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Honoring a Marine and a grieving mom

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Connie Schultz

Plain Dealer Columnist

When you love someone who is grieving, you'll do almost any thing to bring them a moment's reprieve.

For Steve Wright, that meant he had to somehow, some way, find the proper sword to bury with his stepson, Marine Cpl. Jeffrey Boskovitch, who was killed in an ambush in Iraq on Aug. 2.

It's the Marine's NCO sword, shorthand for the ceremonial weapon of the noncommissioned officer. Steve and his wife, Kathy, didn't even know how important it was to Jeffrey until his girlfriend told them he'd always wanted one. As soon as she heard that, Kathy wanted the sword for her son.

But reality trumped yearning, it seemed. The Marine NCO sword, which costs more than $500, has to be custom-made. Shaped like a saber, the length is based on the Marine's height, and each sword is engraved with the Marine's name.

Wright found out that the Ames Sword Company, a small operation in New London, Ohio, made the exact sword they needed. When he listened to the company's voice-mail message left in response to his query, though, his heart sank. The normal waiting period is eight to 10 weeks. Jeffrey would be buried in seven days.

Jeffrey's stepfather, an Air Force veteran, called the company president, Russel Sword. All Sword needed to hear was that a Marine had been killed.

"I'll get it to you on Monday," Sword promised.

"As soon as I talked to him, I knew he'd keep his word," Wright said.

What he didn't know was why.

In 1967, 19-year-old Russel Sword escorted the body of his best friend and fellow Marine home from Vietnam.

"His name was Davis Jones," Sword said. "He was from Wellington, and he was only 20 years old. I hadn't even shipped out yet. But when his mother asked me to do it, there was no way I could say no."

Sword went to Vietnam the following year. He earned a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star.

Now, 38 years later, the parent of another fallen Marine needed his help.

Sword called three employees who would have to work weekend overtime if he were to keep his promise to the grieving family in North Royalton. He knew their answers before he asked.

Marine Vietnam veteran Lewis Collins, the finisher, said he'd be there.

Lloyd Yates, the artist, said he'd be there, too.

Production manager Keith Bailey didn't hesitate.

"There was never any question we were going to do our best," Sword said. "I know how much I hurt when I lost Davis. We were going to do this, and we were going to do it right."

They worked through the weekend on the 32-inch sword for Jeffrey. At Wright's request, they made two others with blades in stock: a 32-inch and a 28-inch, which Wright also paid for and donated to the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, in Jeffrey's name. Just in case.

Wright said he would pick up the sabers. Sword had another idea.

His future son-in-law is a Marine recruiter in Lima.

"I thought, I'll bet Chris would do this, and it would mean so much to me if a Marine delivered this.' You know, once a Marine, always a Marine. I'm 56, but no matter what your age, you always trust another Marine."

So he called Marine Staff Sgt. Christopher Mulet and asked if he could help.

"Let me double-check," Mulet said.

Permission granted.

Around 1 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 8, Mulet and Marine Gunnery Sgt. Terranfus Williams, both in dress blues, rang the doorbell at the Wright home.

The family was overwhelmed.

"So many people have been so kind to us in the last two weeks," Wright said. "This one really blew us away."

His wife, sitting next to him at the kitchen table, nodded. "This is maybe hard for some to understand, but there have been small blessings since Jeffrey was killed. He's home. He was viewable to the public. Some of the boys come home in pieces. Maybe he was tortured, we'll never know. But he was whole."

And Steve Wright was able to come through for his wife in her darkest hour.

The sword's simple engraving reads: "Corporal Jeffrey Boskovitch."

2005 The Plain Dealer

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