Proper honors for a Marine

American Legion Post 166 in Goose Creek will have a burial ceremony Friday for an unknown Marine — whose remains were left at the post with this emblem as the only clue.

GOOSE CREEK -- A Marine never leaves a brother behind.

The ashes of an unknown Marine that reportedly were left in a storage unit and put up for sale at a flea market last year will get a proper burial Friday, thanks to a fellow Marine who rescued them.

At least that's the story among the members of American Legion Post 166, where the ashes have been sitting for a year.

About a year ago, a Marine from Parris Island walked in and said he wanted to drop off an urn with the ashes of another Marine, according to Post Commander Ron DeMello, a retired Army veteran.

DeMello said the Marine told a volunteer working at the post that day that he got the ashes from a woman who saw them for sale at the Ladson flea market. The box reportedly was part of the contents of a storage unit that had been sold because the bill wasn't paid. They were up for sale with the rest of unit's contents until the woman rescued them.

It's a gray box, about the size and shape of a toaster, with a brownish medallion that reads "United States Marine Corps." There are no other markings, other than the brand name "Rieke" imprinted on the plastic plug that screws into the bottom.

The box appears to be weathered, as if it were kept outside. The bottom is scuffed, with black scraps that looks like epoxy, as if the box were glued down at one time.

Unfortunately, no one got the name of the Marine who dropped off the box, so there's no way to trace the ashes back to the storage unit, DeMello said.

"We've got a very big post, and we've talked about this thing," DeMello said. "It's been very difficult to try to retrace the steps. When they were moving this thing around, nobody was getting names; they were just moving the urn around."

It makes sense that a fellow Marine brought in the ashes, though, said First Lt. Sharon Hyland, public affairs officer for the Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort.

"It doesn't surprise me that a Marine took charge to take care of another Marine, regardless of whether or not they knew each other, because as Marines, we have certain bonds," she said. "We're family, and that's the way we see it. So it doesn't surprise me to hear that a Marine is taking care of another Marine. "

DeMello asked Mickey Reeves with Stuhr Funeral Home, a fellow veteran, to look at the box. Reeves confirmed it contained human ashes.

Reeves said it's not unusual for a cremation urn to turn up after somebody dies.

"They keep it on the mantle and all of a sudden something happens to you," he said. "You'd be surprised how often it happens."

But this is the first time he's seen one that's unidentified, and he's never heard of somebody losing track of a Marine urn. He said he didn't see any reason the ashes couldn't be buried outside the post.

"I think that's a great thing they're doing," Reeves said.

DeMello said he contacted a cemetery and was told they couldn't accept the unidentified remains. So instead, the ashes will be buried beside the soldier's cross in front of the post about 1 p.m. Friday with military honors.

"We're just going to give him what he deserves," said David Coates, a member of the honor guard that will give the unknown Marine a proper resting place.