‘A tremendous tribute’

SNOHOMISH – Musician Steve Mason coaxed a melody from his guitar. Then came the words.

“I wish you peace and truth and all the strength you need,” he sang at the dedication of a children’s climbing wall at the Boys &Girls Club in Snohomish.

It was a song about healing, and perhaps it was a song about a community coming together in the aftermath of the loss of one of their own.

The $30,000 wall, erected through donations and fundraising , celebrated the life of Cpl. Jeffrey Starr, 22, a Marine Corps warrior from Snohomish who both loved to climb and loved to be around children.

The wall was dedicated Wednesday on the second anniversary of the Snohomish High School graduate’s death in the Iraqi town of Ramadi. Starr, who was on his third deployment to Iraq, was felled by a sniper’s bullet during a patrol about a month before his enlistment was up.

The wall, and the community effort it took to build it, means a lot to Starr’s parents.

“There’s been just a tremendous feeling of support in difficult times,” said the fallen Marine’s father, Brian Starr. “You have not only friends and family but the support of a whole city. This is just a tremendous tribute to Jeff.”

The wall is erected in a corner of the club’s gym. Next to it is a bronze plaque with an engraved picture of Jeffrey Starr and a few of his words.

The plaque includes “When I grow up, I just want to be cool and fun,” which Starr said when he was 10.

The plaque also contains words from the Marine’s final letter, found on his laptop computer after his death.

“I don’t regret going,” he wrote. “Everybody dies but few get to do it for something as important as freedom. … Now this is my mark.”

President Bush read those words in a major speech at the U.S. Naval Academy on the six-month anniversary of Starr’s death.

About 100 people attended Wednesday’s dedication ceremony. Many wore lapel buttons with Starr’s picture on it.

Bill Tsoukalas, executive director of the Boys &Girls Clubs of Snohomish County, said the Marine’s legacy will live on through the wall and the thousands of children who will use it.

The Rev. Charles Lewis of First Presbyterian Church, a friend and spiritual leader of the Starrs, said he always will remember Jeffrey Starr’s “childlike and adventurous spirit of play.”

The Marine’s mother, Shellie Starr, said she can’t believe how much support the family has received from the Snohomish community.

“No matter what people’s opinion of the war are, they honor Jeffrey,” she said. “It’s really humbling to be part of this community.”

Reporter Jim Haley: 425-339-3447 or haley@heraldnet.com.

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