantly vanished, as the most sacrosanct symbol of who he now was, the Marine Corps’ Eagle, Globe and Anchor insignia, was placed in his open right hand and he heard from his Drill Instructor the words “Congratulations Marine”. At that point, that moment in time, Christopher Blake Rodgers had achieved his goal; a goal he had harbored and single mindedly pursued since that fateful day in 2001 he had become a United States Marine! So moving was that ceremony, so overwhelming the sense of life changing accomplishment, that Blake openly wept. He was forever transformed. As evidence of and testimony to the power of that day, that feeling of a dream come true, his Mom and Dad still have, wrapped in tissue paper by Blake’s own hands, that first Eagle, Globe and Anchor the very one he had received on that day of days. That tiny piece of black painted metal meant the world to him. It was then and is now, emblematic of who he was, what he had become and who he will always be…for once a Marine, ALWAYS a Marine!
Upon graduating from Boot Camp on January 16, 2009, with the rank of Private First Class, Blake moved on to the SOI (School of Infantry) at Camp Geiger, NC. While there he was recognized for his use of “novel” strategies and tactics in leading his assault team in overtaking a position held by members of the instructor cadre. The surprised and dumbfounded instructors upon being overrun by Blake’s team, asked where he had learned those techniques. Blake’s reply was that he had devised them during his days of playing paintball and “Navy Squeals” (a takeoff on the movie Navy SEALS) with his cousins and friends. So impressed with his methods were the staff, that Blake’s techniques are now taught to other Marines as part of the curriculum there. His demonstrated marksmanship skills and unique tactical abilities were rewarded yet again when received an invitation to attend perhaps the most highly sought after and most coveted assignment any enlisted Marine could hope for; Marine Scout Sniper Training. Though among the highest of compliments that can be paid to any Marine, much less a new Marine, Blake opted to turn down the Scout Sniper training until such time as he had had the opportunity to complete his first combat tour.
His training in the art of war continued at his home base, Camp Lejeune, NC where he was assigned as a Rifleman and member of First Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, Regimental Combat Team 2, 1 Marine Expeditionary Force Forward. During his stay at Lejeune Blake was promoted, on July 1, 2009, to the rank of Lance Corporal; he was due for advancement to Corporal upon his return from Afghanistan.
His Unit was away from NC for the bulk of late 2009 and early 2010, on training missions and pre-deployment “work ups” designed to prepare them for the war they would soon be fighting. They participated in Advanced Viper Pre-Deployment Training in the Mojave Desert, in conjunction with instructors and troops from Camp Pendleton and 29 Palms, California. Additional training was undertaken in MOUT (Military Urban Operations Training) at Virginia’s Fort Pickett and in Yuma, Arizona.
He deployed to Afghanistan in March 2010 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. His first and only combat tour ended on September 1, 2010, when at approximately 11:00 AM Afghanistan time, he was shot and killed while on patrol in the Helmand Province of Southwestern Afghanistan.
His decorations include (but are not limited to): National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, NATO Medal, NATO International Security Assistance Force Afghanistan Medal, Purple Heart Medal, Sea Service Medal and Combat Action Medal. Other decorations are pending authority for award.
Blake Rodgers was a warm, kind, caring and considerate young man. He was polite, respectful and mindful of others. Quick to volunteer and to help, he was also a thoughtful planner and facilitator. Oftentimes the first to lavish others with praise and compliments, he was always reluctant to accept them for himself. His innovative, never quit attitude and infectious sense of humor made him a natural leader. He was greatly loved and will be sorely missed by all who knew him as well as those who only knew of him. Our lives, our community, our Nation and the World as a whole have suffered a tremendous loss with his passing. While young men with his deeply ingrained and sincerely held beliefs in things like faith, duty, honor, courage, responsibility, and accountability at times seem few and far between, Blake exemplified desire, honesty, hard work and dedication. He loved being an American, he loved being a Marine, he loved HIS Marine Corps. Though not always easy and at times an outright struggle, he succeeded where many others have failed; he fulfilled his dream!
Try as you might, you will never find even a single person with a bad word to say about this fine young man. He was without question THE most selfless person I have ever known. His life, though cut so tragically short, filled the hearts, minds and souls of so many others with funny, wonderful and touching “Blake Rodgers Stories”. Had he been here to witness his own return to Griffin and the unbelievable outpouring of sympathy and support, he would have been speechless. He would never have thought that it was for him or that he was deserving of such a display. He would probably have joked and said something like “Who’s all THIS for? Looks like some kind of hero is coming home or something”.
Marine Lance Corporal Christopher Blake Rodgers died doing what he loved; for those he loved; with those he loved as brothers at his side; in harm’s way; in a land far away. We can never and will never forget his sacrifice. His passing marks the extinguishing of a candle of hope; a shooting star streaking so fleetingly across the dark night sky; the sacrifice of a young and promising life; the ultimate sacrifice made for us and for others. So YES, Christopher Blake Rodgers, USMC, Griffin DID have a HERO come home yesterday and that hero .OUR hero was YOU!
We love you, we miss you and we THANK you .SEMPER FIDELIS, MARINE and God Bless!
Survivors include his Parents, Chris and Jane Rodgers and his sister, Emily Rodgers of Griffin; Grandparents, Paul & Velma Pierce and the late John T. (Jack) Lowrimore and Joyce Lowrimore of Griffin and Edwin and Zaretta Rodgers of Concord, GA; Uncle John Lowrimore of Griffin; Uncle Mark & Aunt Laura Rodgers of Riverview, FL; Uncle Jim & Aunt Laverne Lowrimore of Portsmouth, Rhode Island; Uncle Bob and Aunt Sharon Williams of Marietta, GA and Uncles Tony Rodgers and Derrick Rodgers, both of Griffin ; First Cousins, Tiffany Rodgers, Jessica Rodgers and Drew Rodgers of Griffin; Samantha Lowrimore and Johnny Lowrimore of Griffin; Ashley Waldecker and Gabriel Rodgers of Riverview, FL; Phillip Lowrimore, Andrew Lowrimore and Eve Lowrimore of Portsmouth, Rhode Island and Amelia and Bradford Williams of Marietta, GA. Marine Lance Corporal Christopher Blake Rodgers will be laid to rest on Saturday, September 11, 2010; a date chosen to commemorate that seminal moment in history wherein the course of our Nation was forever changed in the blink of an eye; a date that so affected an eleven year old boy from Griffin, GA that he dedicated his young life to service and to righting that horrific wrong; a date that irrevocably altered his life, our lives and through his sacrifice, the lives of people he never knew.