Marine’s sacrifice honored

Members of Whatcom county law enforcement and Bellingham police departments pay their respects to Marine Capt. Dan Bartle on Jan. 28. Bartle was one of six Marines killed in Afghanistan Jan. 19. Photo courtesy of David Hammons

A quiet crowd numbering in the hundreds, many holding American flags, lined a four-mile route in Bellingham Saturday to honor a fallen Marine.

Capt. Daniel Bartle

U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Daniel Bartle, 27, from Ferndale, was killed in a helicopter crash Jan. 19 in Helmand province, Afghanistan. His remains were returned home Jan. 28 in a processional from the airport to the funeral home.

Many of those gathered along the route said though they never knew Bartle personally, their silent tribute spoke volumes.

Lois Miles of Bellingham was among the hundreds lining the route. The daughter of a Navy pilot and mother of an Air Force pilot, Miles felt a special kinship to Bartle, whom she’d never met. She made sure to bring both her American flag and US Marine Corps flag.

“I didn’t know him or his family,” said Miles, wiping tears from her eyes. “I just really feel for his family members right now and I pray for God’s comfort for them, and to watch over them.”

Observers silently pay their respects to Capt. Bartle outside the Bellingham funeral home. Photo courtesy of David Hammons

As Miles struggled to display the two full-size flags, she said a stranger to her, a woman only known as Terri, helped her balance the flags for the duration of the processional.

Although the temperatures ranged from the mid-to-upper 30’s, that did not seem to impact those who waited respectfully on the streets of the processional route.

Everson resident Erika Johnson and her children, 2-year-old Jeremiah, and 4-year-old Lilliana, outfitted in ski clothes against the cold, also waited patiently on the street corner adjacent to Westford funeral home in Bellingham.

“No, I didn’t ever meet him, but I just wanted to be here today, to honor him and his family for their sacrifice,” said Johnson. “I wanted to be here for his family, and also to teach my kids the importance of honoring our heroes, and cherishing our freedoms.”

A Marine detachment prepares to carry Marine Capt. Dan Bartle’s casket into Westford Funeral Home in Bellingham. Photo courtesy of David Hammons

Bartle’s family members, along with a processional honor guard that included the Patriot Guard Riders motorcycle group, a contingent of them from Oak Harbor, and local law enforcement vehicles, traveled from Bellingham International Airport to Westford Funeral Home. Two military helicopters, which hovered overhead for the entire route, provided an aerial escort.

When the group finally pulled into the funeral home’s parking lot around 1:40 p.m., the atmosphere seemed to grow even quieter — if that were possible — as the sounds of the two helicopters faded away and the Marine detachment reverently carried Bartle’s casket inside the funeral home.