Family of fallen Marine remember son's sacrifice - WNEM TV 5

Family of fallen Marine remember son's sacrifice

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On Memorial Day, the nation honors the shared sacrifice of so many men and women who laid down their lives for our freedoms, but not all those deaths happened in combat.

A Murfreesboro family is honoring their son who died in training while on American soil.

Wayne Gearheart's father was a World War II veteran. Wayne served during Vietnam, and he and his wife, Brenda, had four sons.

One of them, Lance Cpl. Ben Gearheart, decided to follow in his family's footsteps and join the military.

He was a wrestler, a writer, a movie buff and comedian.

"He could imitate people to no end," Wayne Gearheart said.

His family says Ben Gearheart always looked after the underdog and lived to make people laugh.

"Sometimes I wouldn't laugh, because I didn't think it was the right thing to do at that time, but inside I was just dying," Wayne Gearheart said.

Ben Gearheart joined the Marines soon after graduating from Page High School. He deployed to Kuwait and then returned.

It was August 1997 when his mother got a knock on the door. There had been a training accident at Camp Pendleton in California. Ben Gearheart was among four people inside a light-armored vehicle that fell from a 20-foot mountainside cliff.

"Having him die on American soil is tough," Wayne Gearheart said.

"The feelings I remember are his warm hugs and his infectious smile," Brenda Gearheart said.

Ben Gearheart's legacy lives on. A bridge in Franklin now carries his name, and Gov. Bill Haslam handed the Gearhearts a proclamation in his honor on behalf of all those who have lost daughters and sons in the service of our country.

Now, as many Americans enjoy time and fun with family, the Gearhearts will, too.

"It's what we do in America. We celebrate," Wayne Gearheart said.

But they ask that at some point, you take a moment and remember who gave you the right.

"If not for our military, we'd be in a third-world country right now," Wayne Gearheart said. "People need to pause and remember."

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