Our Susan

On June 8th, 2006, Sergeant Susan Babich, USMC, Ty and Angie’s daughter, Suzanne’s step-daughter, Warren’s wife, and Elisabeth’s sister, crossed the veil with her unborn son, Liam Tyler, when she was struck by lightning while crossing the flight line at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point.  We dedicate this page in her honor.

She was born Susan Marie Giesemann on December 6, 1978, in Annapolis, Maryland, while Ty and Angie were stationed at the US Naval Academy She was a loving, happy girl who enjoyed the outdoors, theater, and music. She attended E. J. King High School in Sasebo, Japan, and graduated from Episcopal High School in Jacksonville, Florida. She attended Appalachian State University and then joined the US Marine Corps in 1998. Not content to sit at a desk, she became an airframes mechanic, specializing in nondestructive inspection and testing. She made two deployments to Okinawa. She earned her aircrew wings and qualified as both a transportation safety specialist and as a loadmaster on the C-9 aircraft. Susan and Warren, both Marine sergeants, were married on November 25th, 2005 in Havelock, North Carolina. Liam Tyler, their first child, was to be born in September. Susan was a beautiful woman, a tough Marine, a loving wife, and the greatest daughter ever. At the memorial service, funeral, and reception on Wednesday, June 14th, we learned more of the Marine aspect of her life from the many Marines and civilians she knew and touched during her time at Marine Transport Squadron-1 at Cherry Point. The ceremony with full military honors was performed flawlessly by the Marines she served with, and the daily visits, concern, and assistance by her Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Pete Buck, by Major Wade Reinthaler, and squadron Sergeant Major Chris Rice will never be forgotten.

Susan’s favorite flower was the passion flower – an appropriate choice, considering her passion for life. Shortly after she died, Warren and her sister, Elisabeth, bought a passion flower plant in Susan’s memory. The vine had many blossoms, but none of them had yet opened. When we all left for the memorial service and funeral, the blossoms hung limply on the plant as it sat in the front yard of Susan and Warren’s house. When we returned, two blossoms had bloomed fully and one had opened half way, as if to symbolize one for Susan, one for Warren, and a half-blossom for Liam. By the next day, the flowers had closed, and no more opened that week. This and other signs since her passing give us hope that even though she’s no longer with us physically, she’s with us in spirit, just as stated so eloquently in the following poem Mary Mary Elizabeth Frye …

Do not stand at my grave and weep,

I am not there, I do not sleep.

I am in a thousand winds that blow,

I am the softly falling snow.

I am the gentle showers of rain,

I am the fields of ripening grain.

I am in the morning hush,

I am in the graceful rush

Of beautiful birds in circling flight,

I am the starshine of the night.

I am in the flowers that bloom,

I am in a quiet room.

I am in the birds that sing,

I am in each lovely thing.

Do not stand at my grave and cry,

I am not there. I do not die.

Ty’s Eulogy for Susan

I would like to thank you all for being here to honor our daughter Susan. I would especially like to thank those Marines from VMR-1 who have helped us through this very difficult time.

My words today will be addressed to our daughter Susan.

Susan, many, many people had the privilege of knowing and loving you—your immediate family, your extended family, your friends, your fellow Marines. We have no words that can express the depth of our love for you – and yet at the same time, we have only words.

Susan, we not only loved you, we admired you.

We admired your individualism – your independent and intelligent opinions, and your desire and success in being true to yourself, at every age and in every period of your life. You were a leader, not a follower.

We admired your principles, and especially your sense of justice, which guided your opinions and your deeds. Fathers hope to teach their daughters things, but you taught me a lot, especially to be more tolerant and understanding.

We admired your compassion, and the respect that you gave to every human being, and to all creatures.

We admired your charity; you always thought of others before yourself. You donated generously to several charities, and never spent money on yourself, but enjoyed giving to others.

We admired your spirit of adventure, your love of the wilderness, the mountains, and the forests. I remember the times we spent hiking the Appalachian Trail; we would often stop, not talking, just listening to the wind in the trees and the songs of the birds.

We admired your fun-loving nature and zest for life, that led you to do things like driving from Camp Pendleton to Cherry Point in your 1973 Chevy Nova (a trip that took you several weeks because of the breakdowns; I told you you shouldn’t have bought a car five years older than you were).

We admired your persistence in achieving your goals and in getting the job done, no matter what the obstacles or how long it took. One of the proudest days in my life was when you graduated from Boot Camp at Parris Island. The look on your face showed your happiness and pride in earning your eagle, globe and anchor.

We admired your bravery, not only as a Marine, but also when you would stand up for what you believed in, even when your stand went against the norm.

