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Mr. Speaker, it has been said, "We are United States Marines, and for two and a quarter centuries we have defined the standards of courage, spirit, and military prowess.''
These are words spoken by United States Marine Corps General James Jones. This describes the elitism of those chosen few who wear the title of United States Marines.
Luke Yepsen was one man whose life was making a difference at a very young age. He personified the core values of the United States Marine Corps of honor, courage, commitment.
He was from Kingwood, Texas, a close-knit community near Houston, Texas. He was a graduate of Kingwood High School, and he was known for his big heart and ability to live life to its fullest extent. He enjoyed travel and he was proud of the fact that he had already traveled to 20 different foreign countries in his short lifetime.
Luke deeply cared about his family back home in Texas and his military family. His fellow Marines said he was more than just a friend; he was a brother, a brother to everyone who knew him.
Like many Texans, especially those Texans who go to war, Luke chose to enroll in Texas A&M after high school. During his freshman year, he made a decision to leave Texas A&M University. Gary Yepsen, Luke's father, asked him why he didn't want to graduate college and then enter the United States Marine Corps as an officer. Luke said, "I don't want to go into the Marines to tell people what to do. I want to go into the Marines so they can tell me what to do.''
Here is what President Ronald Reagan said about the Marines: "Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world. But the Marines, they don't have that problem.''
Luke Yepsen was one of those Marines. With faith in God and country, at 18 Luke enrolled in the United States Marine Corps. He was an assaultman, later a mechanic, which came easy to him because of his love of cars. "He had so much courage and pride, you can't even imagine. You could hear it in his voice how proud he was,'' said Luke's brother, Kyle.
In October of 2006, Luke was deployed to Iraq with the 1st Tank Battalion, 1st Marine Division, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. Amid the violence and anarchy in Iraq, Luke's thoughts never waned from the security of home and American freedom. When told by his college roommate that he was praying for him, Luke quickly responded, "Well, I'm praying for you.''
On December 14, 2006, at the age of 20, Luke, while fighting the forces of evil, was killed by enemy action in Iraq. For his military service, he was awarded the Purple Heart, the Combat Action Ribbon, the National Defense Service Medal, and the Iraq Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Medal, and the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.
On the morning of December 22, 2006, hundreds of Kingwood, Texas, residents lined the streets of this community paying tribute to the family of this patriot. Many of those on the streets carried flags, yellow ribbons. Many held banners saying "Proud of You,'' "Proud to be an American.'' Some said, "Thank You.'' As the funeral procession made its way to the church, the residents of Kingwood, with tearful eyes and grateful hearts, saluted the Yepsen family.
Mr. Speaker, I want to tell you that patriotism is alive and well in the United States. And as the Kingwood, Texas, community mourns the loss of America's son, Luke Yepsen, and all those who came before him and all those that will come after him, we know that freedom is not free, we thank this fearless Marine for dedicating his life to America.
Luke's sacrifice will be etched in the catalogue of history as another Marine who was always faithful. A sacrifice made for his parents, Sheila and Gary; his brother, Kyle; and his fiancee, Sandra Bruman; the Kingwood community; and this great Nation.
As we honor the life of Luke Yepsen, reflect on those timeless words from the Marine Corps Hymn that say:
"In many a strife
We've fought for life
And never lost our nerve.
If the army and the navy
Ever look on heaven's scenes,
They will find the streets are guarded
By United States Marines.''
Mr. Speaker, I suspect that Lance Corporal Luke Yepsen is patrolling the streets of heaven tonight and guarding the pearly gates.
So Semper Fi, Lance Corporal Yepsen. Semper Fi.
And that's just the way it is.