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Friends pray for missing Whidbey corpsman

Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Marques Nettles has a contagious smile.

Again and again, friends and former coworkers of the 22-year-old corpsman spoke about his positive attitude, his ease with patients, his love of the job, and most of all, his omnipresent smile.

They gathered at the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station chapel Thursday in a service of hope for Nettles, who worked at the Oak Harbor Naval Hospital until he was transferred last fall.

Nettles and a Marine have been missing since a seven-ton truck rolled over in a flash flood near Al Asad, Iraq, on April 2. Six Marines were killed in the accident.

“The picture does not do him justice,” said Lt. Eric Willman, who was the division officer in a hospital ward Nettles worked in. He pointed to the photograph of Nettles displayed at the chapel. “It doesn’t have the infectious smile he was known for.”

Lt. Cmdr. Jennifer Humphrey, an internal medicine doctor at the Navy hospital, also spoke during the prayer service.

“He was excited to go with the Marines,” she said. “That’s what he wanted to do. He wanted to serve his country.”

Lt. Cmdr. Ben Fischer, an internal medicine doctor, said he, like many others, holds onto hope that Nettles may still be alive.

“There are so many lives he has touched and he can touch,” he said.

Nettles grew up in Beaverton, Ore., and was co-captain of the varsity football team in high school. But after graduating, Nettles took a different course. He joined the Navy on Sept. 11, 2002, went through boot camp and then the Basic Hospital Corps School.

Nettles’ first duty station was Oak Harbor Naval Hospital, where he was assigned to the inpatient nursing ward and the internal medicine clinic, according to the Navy hospital. After he completed his tour of duty last September, he was transferred to Camp Pendleton in California. He moved there with his wife, Christina.

After training, Nettles was deployed to Iraq, assigned to Force Service Regiment 1 Fleet Marine Forces Pacific.

His friends and coworkers said Nettles was very excited about working with Marines and going to the war. He wanted to serve his country by helping and healing the men and women in harm’s way.

“He was mother hen to a pack of warriors...” Lt. Philip King, a base chaplain, said at the service. “HM3 did his very best to the very end.”

When he wasn’t working, Nettles was also known for his optimism and enthusiasm. Petty Officer Nicholas Garrogues said Nettles was one of the players on his softball team.

“He was a big people person,” Garrogues said. “He could talk to anyone.”

For now, everyone is waiting for some word from Iraq.

“I know we all miss him and hopefully we’ll see him again,” Willman said.

You can reach Jessie Stensland at jstensland@whidbeynewstimes.com or 675-6611.

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