Decorated Penn Township Marine Corps vet was proud to serve
John M. Westwood wanted to serve his country, like his father did, and make a career out of the Marine Corps, like his father wanted.
But the younger Mr. Westwood did not realize that dream because he was severely wounded in 2010 when a powerful improvised explosive device was detonated under his armored vehicle as it was traveling in southern Afghanistan. Mr. Westwood, who was manning a .50 caliber machine gun at the time of the explosion, suffered a traumatic brain injury and other wounds that eventually forced his retirement from his beloved Marines.
“He just loved the Marine Corps. He wanted to serve his country,” said his father, Benjamin Westwood III.
Mr. Westwood, 31, of Level Green in Penn Township, died Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018, at his home.
He was born March 2, 1987, in Monroeville, the son of Denise Antonucci Westwood of Level Green and Benjamin Westwood of Plum.
After graduating from Penn- Trafford High School, Mr. Westwood joined the Marines in 2007, like his father had done a generation before. Mr. Westwood served in Iraq with the 2nd Marine Division, 2nd Regiment, in 2008. His father, who joined the Marines in 1969, was sent to Vietnam and returned home to become a drill instructor at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island.
In 2010, Mr. Westwood was deployed to a forward operating base in Helmand province, where he went on foot and mobile patrols in the Taliban stronghold. He also provided security for the company commander and had the honor of putting the American and Afghanistan flags atop the base, Benjamin Westwood said.
Although Mr. Westwood was severely wounded, he remained in Afghanistan after receiving medical treatment. He was highly decorated, having received the Purple Heart, the Navy Commendation Medal and a meritorious combat promotion to the rank of corporal.
When he returned to the United States, doctors determined in 2012 that he should retire, Benjamin Westwood said. He worked various construction jobs and was hired into the Cement Masons Union, Local No. 52
In his free time, Mr. Westwood loved to ride his quad in Penn Township and at the family’s camp near Franklin, Venango County. He also liked to shoot guns and had a passion for artistry, Benjamin Westwood said, recalling how his son drew a picture of Jesus.
Still, he missed the Marines, Benjamin Westwood said.
“He struggled with that. … The camaraderie among combat veterans, it stays with you the rest of your life,” Benjamin Westwood said.
Mr. Westwood was best friends with fellow veteran Dustin Ionadi of Harrison City, who was in the Air Force and served tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq, Benjamin Westwood said. Ionadi died of a rare form of brain cancer in May.
Mr. Westwood was preceded in death by his brothers, Benjamin Westwood IV in 2016, and Nicholas Westwood in 2012.
In addition to his parents, he is survived by his daughter, Gianna Duckworth; and numerous cousins.
Friends were received at the Patrick Lanigan Funeral Home and Crematory, Turtle Creek/Monroeville Chapel, 1111 Monroeville Ave., where a private funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday. He will be buried with full military honors next to his brothers in Church Hill Cemetery, Wilkins Township.
Memorial donations may be made to Wounded Warrior Project, 300 Grant St., Suite 900, Pittsburgh, PA 15219, or www.woundedwarrior project.org.
Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252 or firstname.lastname@example.org.