Citadel grad dies in war with Iraq
Marine First Lieutenant Therrel Shane Childers, a member of The Citadel Class of 2001, died in combat on March 21st in Iraq. He was 30 and reportedly the first American casualty of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
At the time of his death, he was a second lieutenant. The U.S. Marine Corps promoted him to the rank of first lieutenant posthumously. Lieutenant Childers attended The Citadel as an active duty Marine, attending classes as a day student in the MECEP program. MECEP stands for Marine Enlisted Commissioning Education Program.
Childers, a native of Harrison County, Miss., was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, in Camp Pendleton, Calif.
News organizations covering the war cite Childers as the first American serviceman to die in the war. He was leading a platoon that was capturing the Ramalla oil fields when he was shot in the stomach and died on March 21st.
While at The Citadel, Childers was a French major, Dean's List student and active in the Marine Raiders.
"As a MECEP, Therrel Childers served as an excellent role model for our cadets," said Citadel President Maj. Gen. John S. Grinalds, USMC retired. "Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this time."
The Citadel's MECEP program is the nation's oldest and largest. It was conceived as an extension of Navy ROTC in 1973 to allow promising Marines the chance to complete their college education while in service. More than 200 Marine officers have graduated from the program.
During a speech before the college Tuesday, April 1, Grinalds said:
"French professor, Colonel Guy Toubiana, tells one of the many stories about Lt. Childers that speaks to his character. He was attending The Citadel's Summer in France program and had gone with some friends to the beach on a free afternoon.
"As the group was returning on the bus, two men began harassing two English women. Everyone on the bus watched except Lt. Childers who intervened and demanded that they leave the women alone," Grinalds said. "Even after one of the men pulled a knife, Lt. Childers did not back down. The men then must have decided that they were not prepared for that kind of trouble and returned to their seats.
"That courage and standing up for others who are weaker was a foretelling of Lt. Childers' bravery that cost him his life," Grinalds said. "He gave his country everything he had and his courage and leadership is an inspiration to us all."