Marine Ellsworth killed during combat in Iraq
Lt. Gov. Cherry orders flags at half-staff Friday


By Michelle Graves
and Jamie Linari
Central Michigan Life

November 17, 2004


Lance Cpl. Justin M. Ellsworth posted a message on his family’s Web site Oct. 16 telling them “I love you all and I can’t wait to see you again.”

The 20-year-old Mount Pleasant man was killed Saturday fighting in Al Anbar Province, Iraq after joining the Marine Corps in September 2003.

“We were very fortunate — even though it was only 20 years — to have him in our lives,” said his aunt Jill Ellsworth, who lives in Eaton Rapids.

Jill Ellsworth said Justin’s father, John Ellsworth of Wixom, was about to update the family on the Web site,, when tragedy struck.

“My brother had just started to sit down and write ‘no news is good news in the Marines’ when the Marines knocked on his door,” Jill Ellsworth said Tuesday.

She said his family always supported his decision to go into the service.

“I’d probably change what happened to him,” Jill Ellsworth said. “But I wouldn’t change what he did.”

Justin Ellsworth is remembered by his friends adorned in a cowboy hat, a pair of boots and a smile.

“There was something about the cowboy culture he liked,” said Al McNeil, a counselor at Mount Pleasant High School. “He was always getting into trouble for wearing that hat in school. The hall monitor always nailed him for it.”

Ellsworth was a 2003 graduate of Mount Pleasant High School and is the 35th soldier with known Michigan ties to die in Iraq.

He was a combat engineer assigned to Combat Service Support Battalion 1 of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force in Camp Pendleton, Calif.

The military said Sunday nearly 40 U.S. troops had been killed and 275 wounded in the operation to gain control of Fallujah.

Rosebush resident Ryan Gross said Ellsworth was like a brother to him. Gross said Ellsworth cared for everyone.

“Justin always wanted to go into the Marines. I supported him on it, it was his decision,” Gross said. “I’m proud of him and I respect him a lot for doing it. It’s going to be hard though. I’m going to miss him.”

Ellsworth was a trained demolition expert but the special reconnaissance unit he was chosen for would be sent ahead into the city to save lives, the Associated Press reported Tuesday. Ellsworth’s job was to go from house to house to warn civilians about the pending raid and then help them evacuate.

Kelly Schmus’ son Jason used to hang out with Ellsworth at the recruiting office after school. Ellsworth would stay for dinner and hunt rabbits with her son.

“When my son was mouthy with me, Justin would say, ‘Don’t talk to your mother like that, it’s not nice,’” Schmus, Rosebush resident said. “I said, ‘Jason, I like this kid. You should bring him around more often.’”

Jason Schmus graduated a year before Ellsworth and joined the Marines in June. The two kept in touch even after Ellsworth joined the Marines. Schmus is at Camp Pendleton finishing infantry training.

McNeil said a big part of Ellsworth’s motivation was that he knew he wanted to go into the military.

Ellsworth was an “avid” hockey and football player, his father said.

Lt. Gov. John Cherry ordered U.S. flags to be lowered to half-staff Friday in remembrance of Ellsworth.

Visitation is Friday at Estes Leadley Greater Lansing Chapel, 325 W. Washtenaw St. in Lansing. A full military funeral will be begin at 10 a.m. Saturday at Mt. Hope Church, 202 N. Creyts, in Lansing.

Last modified date and time: 01/17/2005 8:41