Monday, January 01, 2007

Stephen L. Morris remembered

LAKE JACKSON — The flags went up in Lake Jackson again Tuesday for another service member killed in Iraq.

This time the flags were for Marine Lance Cpl. Stephen Lloyd Morris, 21, who was killed Sunday when a bomb blew up the vehicle he was driving in Anbar province.

On Friday, parts of the city were lined with flags for the funeral of Army Spc. Philip Cody Ford, 21, who was killed two weeks earlier.

The group Military Moms and Wives put more than 100 flags around the home Morris left more than two years ago when he joined the Marines.

Then the group started putting 420 flags along two miles of Oyster Creek Drive, one of the main streets of Lake Jackson. For several years the group has maintained big, yellow ribbons on big trees along that street.

When Morris last called his family on Saturday, he asked for prayers for the dangerous job of driving in Iraq, his father, Lloyd Morris, said Tuesday.

"He didn't like being in Iraq," his father slowly recalled. He told his family that the people didn't want Americans there.

Stephen Morris had surprised his family when he announced that he'd joined the Marines and would be going in shortly after he graduated from Brazoswood High School in 2004.

"I had hoped he would go into some kind of construction with me," Lloyd Morris said.

The family had moved to Lake Jackson in 1996 after Lloyd Morris retired as a prison chaplain at the Clemens state prison farm and started buying and renovating rental property.

Stephen Morris grew up with a deep spirituality — as well as a love for the outdoors, his father said. "The message on his cell phone said that if he wasn't answering, he was probably surfing or in church," he said.

Another passion was driving his Ford pickup through muddy bogs.

Morris said his son didn't like being in the Marines. The physical part didn't bother him. "He had built himself up. The last time he was here he weighed 190 pounds, even though he was only 5-foot, 10-inches tall, but it was all muscle."

What he didn't like was dealing with military bureaucracy, his father said.

After Marine boot camp Stephen Morris was sent to Hawaii, a wonderful assignment for a surfer.

"He had a girlfriend there and he loved it," Lloyd Morris said. Stephen Morris told his father that after his enlistment was over he planned to return to Hawaii to go to school — and to surf.

He also spent time in Afghanistan.

"He said that wasn't too bad," Morris said. Iraq was different because "he said you couldn't trust the people there."

Still, when he came home for a visit in September before first going to Iraq, the Marine was upbeat. "He said he felt like he had a reason to go there," his father said.

During that last phone call, he told his father "that he had helped lead a couple of the other guys to Christ."

Morris said his wife, Anna, had left for church choir practice Sunday when he saw people in military uniforms drive up in front of his house.

"I said, 'Lord, no, don't let them be coming up to my house,' " he said. Then, when he saw they were coming up his walkway, he prayed that the message was that his son had only been wounded. But the news was much more tragic.

Since then, family members have had a steady stream of support from their church, neighbors, family and friends.

Stephen Morris' childhood friend Richard Hobbs, 21, of Jones Creek, was among those who came on Tuesday.

The two had formed a fast friendship in elementary school, said Hobbs, who's studying special education at Sam Houston State University.

On Friday, Hobbs stood along a flag-lined road as Ford's funeral procession passed by. Ford had been a classmate at Brazosport High School.

At least 14 of the almost 3,000 service members killed in Iraq since the war began in March 2003 have been from the Houston area.

Morris was the sixth service member from Brazoria County to be killed in the war, said Mary Moreno, of the Military Moms and Wives organization.

A funeral for Morris has not yet been scheduled. In addition to his parents, he is survived by his sisters, Kristin Cochran and Kathryn Morris, and his brother, Jonathan Morris, all of Lake Jackson.

From the Houston Chronicle

Related Link:
Stephen L. Morris killed during combat operations