There is nothing Jerrod Lee Warden wouldn’t do for others. Devan Linaman can attest to this.
The two were friends at Kelly Walsh High School and later joined the Marine Corps together.
Warden was the kind of guy who insisted on paying for your meal or filling your car with gas, Linaman said.
“When the going got tough, it was heartwarming to know that we were counting on each other,” Linaman wrote in a letter. “Jared had this gift where he could make just about anyone smile, no matter what the situation.”
Like when he threw a trash can out of a third-story balcony while they were parked together at Camp Horn. Or when he tattooed Linaman’s name on his behind – “the two came along just because I told him he wouldn’t dare to do it,” Linaman wrote.
Jerrod died Dec. 14 at Camp Pendleton, California. He was 20 years old.
Friends, family and community members gathered to remember Jerrod on Thursday morning at Highland Park Church.
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Jerrod “has lived the most exciting life I have ever known,” said Deb Michael, a family friend of the Wardens, during the service.
He was always launching into something, she said – wherever he went, who he was with.
“He just had a hard time staying still,” she said.
He loved to cook, loved suits and ties, and tried his hand at almost any sport. He played hockey for the Casper Oilers and was on the Kelly Walsh High School football and wrestling teams.
In 2019, he and his teammates won the first Trojans Wrestling State Championship.
He was loving and deeply empathetic, Michael said. When he saw someone struggling, he instinctively took their pain as his. He did all he could to carry that weight for them.
Jerrod joined the Marine Corps in February 2020, at the age of 19.
During basic training, he gained a reputation as a cheerleader and coach with other recruits.
“You could see him picking up his fellow Marines physically, emotionally and mentally,” Highland Park pastor Mike Fackler said during the service.
After a procession, more than 100 people entered the stone-walled chapel of the Oregon Trail Veterans Cemetery, along a path lined with saluting veterans.
“It was touching,” said a couple who identified only as a member of Warden’s “adoptive family”. “So much people.”
Many of them had small pieces of flamingo-patterned fabric pinned to their chests.
“It was his favorite animal,” said Jordan Beeson, who had known Warden from his time with the Casper Coyotes hockey team.
Nathaniel Yeadon, who had known Warden from college where they played midget football together, wore a flamingo tie.
“We were best friends,” Yeadon said. “I was in shock when I heard… it was nice to see everyone come out.”
A short verse from Ecclesiastes was read to open the service, and a prayer was said in the silent hall.
Three men fired a three-volley salute just outside the entrance to the chapel. As soon as the first shot rang out, a collective gasp of sobs broke the silence inside. Two more knocks, and the room was shaken with screams.
As TAPS began to play, there was a slight flutter of tissue passing through the hands. Others buried their tearful faces in the shoulders of their neighbors.
The folded flag was presented to Warden’s family, seated in the front row. A few other presentations followed, including a certificate from the Casper American Legion. Then a line of Marines, shoulders back, paraded in front of the coffin to pay their last respects. With that, the service ended.
The family attended a reception at Casper’s Elks Lodge. The Marines, whose faces fell under their caps, followed. In silence except for a few sniffles, the room slowly emptied into the cold. Mourners exchanged hugs outside and then piled into cars, and within minutes the once-full parking lot was empty.
Losing Jerrod is losing a hero, said many of his friends and relatives.
“Let’s use these battle scars, from the loss of Jerrod, to remind us of the impact he left on all of our lives,” his friend Matthew Goodwin said during the service.
“Jerrod was a Marine by definition. Always loyal, always loyal.