Marines carry the casket of Cpl. Nicholas Sell from Trail Christian Fellowship in Eagle Point Thursday. Sell died Sept. 16, 2013, during a training accident in Southern California. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch - Jamie Lusch

'A tragic loss, a life cut short'

Lt.Col. Eric Blanchard made it clear to those crowded into the Trail Christian Fellowship church late Thursday morning the kind of Marine they had come to memorialize.

If he had it within his power, he would have a thousand like Cpl. Nicholas "Nick" James Sell in his command, the officer told those assembled.

"He was an outstanding young Marine," said Blanchard, commanding officer of the corporal's unit in the 3rd Amphibious Battalion, 1st Marine Division, based at Camp Pendleton, Calif.

He described Cpl. Sell as hard-working and steadfast, a good friend to his comrades.

"Know that there are 1,400 Marines and sailors in his unit who are hurting today," he added. "We will always be faithful to his memory."

The officer was among 20 Marines from the unit who attended the memorial for Cpl. Sell, 21, a Medford native and a 2010 graduate of Eagle Point High School, who died Sept. 16 in a vehicle accident during training at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, Calif. The accident occurred in the desert some 130 miles east of Los Angeles.

Sell, who joined the Corps right after high school, served in Afghanistan in 2012. His awards included the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon and the National Defense Service Medal.

He is survived by his parents, Randy and Kathy Sell of Eagle Point, and brothers Jeff and Beau Macy.

In welcoming the near-capacity crowd, chaplain Darrel Wiltrout stressed the event was a memorial service, not a funeral.

"The dictionary defines a funeral as a ceremony conducted for the burial of the dead," he said, noting a memorial celebrates and makes tribute to the one memorialized.

Nick Sell's life and times were celebrated by a montage of photographs shown on large TV screens: a smiling baby boy, a clowning-around teenager, a grinning outdoors man, a smiling Eagle Scout, a confident Marine in uniform. Smiling, of course.

"Most of us are too busy living life to consider death and the questions that accompany that inevitable end," Wiltrout observed, noting people generally believe it will happen to others or is in a distant future.

When a loved one dies, it is natural to ask why, he said.

"I've asked that question in the past, and I'm asking it again now," he said, noting it is part of the grieving process.

Many who stepped forward to speak referred to Nick Sell's religious beliefs, which they shared.

Eagle Point High School teacher Matt Boren spoke of watching the youngster with the "famous smile" grow into a young man.

"His smile would lighten any day, and his laughter was contagious," he said, noting Sell was also a bit of a prankster.

Local resident Ron Draper, retired from a career in the Army, read a letter written by Michael Draper, his son and Nick Sell's cousin. Michael Draper is currently serving in the Navy.

"In Michael's words, it was a tragic loss, a life cut short," he said, adding, "It was hard to be in a bad mood around him."

In his letter, Michael Draper noted that he hoped the Corps would make revisions in its training to ensure that future accidents like the one that took his cousin's life will not happen again.

Others, like longtime friend Jay Reed, simply shared their grief.

"Although we didn't share the same blood, he was my brother," Reed said.

One family friend, reflecting on the fact that Nick Sell was well liked and respected, told the crowd to look at Randy and Kathy Sell "to see what good parenting looks like."

Then there was Shirley Blanchard, his kindergarten teacher and no relation to the Marine officer. She stepped into the kindergarten room one day to see all the youngsters huddled around young Nick Sell, she related. When she investigated, she discovered he had found an earthworm on the sidewalk.

"He was taking care of it," she recalled, adding that he was also wearing his trademark smile. The earthworm was sent home in a nest of green grass placed in a little box, she said.

Bryan Cobb, 24, a former Marine corporal who was discharged in June, came up from his home in Los Angeles for his friend's memorial. The two were together the weekend before he died, said Cobb in an interview after the memorial.

"I couldn't ask for a better friend or brother," said Cobb, who originally hails from Eagle Point.

The Sell family represents the best of Southern Oregon, said family friend Ron Hailicka of Butte Falls.

"The Sell kids and ours ended up a lot together," he said. "This is a time to appreciate the time we had together."

During the memorial, Randy Sell talked about the closeness of their family.

"We have no regrets about something we did or did not do," he said of raising their son. "Nick knew he was loved."

With that, he looked over at the casket containing his son's earthly remains.

"Nick, we all loved you so, so much," he said.

Following the memorial, a private burial was held at Brownsboro Cemetery just east of Eagle Point.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or

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