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Local Marine killed in Iraq
ARLINGTON He said, Live life to the fullest, and, Put the pedal to the metal, said Terry OToole, grandfather of Marine Lance Cpl. Shawn Starkovich. By God, thats what he did.
The Starkovich family had an impromptu reunion July 20, as Shawns parents, grandparents, aunt, sister and best friend gathered to remember the Marine, who was killed July 17 in Al Anbar province of Iraq. The cause of his death is still under investigation, according to the Marine Corps.
Shawn Starkovich was a field communications specialist assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment. His outfit was part of the 1st Marine Division, which now is deployed with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit. His unit is based at Camp Pendleton, Calif.
The 20-year-old, who attended Marysville-Pilchuck High School but graduated early from Arlington High School in 2005, signed up for the Marine Corps before his 18th birthday. Kelly Starkovich, his mother, was hesitant to allow him to join, but she was won over by his commitment to the Corps.
He was a dreamer, Kelly said. He used to move on to something new every two weeks, but once he started looking into the Marines, it was all he talked about. We had to sign for him, but he was so passionate about it.
Vince and Kay Starkovich, Shawns grandparents, admitted that theyd tried to talk him into the Coast Guard, but Chentelle Smith, his best friend, recalled that Shawn had preferred the brotherhood he saw in the Corps.
Even off base, they look out for each other, said Chentelle, 19, who met Shawn in high school and was reunited with him in California where he was stationed and she was attending college. When Shawn saw a Marine drunk out on town, he wrestled him into a cab and gave the driver $50. Marines dont want to see each other get in trouble.
Chentelle shared his familys view that the Corps started changing Shawn in boot camp.
He was so proud of the weight hed gained, Chentelle said. Because they wanted him to bulk up, he had to eat twice as much as the other recruits in the same amount of time.
He left my little brother and came back a man, said Jamie Murray, Shawns older sister by three years. He wasnt even the same guy.
Jamie nonetheless agreed with her family that her brothers best characteristics as a civilian remained intact as a Marine.
He could drive anything, said Jamie, who added that he loved being an uncle to her daughter. He loved life so much that you couldnt help but smile around him, and the Marine Corps brought that out even more.
He didnt need nice things to be happy, Chentelle said. He was about experiences. Instead of saying, Lets go shopping, hed say, Lets get lost somewhere.
Kelly noted that the Corps helped Shawn get over his shyness, but she conceded that he still wasnt much for phone conversations. However, she took pride in the fact that she and her son traded e-mails on an almost daily basis.
There were things he didnt share with me, so his mother wouldnt worry, Kelly said. There are these lists of what you can and cant send troops, and while you cant send chocolate bars, I found out that you can send chocolate pudding. I still have a package of snack packs left to send, but I guess Ill send those to his friends now.
Vince was grateful for the time he spent hiking and fishing with his grandson, while his wife Kay appreciated the time Shawn spent working in her garden. Jim Starkovich, Shawns father, expressed amazement that his son never wrecked the car, even though his driving habits tended toward the adventurous.
He beat me in autocross racing when he was 16, Jim said. He was very proud of that. Being stationed in Iraq was another new experience for him, so he made the best of those conditions that he could.
If he hadnt gone to Iraq, he would have considered it all wasted, Kelly said. He was so proud to be a Marine.
Shawn Starkovich will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., as per his wishes.