Since the age of 16, Cpl. Joseph C. McCarthy had wanted to be a Marine. He even tried to enlist before his 18th birthday.
He joined the Marine Corps on Sept. 13, 2001, because he believed he could make a difference, his mother said.
McCarthy, 21, was one of seven Marines killed Monday when a bomb-laden vehicle was detonated near a U.S. military convoy outside Fallujah in Iraq's restive Anbar province.
"Never once did he question what he was doing," his mother Rhonda McCarthy said on Wednesday. "He was proud of what he did. He said, 'If you had seen the faces in that country. Mom, this is where I belong."'
McCarthy told his mother that Iraqi children "were going to be the change in the world."
His love for children was exhibited on Easter Sunday, when he handed candy out to Iraqi children at a military checkpoint west of Fallujah.
There were young Iraqi men nearby who could have been insurgents, Rhonda McCarthy said, but her son broke the ice and reached out to the children.
"He did it because he loved kids," Rhonda McCarthy said. "Joe was the peacemaker that day ... they were laughing and joking within minutes."
McCarthy was an assaultman who was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, based in Camp Pendleton, Calif.
He was on his second deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and was due home to St. John's, Ariz., in about 30 days, Rhonda McCarthy said. He had received a promotion to corporal last week.
His other personal awards include the Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon and the National Defense Service Medal.
"He didn't have to go in as a front line," Rhonda McCarthy said. "He didn't want to be in an office, he wanted to be right there. He thought he could change things. He was in a convoy the day he died."
On September 6th, 12 years ago, St. Johns resident and U.S. Marine Corporal Joseph McCarthy, gave his life while protecting the American way of life. St. John's Police Department honor Corporal McCarthy's memory everyday, as the flags that fly high above the department are flown proudly in his honor. Please never forget those men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice.
Semper Fi Joe!
So each year Fishers of Men for Veterans helps the Cpl Joe McCarthy Foundation to raise funds to purchase and lay wreaths on the graves of 350 Veteran's graves and those Killed In Action in the St. Johns, Springerville, and Eager cemetaries. These wreaths are placed on the gravestones before Christmas .