Members of Company E, 3rd Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment honored the life of Pfc. Connor James McGurran during a memorial ceremony held at the Daniel Circle Chapel Jan. 16.The ceremony was attended by his fellow teammates and Fort Jackson leadership as well as his father and additional Family members."I did not know Pfc. McGurran as well as his battle buddies and certainly not as well as his Family. What I do know is that he volunteered to serve his nation during a time where a chance of conflict is always possible," said Capt. Matthew Owen, Company E commander. "I know he is a patriot, devout Catholic and a great American."McGurran had successfully completed eight weeks of Basic Combat Training with his fellow teammates. He had established friendships as well as being an integral part of his company. His commander said he was dedicated to becoming the best Soldier he could be to include encouraging his battle buddies through the tougher times of BCT and improving his run time by more than three minutes.During the final weeks of training leading up to graduation, all trainees must complete the final training exercise called The Forge. The exercise tests each trainee on the skills and knowledge they have attained throughout BCT and to attain the title of Soldier. It was during this exercise that McGurran was found unresponsive. He was given immediate lifesaving care and transported to a local trauma center where he was later pronounced dead.The loss of the Soldier was felt not only by his Family members and friends from his home in Minnesota, but also by his fellow company members."He was a good teammate and battle buddy," said Lt. Col. Michael Penny, battalion commander of the 3rd Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment. "The day he passed ... his closest friends in the company asked if they could continue to carry Pfc. McGurran's rifle till the end to honor their friend. McGurran, you are 'Courage Worthy,' you have earned it."McGurran's father, Navy Cmdr. Shawn McGurran, an operations officer based out of Marine Corps Air Station Mirimar, San Diego, California, somberly sat in the first row pews during the memorial ceremony for his son. His dark Navy dress uniform stood out distinctly among the sea of Army combat uniforms.Cmdr. McGurran listened as those closest to his son for the past eight weeks spoke."McGurran was an amazing person, perfect with all of his flaws. He was honest and seemed like everything he did came from the heart," said Pvt. Trentarius May to his battle buddy's father. "He made you feel like you meant something. Sir, I want to let you know that you are not going through this alone. The ones you love never truly die."As the speakers completed their remarks, Pfc. Kevin Ortiz played and sang "Hey There Delilah" by the Plain White T's. The song was a favorite of McGurran according to his teammates.The memorial ceremony closed with the traditional calling of the "Last Roll Call" and the bugle playing of Taps after a 21-gun salute was fired.Slowly, each of McGurran's Family, command team members and battle buddies approached the Soldier Cross at the front of the chapel and rendered a slow and somber salute, a traditional military final farewell.
"Your Soldier wasn't just a Soldier," May said in final farewell. "He was our brother."Editor's note: Connor James McGurran was posthumously promoted to the rank of Private First Class before his memorial ceremony.