We admired your intelligence, your creativity, and the sense of humor that always made us laugh. We will always remember and cherish your impish grin and sometimes goofy expressions. You never took yourself too seriously, and you made sure I didn’t take myself too seriously, either.

We admired your patriotism, and honor the sacrifices you made for your country and the Corps. You embodied the Marine Corps motto, Semper Fidelis.

We admired your ability to balance your roles as a tough Marine sergeant, a soft and feminine woman, and a beautiful, loving wife, and a mother to be.

We admired your maturity in buying your own house at such a young age, and turning it into a warm, beautiful home for you and Warren and Liam.

We admired your true love for Warren, and the happiness you brought each other. When we saw you looking at one another, it was obvious that yours was that perfect love which everyone seeks but few achieve.

We admired the close relationship you had with your sister Elisabeth, and the love, friendship and comfort you brought to each other.

Susan, we were fortunate to know and love you. We will continue to love the Susan who was full of exuberance, energy and life, who brought us so much joy and happiness. You remain in the heart of each and every one of us, and your memory will inspire us forever.

Susan, you know the personal thoughts and feelings that are in my heart, but which are too difficult to say at this moment.  We know that you are watching and listening now, and that one day we will be together again in a better place.

Susan, my darling beloved daughter, the greatest privilege of my life was to be your father.

Eulogy from Susan’s Commanding Officer,
Lieutenant Colonel Pete Buck, United States Marine Corps

Today we are a gathered family . . . a family defined and recognizable in the Navy and Marine Corps family, the Marine Transport Squadron One Family, and of course the Giesemann-Babich family . . . all joined together by our relationship with one . . . Sergeant Susan Babich.  Today we join together to celebrate . . . and say farewell . . . to a Marine . . . a wife . . . a daughter . . . a sister . . . and a mother to be.

Susan Marie Giesemann was born to Maria Munoz and Frank Ty Giesemann at 1912 on 6 December, 1978 in Annapolis, MD at Anne Arundel Hospital.  At this time Susan’s father was teaching at the United States Naval Academy.

As with any military family, Susan and her parents and Elisabeth made many moves, but Susan loved and considered New Orleans her hometown.  Susan and her sister Elisabeth had a close friendship growing up and visited New Orleans together every summer as children.

Susan attended Episcopal High School in Jacksonville, FL and graduated on 24 May 1997. Susan was a bright, intelligent girl . . . scoring high on her SATs . . . and during high school was very active in many sports, including wrestling, swimming, basketball, and soccer. She also loved the outdoors, hiking, and dabbled with dance as part of the jazz group.  In addition, she loved the theater and performed in many high school plays.

Susan was also exceedingly stubborn, always choosing her way to do things and always rebellious. Following high school she attended Appalachian State University in Boone, NC for one term, enrolled in general studies.

Despite offers from the United States Air Force and United States Naval Academies, Susan shocked her mother and probably her naval father by enlisting in the Marine Corps.

Susan entered the Marine Corps through Marine Enlisted Processing Station Jacksonville, FL, and graduated from Marine Corps Recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, SC on 18 December 1998.

Following Recruit Training, Susan reported to the School of Infantry, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, NC, and then on to Marine Aviation Training Support Group Naval Air Station Pensacola, FL and Naval Air Station Cecil Field for aviation training. During this period, she completed requirements for her primary Military Occupational Skill of Intermediate Level Aviation Structural and Hydraulic Mechanic (6051/6092).

Following MOS training, Susan reported to Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 39 (MALS-39) at Camp Pendleton, CA, where she served as a “metal smith” including two deployments with the Unit Deployment Program (UDP) to Japan.

In January 2004, Susan arrived here in Cherry Point, NC where she joined Marine Transport Squadron One (VMR-1).

At VMR-1, Susan served in many capacities, including Airframe Mechanic, Non-Destructive Inspection Technician, Color Sergeant, Load Master on the C-9B Sky Train II and Maintenance Controller. She loved her work, loved to be in the thick of maintenance . . . getting her hands dirty.  She disdained administrative work and loved telling stories of boot camp . . . which, to Angie’s chagrin, sometimes included some colorful language we’re not sure where she learned.

Susan was respected by seniors and subordinates alike and was a visible element of the squadron. Her upbeat personality, applied leadership, critical maintenance skills, and load master qualification involved her in virtually every facet of VMR-1’s mission.

While at VMR-1 she also met someone special . . . Sergeant Warren L. Babich. They met during Susan’s check-in while Warren was the barracks manager. Warren had gone to check on her twice . . . just to make sure she had everything she needed. A friendship developed . . . grew into a relationship . . . and on 25 November 2005 . . . in the backyard of their home . . . Susan and Warren were married.  In Warren’s words, “She picked me.”

