Marine brothers applaud local community for their patriotism

Wanda English Burnett

“You raised a hero in this place,” words of Marine brother SSGT Thomas Praxedes, who will guard the body of Cpl. John C. Bishop throughout the funeral proceedings today, September 16 at the Versailles Baptist Church. Cpl. Bishop was killed September 8 while serving in Afghanistan when his convoy was ambushed.

When SSGT Praxedes heard of his Marine “brother’s” death, he volunteered to be the one to stand “guard”. While it is a tough assignment, it’s nothing compared to what Cpl. Bishop has done, he told The Versailles Republican. Praxedes serves with the 1st Battalion 5th Marine Regiment out of Camp Pendleton, CA.

SSGT Praxedes had many stories about two tours in Iraq with Cpl. Bishop and the true hero he is. He told about how Cpl. Bishop was a machine gunner by trade and would be in the big machine gun turret, “watching over us” as they cleared homes in Fallujah. “He was a tough marine with a good heart,” he told The Versailles Republican on Tuesday of this week.

A side of Cpl. Bishop that even his family didn’t know was told as the close friend and “brother” Praxedes melded with family members throughout the week.

He told of Cpl. Bishop’s bravery as he fought in Iraq side by side. He told of the fallen Marine’s courage alone. “He loved the Marines,” he noted.

Cpl. Bishop was a decorated hero receiving many medals including two combat action ribbons. Praxedes explained the meaning of the ribbons. “They are for receiving and returning enemy fire,” he noted. Bishop had one for serving in Iraq and one for serving in Afghanistan. “He got more medals than all of us,” laughed Praxedes.

The hometown hero was part of the 6th Marine Regiment, one of the most highly decorated regiments in the Marines. He will have a green rope around his blues denoting this distinction that less than 10,000 Marines have received. There are approximately 205,000 Marines serving according to Praxedes.

Cpl. Bishop was also awarded the Purple Heart. This is the first death the 3B IM Lima Company - a weapons platoon - has experienced. “It’s hard,” admitted the tough Marine as he prepared to be with his “brother” to the very end.

SSGT Praxedes along with another Marine brother, Cpl. John Klug who drove in from Kansas, are also Purple Heart recipients, for being wounded in battle. They didn’t dwell on their accomplishments, although SSGT Praxedes has a long list at the age of 24, but focused on the task at hand and the duty to serve their “brother."

“I’m hearing a different side of my brother,” Mike Bishop of Versailles, said with tears in his eyes. He knew he was a great fun loving guy, which Praxedes and his other fellow Marines could attest to. He said having the Marines at his home was healing for him.
He loved children. That was a constant quote from everyone who knew Cpl. Bishop. His fellow Marines told how when Bishop got a package from home, he always filled his pockets and gave much of it away to the Iraqi children. Of course, he always shared with his buddies too. But, the children were first. He took in a stray puppy once in Iraq and was always looking out for others.

While traveling to Versailles, Praxedes noted that people just “knew” what he was doing. They didn’t have to ask, they just saluted him or had a tear in their eye, he said. When he flew into Philadelphia, he still needed to get to the Dover Air Force Base, which is about a two hour drive. He checked on a cab fare, but knew that would take longer and cost over $200. A man working at the USO found out about the situation and insisted on driving the young Marine to his destination, free of charge. Christopher Gannon told Praxedes he was willing to do anything to get the fallen Marine closer to his family. He gave Praxedes an American flag pin, which in turn was given to Cpl. Bishop’s wife, Cpl. Crystal Bishop.
Of the procession and the outpouring of love from the community, Praxedes noted, “If he was here today he would say this town is what makes it all worthwhile,” he told The Versailles Republican.

Praxedes said he was humbled by the children standing out to pay tribute to his fallen Marine brother. He felt it was appropriate in light of Cpl. Bishop’s great love for children.
In closing he said if it wasn’t for the Marine Corp he wouldn’t have met this great hero. “We are brothers. We love him as much as his mother loves him,” he stated. He said Bishop’s death was a shock, but he felt proud at the same time. “This war is real and we’re fighting a different enemy in Afghanistan,” he noted. Afghanistan is known as the “Graveyard of Empires”. And while SSGT Praxedes knows the risks, he will be deployed there later to do his duty.

To the community, SSGT Praxedes noted, “Heroes can be produced in small towns, Bishop is proof.”

Pictured above are Marine brothers of fallen Marine Cpl. John C. Bishop. From left: Noe Cevallos, retired; SSGT Thomas Praxedes, who is guarding Cpl. Bishop; Sgt. Sergio Flores; and Cpl. John Klug, who was wounded in battle in Iraq and is now retired. The active duty Marines along with retired brothers were proud to have served with Cpl. Bishop. Pictured below are students at the Southeastern Career Center who were standing by the highway as the procession came through Monday bringing Cpl. Bishop home. Behind The entire school was allowed to participate with 400 students paying tribute.