Joe Warren is scheduled to get on a plane in March and travel to Camp Pendleton, Calif., for the court-martial of a Marine charged in his son’s death.
But Mr. Warren isn’t counting on making that trip.
Throughout 2007, the court-martial of Cpl. Douglas Michael Sullivan was scheduled for the spring, then for the summer and twice for the fall. This year it has been set for February and now for March, said family members of Lance Cpl. Kristopher Cody Warren.
“I hate what happened, for our family and for Sullivan’s family,” said Mr. Warren, a Woodstock, Ga., resident. “I just want to get it done, get it over with. It gets my mind to wandering during the day, wondering what’s going to happen.”
Cpl. Sullivan, 23, of Essex, Mass., is accused of killing Lance Cpl. Warren, 19, with a shot to the face while the men worked in a combat operations center in Iraq in November 2006. According to information from Camp Pendleton, Cpl. Sullivan faces a maximum of 10 years in prison if convicted of culpable negligence in the death.
Lance Cpl. Warren’s mother, Robin Patterson, of Resaca, Ga., said the constant changes and waiting for the trial have been a strain.
“I can’t go on; I can’t step forward,” Mrs. Patterson said. “We can’t, as a mom and a dad and a brother and a community. I’m as far as I can go until we have closure.”
The proceeding was postponed once because of wildfires in California, which the family understood, Mrs. Warren said. It’s unclear why the trial was delayed in other cases, though they have been told this most recent rescheduling is because of difficulty getting witnesses home from Iraq, family members said.
But now that the proceeding is set for the first week of March, this is one time she is hoping for a schedule change, Mrs. Patterson said. Her birthday is March 5, one day after the court-martial is set to begin.
“I just don’t know if I can handle this on my birthday,” she said.
“Honorable and intelligent”
Lance Cpl. Warren, a 2005 graduate of Gordon Central High School in Calhoun, Ga., spent his 18th birthday at Marine Corps boot camp and his 19th birthday in training for deployment to Iraq.
He wanted to go, his family said, because he wanted to do something meaningful. He arrived in the war zone in September 2006.
“He was all about helping people,” said the Marine’s brother, Ethan Warren, 16.
Lance Cpl. Warren worked as a radio operator in the Combat Operations Center at Forward Operating Base Trebil in western Iraq. He created a quicker radio check system so outside units more easily could call in, according to a letter to Lance Cpl. Warren’s parents from his platoon commander, 2nd Lt. Vince Ferrito.
“He was an honorable and intelligent Marine who kept others safe by being so good at his job,” 2nd Lt. Ferrito wrote.
On Nov. 9, just before midnight Iraq time, Lance Cpl. Warren and Cpl. Sullivan were completing a shift in the operations center, according to a stipulation of fact document signed by Cpl. Sullivan. According to the document, Cpl. Sullivan picked up another Marine’s rifle from a rack, took the weapon off safety, sighted the scope on Lance Cpl. Warren’s face and pulled the trigger.
“When the weapon fired it completely shocked me,” Cpl. Sullivan said in the statement. “I did not intend to shoot Lance Cpl. Warren. Lance Cpl. Warren and I were close friends.”
When the document, signed in August, arrived in the mail at the Warrens’ home in Woodstock, they added it to the stack of paperwork that has come to them from the Marine Corps over the past 15 months.
Mr. Warren said he does not like to read the documents too closely, and he does not let his other sons, Blake, 19, and Ethan, see them. But he does check in regularly with the prosecutor in the case, he said.
Mr. Warren called Camp Pendleton two weeks ago and was told a new prosecutor was handling the case. He left a message and spent a week waiting for a return call.
“I told him it just doesn’t seem like Cody’s important to anyone out there,” Mr. Warren said.
Military attorneys for the defense and prosecution at Camp Pendleton did not return calls for comment.
“We haven’t forgotten”
It does not surprise Gordon Central chorus teacher Kim Watters to hear that her former student excelled at his work as a Marine. A talented musician and singer, Lance Cpl. Warren was a natural leader, she said.
“He was such an incredible young man,” she said. “He had so much talent, so many abilities.”
And he would not have wanted his family to be angry at the Marine accused in his death, Mr. Warren said.
“I don’t hate the kid,” he said. “That’s going to get me nowhere, and Cody wouldn’t want that. But he does need to be held accountable.”
Lance Cpl. Warren and his father talked a few times, briefly, about how he wanted his affairs handled if he died in Iraq. He wanted his life insurance to go for his brothers’ education, he told his father. But they never had as deep a conversation as they should have, Mr. Warren said.
“We would talk about it, but I would say, ‘Nothing’s going to happen, there’s no sense in talking about that,’” Mr. Warren said.
Lance Cpl. Warren is buried at Georgia National Cemetery in Canton. The 775-acre site just north of the Warrens’ home in Woodstock opened in April 2006.
Though his son never managed to visit the rolling, windswept cemetery, he told his father that he hoped one day to be buried there. Seven months after the cemetery opened, he was.
Joe Warren and his wife, Becky, go every weekend to the cemetery, where his family chose a burial site for Lance Cpl. Warren just behind that of another young Marine killed in Iraq. They have tried to cut back to visiting every other weekend, but so far haven’t been able to do it, Mr. Warren said.
They come regardless of the weather, and they stood Saturday in a strong, cold wind next to the white headstone.
“I want him to know we haven’t forgotten about him,” Mr. Warren said, bending to straighten the American flag next to his son’s grave.
Lance Cpl. Kristopher Cody Warren, a 19-year-old Marine from Calhoun, Ga., was killed in November 2006 while serving in Iraq. A Marine from Massachusetts has been charged in his death. Now the Marine’s parents, including father, Joe, and stepmother, Becky, are waiting to attend a California court-martial scheduled in the case. The court-martial has been postponed several times.