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Cpt Tyler Swisher 2/2 Easy C.O.

Cpt Tyler Swisher

Mariemont grad killed in Iraq
Swisher was known for dogged perseverance

By Eileen Kelley
Enquirer staff writer

In the end, war was the only thing that would stop Marine Capt. Tyler Swisher, 35, who was killed in a roadside bomb attack in Iraq on Friday.

Early on, the Mariemont native's life revolved around overcoming obstacles, said a family friend and spokesman, Jack Buchholz of Madeira.

The youngest of three children and son of two educators, Swisher had a learning disability and struggled to piece together sounds and form words when reading.

But he never gave up.

He would diligently tackle his reading assignments, often with his mother, Mary Beth, father David or siblings John or Sara at his side, Buchholz said.

As a teen, Swisher tried to bulk up, but never managed to get more than 100 pounds. As a football player at Mariemont High School, Swisher spent most of the games on the sidelines.

As a student, he continued to prove himself, making the honor roll his senior year. He graduated from Butler University in Indianapolis in 1993.

Swisher died near Al Amariyah, Buchholz said. The Department of Defense released his name Wednesday.

"Nothing was ever going to defeat Tyler Swisher," Buchholz said.

Swisher enlisted in the Marines 12 years ago. This stint in Iraq was his third.

"He was one tough cookie, but had a heart of gold," Buchholz said.

David and Mary Beth Swisher, who live in Pierce Township, were informed of their son's death on Friday.

"It cannot be tougher than this," Buchholz said. "He worked so hard. He worked hard at Butler. He wanted to be a Marine.

"He struggled, but he overcame."

In college Swisher finally got the much-wished-for growth spurt and went from 5 feet 6 inches tall and 100 pounds to his most recent weight of 210 pounds and height of 6 feet 2 inches.

"But that's Tyler Swisher for you; he'd overcome anything," Buchholz said.

He also leaves his wife, Stephanie, daughters, Ashleigh, 15, and Madison, 7, and a son, Jacob, 5. The family resides in the Camp Lejeune area.

Plans for a local memorial service were incomplete Wednesday.

E-mail ekelley@enquirer.com


Lejeune Marines killed in Iraq
Roadside bomb hits vehicle of pair

By JAY PRICE, Staff Writer

Two Camp Lejeune Marines -- one a North Carolina native -- were killed together while on patrol in Iraq, the Pentagon announced Wednesday.
Cpl. Benny G. Cockerham III, 21, of Conover in Catawba County and Capt. Tyler B. Swisher, 35, of Cincinnati, Ohio, were traveling beside a canal in Anbar Province west of Baghdad on Friday when a bomb exploded near their Humvee. Both men, who were with Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, were thrown into the water.

Cockerham's father, Ben G. Cockerham, of Conover, said the Marines at first had trouble finding his son's body, which is why it took so long for the Department of Defense to release his name. On Friday, Cockerham's parents were told that he was missing in action. Three days later, the Marine Corps confirmed that he had died.

Cockerham went by his middle name, Gray. In a way, he started life as a Marine: He was born at Camp Pendleton, Calif., while his father, who also served in the Corps, was stationed there.

On Wednesday afternoon, relatives were sitting around swapping stories about what a determined kid he had been, like the time when he was 14 or 15 years old and playing paintball. In the course of the game, he ran into a stick, sinking it so deeply into his leg that later it had to be surgically removed.

That didn't stop him, though.

"He kept running, and he got the guy he was after," Ben Cockerham said. "Then he came home and said 'Hey, look what I did.' "

Cockerham carried that straightforward style onto the soccer field, where, as a four-year striker in high school, he would use his speed and power to thrust through defenders, his father said.

"He played his personality," Ben Cockerham said. "If you shook hands with him and looked him in the eye, you'd know exactly what he thought."

As a boy, Cockerham had talked about joining the Marines but seemed to drop the idea when he graduated from Hickory's St. Stephens High School in 2002, his father said.

But he couldn't concentrate in college, and one day in March 2003, he came home and told his father that he had enlisted.

This was his second tour of duty in Iraq, and neither had been soft. The first time, in spring 2004, his squad had been one of the first into Fallujah when the Marines assaulted the city after the slaying and mutilation of four civilian security contractors from Blackwater USA, which has headquarters in North Carolina.

Riding in peril

At least four times, Humvees he was riding in or near had been hit by roadside bombs. The most recent was about three weeks ago. After his convoy stopped, Cockerham decided to switch vehicles. The trucks had barely started moving again when a bomb blast destroyed the one he had been riding in, killing the man who had taken his seat and three other Marines.

During his first deployment, he was wounded by a mortar blast and later received a Purple Heart, his father said.

The attack in which he died took place near a small town called Zaidon, a particularly dangerous place that had troubled Cockerham on both his stints in Iraq. Whenever the Marines went there, something bad always seemed to happen, he told his father.

"Last year, he'd call and be quiet and I'd ask what was the matter," Ben Cockerham said. "He'd say, 'We're going into Zulu tomorrow,' and I'd know what he was talking about. I don't know, maybe he had a premonition."

Cockerham's survivors include his wife, Amanda, whom he married between tours in Iraq; parents Ben and Jill; and brother Adam, 17.

He will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

Company commander

Swisher was the Echo Company commander, and it was his second deployment to Iraq, too.

Capt. Gary McCullar of Camp Lejeune, his best friend, called Swisher a "picture-perfect Marine" and one of the toughest guys he'd ever met.

They once served in the same company, and after grueling hikes, the Marines would have what's called a "bear pit" -- a mass wrestling match that ends only when one guy is left standing and all others have conceded.

"You took 50 guys, and he'd win, and I mean every time," McCullar said.

Swisher liked hunting and fishing, and rode a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. He also was a world-class family man, McCullar said.

"He loved his kids dearly," said McCullar. "He loved being a father, wrestling with his little boy, putting together toys and just spending good quality time with them."

Swisher's survivors include: his wife, Stephanie; daughters Ashleigh Lynch, 15, and Madison, 7; son Jacob, 5; parents David and Mary Beth Swisher of Cincinnati; brother John Swisher of Cincinnati; and sister Sarah Swisher, also of Cincinnati.

Staff writer Jay Price can be reached at 829-4526 or jprice@newsobserver.com.

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