Although he was never deployed overseas, death was unceasing for former Marine Sergeant. Tim Lilley. Currently a human resources management major at Lorain County Community College, Lilley served in the Marines from 2008 until May, 2016.
Besides organizational duties, as an administrative specialist, a major part Lilley’s job included performing funeral services for fallen Marines.
“I would present the flag, sometimes I would shoot the 21-gun salute, pallbearer, flag-folder – I’ve pretty much been in about every position,” said Lilley, a native of Moundsville, WV. who stayed in the Northeast Ohio after leaving the service.
On several occasions, Lilley was also present when a Marine Casualty Assistance Calls Officer (CACO) would notify a family that their loved one was deceased. Officers wouldn’t just inform a family, but were with them throughout the entire funeral process, according to Lilley.
“I’ve assisted with the CACO, doing the paperwork with the families, I’ve played with the deceased’s children. I’ve seen how it hurts the family. I don’t know how to describe it; you see the effect that it has, directly.”
“You go into the deceased’s bedroom, and you’re putting his uniform together,” Lilley said. “It’s a subtle moment.”
Lilley, who estimates that he’s been through over 200 funerals, was most recently stationed in Brookpark, Ohio, and his unit would cover funerals in all of Northeastern Ohio for active duty and veteran servicemembers.
“The two combined, as far as the Marine Corps goes, we were ninth in the nation on funerals,” Lilley said.
The staff consisted of about 20 people, and they would need to call for outside help if there were too many funerals to organize at one time, according to Lilley.
For Lilley, there are several moments from his experience that stand out. One such moment were the cries of a toddler looking for her deceased father.
“We were in Brecksville and we ended up going to Rittman [Western Reserve] National Cemetery,” Lilley said. “We put the casket up, carried him in, did the 21-gun salute, played taps. Then everything was quiet except for a little girl screaming for her daddy. [She] didn’t understand. I had to listen to that for at least half-an-hour, probably longer. You can’t move, you can’t shed a tear. You just have to act like nothing’s going on. That was tough.”
The oldest casualty that Lilley ever did a funeral for was Cpl. Clarence Huff.
Many Marines consider CACO or funeral duty to be one of the toughest in the Corps. Other than getting shot at, Lilley would agree.
“You’re just dealing with death over and over and over again – in some of our cases, for years. I did funerals for about seven years. You do you get tough to it. You kind of grow somewhat immune to it. But not completely. It just makes you depressed. I’ve done funerals I’ll never forget,” he said.
One such funeral was for Corporal Clarence Huff, a Korean War veteran whose remains were identified in 2012, 62-years after he was killed in action.
“They had just identified his body, and he was finally able to come home,” Lilley said.
Since leaving the Marines, Lilley said his service has impacted his civilian life.
“Definitely look at war a lot different now,” he said. “You kind of know the reality of what happens, at least the outcome of war anyway, and what it produces. It’s something people might see in a headline or appear on the news or something. But when you’re actually seeing the families, talking to the families, going to funerals, it kind of hits home a little more.”