DOWNEY - With a contingent of Downey police officers standing at attention, hundreds of friends and family members of Joshua Whittle filled Downey First Baptist Church on Monday to say goodbye to the fallen Marine.Lance Cpl. Whittle was only in Afghanistan three weeks before he was killed June 6 after stepping on a landmine. He was 20. His remains arrived at the Joint Force Training Base in Los Alamitos last Friday. Military pallbearers placed his body into a Hearse which led a long procession of military personnel, police officers, firefighters, city officials, and Patriot Guard Riders. The procession made its way to Downey and passed by Warren High School, where students, staff and community members waved American flags to welcome Whittle home. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force based in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. Whittle grew up in Downey where he was raised by his mother, Crystal Vincent, and her longtime boyfriend, Carl Matson. Whittle's biological father died three years ago, family members said. Whittle attended Warren High School before graduating from Downey Adult School. At Monday's service, friends of Whittle took turns approaching the pulpit and shared memories of the man they called "M.D." for his resemblance to actor Matt Damon. "It was a resemblance that Josh didn't deny," said Pastor Jon Castillo, who led the service. Whittle's younger sister said she remembered him as a typical older brother: fiercely protective but lovable. "I'm going to miss him not being here to protect me," she said. Other friends and family called Whittle an upstanding young man who enjoyed helping people. A video montage displayed photos from Whittle's life. Mayor Mario Guerra offered condolences on behalf of the city, and said a monument honoring veterans will be erected near City Hall. Following the service, Downey motorcycle officers led a 57-mile procession to Riverside National Cemetery, where Whittle was given full military honors. Vincent was presented with a Purple Heart and the American flag that had draped her son's casket.
********** Published: June 19, 2009 - Volume 8 - Issue 9