Saturday, July 07, 2007

Jeremy L. Tinnel dies 'from a non-hostile boat accident in the Euphrates River'

During a furlough from a 2006 deployment to Iraq, Marine Lance Cpl. Jeremy L. Tinnel visited the Sunday children's worship service at New Bridge Baptist Church in eastern Henrico County.

He and friend Jonathan Moor, an Air National Guardsman, stood up front, dressed in their military uniforms, and answered questions from the children. Then to the tune of "Supernatural," one of the children's favorite church songs, they then broke into a silly dance.

"It has some of the goofiest, silliest motions to it that you've ever seen, but Jeremy and Jonathan both, with their hearts being what they are for kids, stood there in their uniforms and did that song and looked absolutely ridiculous, and the kids just loved it," said the Rev. JD Sluss, the church's director of ministries, administrator and children's ministry team leader.

It is one of the last memories Sluss has of Tinnel, who died Sunday in a boat accident in Iraq.

Tinnel, 20, was killed while conducting combat operations in the Euphrates River off the shore of Anbar province, the military said yesterday. Lance. Cpl. William C. Cambers, 20, of Ringgold, Ga., was also killed.

Both men were trained as infantry riflemen and assigned to the 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Before joining the U.S. Marine Corps, Tinnel volunteered for many summers at the church's summer camp ministry and had created a puppet character for Sluss' children's ministry that had a pointy green head, red hair and an English accent.

"He created the character, the voice, the personality, the whole nine yards. He was just awesome with it," said Sluss, who had been Tinnel's pastor since childhood.

"Jeremy was very caring, and he was a very deep thinker. He would take something that he questioned or something that he was interested in and he would really dig into it," Sluss said. "He was a Civil War history buff. He was definitely Dixie at heart. He was American by birth, Southern by the grace of God, was the way he would put it. He thought a lot about the issues that were important to him."

Born in Richmond, Tinnel grew up in Highland Springs and Sandston and was home-schooled. He lived in Mechanicsville before joining the Marines in August 2004.

While in North Carolina, Sluss said, Tinnel met "the love of his life," Angel Nichole Mergler of Havre de Grace, Md., and the two were married in December during a small ceremony in Mechanicsville.

He was promoted to lance corporal Jan. 1. His military decorations include the Combat Action Ribbon, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal and the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.

Tinnel left for his second deployment to Iraq on March 7, his wife said.

In May, Tinnel was injured when his Humvee hit an improvised explosive device, but he remained in Iraq and returned to duty after about a week, she said.

"That's the way he wanted it," she said.

Tinnel considered military service a rite of passage, his wife said.

"He believed that every able-bodied male should join the military," she said.

Tinnel died on his wife's 22nd birthday.

"I got Marines on my doorstep for my birthday," she said. "Every year, I can go celebrate my birthday and his life."

In addition to his wife, survivors include his father, Herold Tinnel, and stepmother, Joyce Tinnel, of Sandston; sisters Christy Flowers of Charles City County and Laura Tinnel of Sandston; and a brother, James Tinnel of Sandston.

From the Richmond Times Dispatch