Updated On: May 28, 2019

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“A marine” just doesn’t do justice to the young man we knew. That marine was Cpl. John R. Stalvey, 22 years of age. John was born in Conroe, Texas, but was a Jesup resident prior to enlisting in the Marines. John was the son of Crystal Merillat and Billy Stalvey, both of Brunswick. His funeral is planned for Monday October 10th in Brunswick, GA. 

John died Monday, Oct. 3 from an improvised explosive device (IED) while conducting combat operations against enemy forces during Operation Iron Fist in Karabilah, Iraq.  He was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

He became Jesup’s first loss in the Iraq war when the Humvee he was driving struck an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). John was serving as part of an elite scout-sniper group when he died. While details of this military endeavor are vague, family and friends have learned that he was part of the recent action to root out insurgents in the western province of Anbar. John’s actions may well have saved the lives of other soldiers.

John joined the Marine Corps shortly after graduating with honors from Faith Baptist Christian Academy in Ludowici in 2001. He had long planned to join the military but the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center seemed to strengthen his resolve. Having served initially in the war in Afghanistan, John shipped out for Iraq in August after completing scout-sniper school—his long cherished ambition—in Quantico, Va.

The last time we saw him was in August, at a surprise going-away party in Jesup just before he left for Iraq. We all gave testimonies of how proud we were of him and what he was doing for God and country. Many of us choked back the tears as we spoke of the friendship and love we had for John. He simply had a special place in our hearts. We hugged him, promised to pray for him (I even kept his picture on my desk to remind me to pray for him daily), said our goodbyes, and bid him farewell. The last we saw of him, he was a happy, smiling, and joyful Christian young man.

“A marine” you say. Yes, but far more than just “a marine”. He was our friend, our brother in Christ, our buddy, our former student, our fellow member (we had all been in the same church for a period of time), our family, and our hero!!

We are all proud of and saddened by the home-going of John Stalvey. But we know that although adjusting to the shock of his sudden loss is difficult for some, we take some degree of comfort in the fact that his death was immediate and painless. We believe that John was driving a Humvee one second and was ushered immediately into the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ the next. He was “…confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:8)

All Americans ought to be proud of and saddened by the death of young men and women like John Stalvey. It is usually the best of their generation who care enough to lay their lives on the line so that others may continue to enjoy the freedoms of our great nation. With this tribute to a brave young man, we also say thanks to those who continue the fight to keep our country free. We are proud of each and every one of them, and we will continue to pray for them as long as God gives us breath.

Cpl. John R. Stalvey will be buried with full military honors and the presentation of the american flag to his bereaved parents.

Yet John’s loved ones are not like some, who have no hope (I Thessalonians 4:13-18), for they are comforted with the knowledge that one day they shall see John, never to be parted again. This is the "blessed hope" of every believer in Jesus Christ; yet it is more than a hope in the sense in which we use the word today. It is a steadfast and sure knowledge that because Christ lives, we shall live also -- with Him forever in glory! (John 14:19).

Dear friend, John’s greatest hope is that he will see you in heaven one day. His greatest joy would be in knowing that in his death, you have found eternal life through Christ, who loved you, and gave Himself for you (Galatians 2:20).  "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints." (Psalm 116:15). On that day the Lord stood, as He had for Stephen of old, to welcome His hero home. "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). The greatest example of this is seen in the Friend of sinners, Jesus Christ, laying down His life in order that all those who call upon His name might be saved (Romans 10:9,10,13).

Surely, in the giving of his life, John not only desired the saving of his comrades’ physical lives, but that many might also come to know Christ as their own personal Saviour, and receive spiritual life. He, being dead, yet speaks, saying, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved" (Acts 16:31)

The Department of Defense announced the death of a Marine on Oct. 3, 2005 who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.  How many times have we all read words to this effect? The death of a Soldier, Sailor, Pilot, or a Marine means little to us until we know the person ourselves. I knew it as only a matter of time before someone close to home was killed, but I just didn’t think it would really happen to one of our own. Well, the words “a marine” came home to all of us at Faith Baptist Church & Christian Academy in Ludowici with the announcement of the loss of John R. Stalvey.
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