Baldwin Remembered For Love Of Family, Country - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

12/30/04

Baldwin Remembered For Love Of Family, Country

For the first time, we heard details about Joel Baldwin's final mission. He was one of five Seabees carrying out a special operation last week in Mosul. Baldwin was the only Seabee in the mess hall last Tuesday when a suicide bomber attacked.

On Thursday, his commanding officer told mourners that Baldwin died with more dignity and honor than he could describe.

Emotional tributes to Joel Baldwin were read during the service.

NMCB 7 Commander Bret Muilenburg told Baldwin's wife and daughter, "I hope you feel the love and pride of our extended family. Never doubt for a single second the depth of your husband, your father's deep devotion to you."

The tributes were also evident on his final ride through Gulfport. American flags hung from fire department ladder trucks.

"This is the least we can do for a man that gave everything," Gulfport Fire Chief Pat Sullivan said.

CPO Baldwin spent 16 years of his life defending the red, white and blue symbol. The Gulfport Fire Department honored the Seabee with a farewell normally reserved for fallen firefighters.

Wayne Morris was one of the firefighters asked to salute the Seabee. His truck parked at the Dedeaux Road, Three Rivers Road intersection.

"We've got a hometown person that has given his life to our country," he said. "And here we are honoring him in a way that only we know how."

Just about every intersection the funeral procession passed as it rolled from Northwood Christian Center to the Biloxi National Cemetery had a Gulfport fire unit standing at attention.

"We're honoring one of our own when we honor a military person that's given everything in trying to protect our families," Chief Sullivan said.

A mother and daughter stood on the side of one road, with hands over hearts. They simply wanted a chance to salute the Seabee.

That's exactly what Gulfport firefighters' were doing -- saluting a man in uniform who dedicated his life to protect others.

"His family is suffering. The community is suffering. His military family is suffering," Sullivan said. "This is the least we can do to pay our respects to him."

During the service it was made abundantly clear that Joel Baldwin had five great loves. His wife, his nine year old daughter, the military, the Navy and the Seabees.

For 16 years, he served this country. His commanding officer said Chief Baldwin had a commitment to things he felt were just and right.

On December 21, Baldwin died in Mosul while he defended that commitment.

Commander Muilenburg ended his remarks with these comments.

"Joel loved the military, the Navy and the Seabees. He volunteered to stand the watch for 16 years for us. I'm so very proud to have served with him. For the rest of our lives, we will celebrate him."

by Brad Kessie

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