Making the ultimate sacrifice

Published 8:42 am Wednesday, March 30, 2016

You may have missed it, with headlines last week focused on the attack in Brussels and the U.S. take down of a senior ISIS leader. All things considered, I suppose the death of a Marine way over in Iraq, a place where we’re not even officially engaged in combat, can’t make the headlines every day. But with this in mind, I would like to tell you a bit about Louis F. Cardin, a young American who was killed March 19 in an Islamic State rocket attack in Makhmour, a town near the hotspot of Mosul, Iraq.

Back at home, Cardin was known as “Louie,” the second-youngest of eight siblings, a military-minded guy who joined the Marines in 2006 just two days after graduating from his Temecula, California, high school. So while his former classmates moved into dorms that fall, Louis moved into a different mold — that of a field artilleryman. He was following in the footsteps of his two grandfathers and an older brother, Vincent, who told reporters that Louis would have turned 28 next month. Vincent said he and Louis had recently been messaging via Facebook about getting their mother a ring for her birthday, one containing all the siblings’ birthstones.

Mary Pat, mother of the Cardin brood, has waved away offers of condolences, preferring instead to speak of her years with Louis as a gift. She’s aware that President Obama publicly acknowledged her son’s death during his visit to Cuba, but says her Louie would have wanted the attention deflected from himself and directed instead toward his fellow Marines. That’s why the two care packages Mary Pat was preparing to send to her son — filled with desert essentials like baby wipes and over-the-calf socks — will be sent to other recipients. “That’s what he’d want,” she told The Press Enterprise, a Riverside, California, newspaper.

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As the news of Cardin’s death spread, friends paid tribute to a man known for having a quick wit, something that proved beneficial to his squad during hard times.

“Being around him in a group, you almost couldn’t be in a bad mood,” recalled James Heygster, a retired Marine who served with Cardin during two tours in Afghanistan. Others went on to describe Cardin, who rose to the rank of staff sergeant, as a guy who chose to remain in the barracks among his buddies long after he was eligible to live off-base.

“Any sergeant would want to get out of those (barracks),” commented Mitch Brown, at Marine Corps Recruiting. “But every day Cardin would walk down and spend time with anyone who’d want to talk.”

Couples in need of a date night could count on Louis to babysit, too. That doesn’t surprise Cardin’s mother, who says it was because of his friends that Louis kept enlisting. His most recent enlisted travels with Uncle Sam included stops in Spain, Greece, Italy and Israel, a stint Mary Pat calls a “respite” from the years when his service involved lots of sand and trying days that put his cheery outlook to the test. The sandy service that Cardin’s mother remembers included four tours of duty. At the time of his death, the young Marine was in the sand again. His unit had been in Iraq for about a week.

According to the Stars and Stripes, a U.S. military newspaper, Cardin was the recipient of the Presidential Unit Citation, three Afghanistan Campaign medals, an Iraq Campaign Medal and three Sea Service Deployment ribbons. A Purple Heart decoration should now be forthcoming.

Again, with all things considered, I suppose, the death of one Marine way over in Iraq shouldn’t register very high on the headline-making scale. Nope, not very high at all — unless that fallen Marine’s truck just happens to be parked next to where your son’s Silverado sits at Camp Lejeune. Then, dear readers, it rates about a 10.


Wesson resident Kim Henderson is a freelance writer who writes for The Daily Leader. Contact her at