Michael Harvey III sleeps peacefully under his father’s memorial, Sgt. Michael H. Ferschke Jr.,
CAMP SCHWAB, Okinawa (March 6, 2009) — Sgt. Michael H. Ferschke Jr. was always surrounded by family. He was close to his mother, father, brother and sister who live in Knoxville, Tenn.
He was starting his own family with his wife Hotaru Ferschke in Okinawa. Together they had one son, Michael Harvey III. He was also surrounded by his Marine Corps family, even in death as he saved them by drawing enemy fire onto himself while they cleared a house in Anbar Province, Iraq, Aug. 10.
On Feb. 20, Ferschke’s family came together for a memorial service at the Camp Schwab Chapel to honor their son, brother, husband, father and friend.
People filled every pew and the walls were lined with Marines.
Ferschke’s memorial service showcased the camaraderie of 3rd Marine Division’s 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion. The unit cohesion Ferschke shared with his Marines in life, was evident in his death.
“The reason Reconnaissance Marines have such a strong brotherhood is the time and adversity they share,” said 1st Sgt. Allan Castellanos, the company first sergeant for Company A, 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion. “With these Marines, it’s never above or below, it’s always right next to.”
Ferschke never felt the need to boast about being in a reconnaissance unit to feel unique, Castellanos said. It was enough satisfaction for him to do his job efficiently and effectively.
Ferschke viewed his first sergeant as a guidance counselor and fostered a trusting bond during the course of their year-long relationship.
“We never had a leader - subordinate relationship. I was his mentor,” said Castellanos, who went on to say he will always remember Ferschke as a funny guy to be around.
Ferschke’s biological family, who made their way from Tennessee, were also in attendance.
Ferschke’s mother, dressed in a black pantsuit, and his father in a gray sport coat and black slacks, stood out in a sea of green camouflage utilities. But they shared a common bond with the Marines. They all loved Ferschke. At times, some of them could not hold back the tears.
However, his family and his fellow Marines also shared in a few laughs. Some of the Marines in attendance recounted memories of their experiences with Ferschke that brought out chuckles from Ferschke’s mother, and father, who the recon Marines affectionately nicknamed - “Momma” and “Papa” Ferschke.
“The help Marines give us fills the hole in our hearts,” said Robin Ferschke, Michael’s mother.
Ferschke’s wife Hotaru and infant son Michael Harvey III attended the memoriam. Michael slept and Hotaru was stoic as the Marines honored their comrade and friend.
The Marine Corps first brought Ferschke and Hotaru together on Okinawa.
During their courtship the two made plans to marry after Ferschke returned from a deployment to Iraq.
During the deployment, the couple discovered they were going to become parents.
They were married in a proxy ceremony in early July, and Hotaru gave birth to Michael in early January.
During the memorial service, and at the lunch afterward, Marines showed their soft sides by taking turns looking after their fellow Marine’s son.
At the end of the ceremony, every Marine in the chapel formed a single file line behind the Ferschke family to take a knee in front of the traditional military memorial of an inverted rifle with bayonet attached, a pair of combat boots at the position of attention, a set of dog tags hanging from the rifle’s hand grip and a helmet resting on the rifle’s butt stock; a symbol most commonly known as a battlefield cross.
It is also symbolic of the respect for a brother, son, husband and Marine who gave his life for them.
Baby Michael slept throughout the ceremony. He slept through the memoriam and the luncheon that followed.
Robin noticed this as both she and Hotaru watched Michael sleeping in his carrier.
“He sleeps just like his father,” Robin said.
Hotaru let out a giggle.