Warren had presented Susan with an engagement ring that he had himself made special and unique for her . . . and Susan became Sergeant Susan M. Babich.

Susan and Warren were a special pair.  They complemented one another.  Susan had a beautiful feminine side . . . which Warren brought out fully.  He softened her . . . and they were beautiful together.

They shared many interests and loved being together . . . especially on motorcycle rides.  This past December they found out they were expecting a son . . . to be named Liam Tyler Babich. So much promise . . . so much value . . . and so much to do.

However, life is unpredictable and a natural phenomenon has altered the course.

On 8 June 2006 at 2114 . . . Susan Marie Babich departed from us.

Susan’s death is a reminder to us all that life is truly a gift . . . and its length measured. Like sand in an invisible hour glass, we do not know when the last grain will fall.

The measure of sand given to each of us is not equal and we cannot know what measure is established for us.

And so . . . we must use our time wisely and with purpose . . . in our relationships, our choices, our priorities and our approach to living.

Former President Ronald Reagan once said . . . “Some people wonder all their lives if they’ve made a difference. The Marines don’t have that problem.”

How did Susan use her grains of sand?  Of her own initiative, Susan chose to serve . . . her Nation, her Corps, her squadron, and her family.

You see, we casually say the word all the time; he or she “served” or he or she is in the “Service.”

But the power is not in the word; the noun.  The power is in the action . . . the lifestyle . . . a lifestyle of service.

Almost two years ago now, I had the privilege to serve as Aide de Camp to then Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Vern Clark.  Many times I heard Admiral Clark refer to the military uniform as the cloth of our Nation.  This is quite a statement and truly defines for us the symbolic representation of our oath, our commitment, our service to our Nation.

Susan understood what it meant and what it means to wear the cloth of our Nation.  She understood and never forgot the sacrifice . . . the commitment . . . the service.

I pray that I . . . we . . . will uphold the standards of service demonstrated by Susan and men and women like Susan.

Like the cherished sands of Iwo Jima . . . the sand that defines the image and legacy of our Corps . . . so Susan has given each of us a few grains of her sand . . . grains that collectively define for us her image and legacy of service.

Warren, Angie, Captain Giesemann, and Elisabeth . . . thank you for sharing the very best you had to offer.  Thank you for Susan and Susan’s “service” to our Nation. It has been my great honor to know Sergeant Susan Marie Babich . . . to celebrate her life and her service . . . and to serve as her Commanding Officer.

Semper Fidelis Susan.

Marine Transport Squadron 1 remembers fallen sergeant
Story by Cpl Jesse R. Stence

The Station Chapel was quiet except for the sounds of rustling trousers, Marines’ dress shoes dully registering on the carpeted auditorium aisle and the occasional hushed whispers of Sgt. Susan M. Babich’s friends and family members.

As the crowd filed through the double doors to the auditorium Wednesday, they saw a picture of her and her husband Sgt. Warren L. Babich at the head of aisle. Both were pictured wearing dress blue uniforms, presumably for the Marine Corps Ball. The smiles on their faces were a small portrait of the stories Susan’s loved ones told at the memorial service earlier. Susan, standing a head shorter than her husband, her hand resting on his chest, bore the modest smile of the proud wife described during the service. Warren’s smile was the happy, contented expression of a strong but soft-spoken man who had found his life partner.

The Babich’s romance ended tragically and abruptly, June 8, when Susan was struck by lightning outside the Marine Transport Squadron 1 hangar where they worked. Susan, at 27, was pregnant with her first child.

“We have no words that can express the depth of our love for you, but at the same time, we have only words,” said her father, retired Navy Capt. Frank T. Giesemann.

The remarks made at her memorial service revolved around her vibrant character as a Marine, a wife and a young woman.

“Sgt. Susan Babbich was a Marine,” said Giesemann. “She lived it, loved it and died a Marine.”

Retired Gunnery Sgt. James F. Hammondtree, the airframes work leader with VMR-1, said, “Susan did things with a passion, and she loved her husband Warren with a passion. She was in love with being a wife and a mother … The happiest I ever saw her in her life was when she was with her husband.”

Hammondtree also shared several anecdotes regarding Susan’s tenacity and assertiveness as a Marine, saying, “You didn’t tell Susan she couldn’t do it. She didn’t pack a lot of weight, but the Lord gave her a whole lot of determination, so she got it done.”

Susan’s husband formally rendered the closing remarks. Afterward, several Marines in the squadron and a few of the Babbich’s local friends came forward on an impromptu basis.

“For everything she’s done for us, she was a wonderful woman,” said Warren, speaking just above a whisper. “It seems like this would go a whole lot easier if there was something to blame, but there’s not. She was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. But, it was the happiest time of our life. We didn’t lose out on anything; we didn’t miss out on anything.”