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Fallen Marine laid to rest, Hundreds gather to mourn 25-year-old Johnathan Kirk

By By NIKIE MAYO ,News Editor
PAMLICO BEACH — Hundreds of mourners shielded themselves from biting wind and pelting dust Sunday to pay final respects to Lance Cpl. Johnathan Ernest Kirk. But they could not shield his mother from her raw grief.
Stroking the Marine Corps casket that bore his body, Glenda Hopkins wailed: “I want my baby back. I want my baby back. … He told me he was coming home.”
Kirk, 25, died Tuesday at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., from injuries sustained April 23 when a roadside bomb exploded near his truck in Iraq. He was laid to rest near a canopy of trees in the Pamlico Beach Community Cemetery, just outside Belhaven.
Kirk was remembered as a straight-A student from Northside High School, who liked to wrestle with his younger brothers, lift weights and work out in the gym.
Kirk attended Wades Point Pentecostal Holiness Church and earned an associate’s degree in electrical work from Beaufort County Community College before deciding to join the Marines in January 2006. He had been in Iraq about three weeks when he was mortally wounded.
Kirk’s father, John Willis Kirk, sat with his head bowed slightly as he listened to the minister read about the Purple Heart that President Bush bestowed upon his only son.
When Gunnery Sgt. C.R. Cox handed him one of two flags given to the family, the elder Kirk drew in a weary breath and began to sob for his firstborn.
Fulford, flanked by his own son, 7-year-old Caleb, told the family: “My heart aches for your loss.”
Carl Kelly Gurganus, one of the many Beaufort County residents who attended the fallen Marine’s service, said he did so because his own son is the same age as Johnathan Kirk.
When the wind caused the funeral-home tent to whip and sway, Gurganus was drafted from the crowd to hold one of the poles.