Monday, September 17, 2007

Terry (Terrence P.) Allen dies 'from a non-hostile incident'

Terry Allen's parents could hear the relief in his voice.

Only hours before Allen was shot and killed in Iraq on Friday, he had been on the phone with his mother, telling her how he couldn't wait to see family and friends again.

It wouldn't be long now, he told her.

His father, John Allen, sat on the family's wraparound porch in Pennsauken yesterday, nervously puffing a cigarette as he spoke about how his 21-year-old son, a U.S. Marine Corps corporal, was felled by a bullet at Al Asad Air Base in Anbar province, a presumed safe zone, while preparing to return home.

Terry Allen was due to come home in only four days, which would have been tomorrow. Now the family is planning his funeral.

His father said that even when another Marine from South Jersey was killed in Anbar province last week - Lance Cpl. Jon T. Hicks Jr. of Atco - he and his wife, Connie, weren't filled with dread about whether their son might make it back. "We were past worrying," he said. "We thought he was safe."

Allen said the Marine Corps told him that his son had been shot in the head by what appeared to be a sniper but that they were investigating.

Allen, a police officer in Camden County, said his son was looking forward to coming home for a visit and starting a new life at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. He expected to be promoted to sergeant and get a new assignment as a firing range instructor. He had reenlisted in July for four years.

Terry Allen was also planning a big wedding, "with easily 100 guests or more," to celebrate his marriage to a woman who had been his steady pen pal for eight months, his father said.

Terry Allen had married in February while stationed at Camp Lejeune but he and his bride had only a civil ceremony because he was shipping out the next month for his second tour in Iraq.

When the news of his death arrived, his new wife, the former Catherine Glessing, was waiting for him in their new home at Camp Lejeune. She had found a townhouse and was in the midst of furnishing it for them.

"She's taking it really hard," John Allen said, noting that she has since returned to her family's home in a suburb of Syracuse, N.Y.

Her sister there said she was too distraught to talk.

The couple met in "a goofy way," Allen said, smiling. While in high school, Glessing began corresponding with his son as part of her school's "Support your Troops" pen pal project.

That was around November 2005, shortly after Terry Allen was sent to Iraq for the first time. The couple hit it off and after eight months of writing, they finally met, last summer, when he was on leave. She had invited him to visit her and sightsee in Syracuse, according to his father.

Eight months later, they were married, but there was no time to settle down because Terry Allen was redeployed to Iraq in March.

Along Githens Avenue in Pennsauken, small flags were planted along the curb in front of some 15 homes. Black vinyl ribbons were tied to trees and telephone poles. A stream of neighbors, teachers, and former classmates from Bishop Eustace High School visited the large Victorian home where Terry Allen grew up. At Bishop Eustace, Terry Allen was an honor student and a varsity football player and sprinter.

"He was like a son to me," was all that his uncle, Bob Allen, an Army veteran, could muster before swallowing hard and walking into the house. John Allen said his wife and other family members were inside but were too upset to talk.

Allen said his son had signed up for the Marine Corps in his senior year of high school after meeting recruiters during a Career Fair Day.

"We wanted him to go to college and he was accepted at Rowan University, but he always had an interest in the military," John Allen said. "He was wrestling with the decision as to what to do, but then decided to go into the Marines."

Allen said they were waiting for his son's body to arrive at Dover Air Force Base before announcing funeral arrangements.

"He was really a great kid. Very athletic, he loved sports and was always interested in the military, especially the Marine Corps," his father said.

And, after serving his country, Terry Allen had plans to become - like his father - a police officer.

From the Philadelphia Inquirer