Marlin Rockhold-“Rocko” to his family and friends-was born in Hamilton, OH, on July 1, 1979. He attended school in Butler County and graduated from Hamilton High School in 1998, where he was a well-liked student and member of the Hamilton Big Blue football squad. As his grandmother, Eileen Henderson, described, “Marlin just about always had a smile. He was a person you just had to like.”
Though a kidder growing up, Marlin also had a quiet, determined, serious side. After graduation, he set out to realize a dream-a dream he had since childhood. Marlin Rockhold’s dream, was to join the military. From the time he was a little boy, he wanted to become a soldier. He wanted to see the world. He wanted to see a life outside of Hamilton. He wanted to serve the country he so dearly loved.
And so, on March 4, 2002, Marlin joined the Army and was sent to Boot Camp at Fort Benning, GA. From there, he was stationed at Fort Stewart, GA. On January 20, 2003, he was sent to Kuwait and eventually went on to serve in Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Mr. President, for as much as Marlin Rockhold loved the Army, he loved his family even more. In fact, two days before he joined the service, on March 2, 2002, he married the love of his life, DaVonna. Marlin was thrilled to begin his family with her and her daughter, Therashia. He loved them both with every ounce of his being. They meant the world to him. He devoted his life to them.
While he was in Iraq, Marlin often wrote letters to his wife and his family. In one letter to his grandmother, he wrote that no one wants to fight a war, but sometimes you do what you have to do.
Through his service in the Army, PFC Marlin Rockhold was doing what he believed in. He didn’t want to leave his family. He didn’t want to fight a war. But Marlin Rockhold did what he felt he had to do. As Rev. Lonnie Napier said at Marlin’s memorial service:
He was willing to join the fight for the hopeless so that they might be free.
Marlin Rockhold was a good soldier. He was a good man. Marlin’s sister Brooke said he “always was determined to be happy. Now he’s with the Lord. He’s happy.”
I attended Marlin’s funeral, and I am grateful to have had the chance to hear his family talk about the “Rocko” they so deeply loved and admired. At the service, Marlin’s brother Derrick said:
My brother is a hero, my hero, our hero. He is my inspiration. My brother’s legacy will live forever in our hearts.
Without question, Marlin Rockhold is a hero, and his legacy will live on through all who knew him and loved him.
In addition to his wife and daughter, left to cherish his memory are his mother Mary, his father Gary, his stepmother Joan, his grandmother Eileen, his four brothers, Keith, Derrick, Gregory, and Anton, his two sisters, Brooke and Kara, his in-laws Dorothy and Clarence and Demery and Patricia, and several aunts and uncles and nieces and nephews.
I know they will miss Marlin deeply. My thoughts and prayers are with them all.
I would like to close with something Marlin’s wife Davonna said. She said this:
I just want Marlin to be remembered-that he [won’t] be forgotten. I’ll never forget him.
We, too, will never forget Marlin Rockhold. We will always remember him because, as President Reagan said at the conclusion of his remarks at Arlington National Cemetery on that Veterans Day 17 years ago:
We owe a debt we can never repay. All we can do is remember [the soldiers who have died] and what they did and why they had to be brave for us. All we can do is try to see that other young men and women never have to join them.