Debbi Logan was doing dishes at her home in Texas on January 19, 2012 when there was knock on the door. Looking out the window she excitedly ran to wake her husband.
“Tom, Tom, Tom hurry up there are two Marines at the door and I think one of them is Joey,” Debbi said.
The Logan’s were rarely given prior warning before there son Joey would return from deployment as a Marine Corps Corporal in Afghanistan. He was on his second deployment, one he volunteered for well before his was due to return, and the silhouette of the taller of the two Marines bore a striking resemblance to their 6’2” 220-pound son.
Upon opening the door, Debbi’s heart sank when she realized it wasn’t her son or either of their two other children serving in the armed forces. At 10:30 pm they knew the Marines could only be there for one reason.
“I was in denial,” Tom said. “I kept saying it can’t be Joey, it can’t be Joey.”
Tom and Debbi had spoken to their son that morning and over the hour-long conversation Joey spoke about things Tom said, “were not normal for a 22-year-old to talk about.” Things like taking a road trip to New York and Chicago. Things like seeing his grandmother.
“I think he had a feeling something bad was going to happen,” Tom said. “Because he told me ‘Dad it’s getting really bad over here.’ The war was heating up big time.”
Four years prior to that January night, Joey graduated from Willis High School in Texas and was already enlisted and prepared to attend Marine Corps basic training.
However Joey was still recovering from a severe hand injury that occurred during a fall, which almost cost him his life earlier in the year.
“He called me in the middle of the night and said ‘Dad, Dad, I cut my hand and this thing is just squirting blood,’” Tom said.
All of the tendons and arteries in his hand were completely severed. Tom knew he would not be able to make it in time to take his son to the hospital, so he told Joey to make a tourniquet around the wound and have his friends drive him to the hospital.
“They probably saved his life,” Tom said.
After 11-hours of surgery his hand was repaired and Joey was out of danger but the injury made him and his family fear all of his dreams of becoming a Marine would not come true.
“With that injury we thought that would be it,” Tom said. “But he fought it every inch of the way.”
Six months into the intense physical therapy Joey hit a wall and became visibly depressed. Tom had already planned a fishing trip through the western United States and thought taking his son along would be a good way to get Joey back on track.
“Grab your fly-rod and let’s see if you can grip it,” Tom told his son.
“Dad I can’t,” the reply from Joey.
“Put it in your hand,” Tom said sternly.
Joey was able to grip the fly-rod and the two immediately set off to explore the myriad of fishing holes west of the Rockies.
For three and a half months the two fished everywhere - often sleeping in Tom’s truck or a tent. When the stink of the road became unbearable they would grab a motel room for the night to shower before once again hitting the road.
The trip began in Arizona and slowly went north through New Mexico and up to Idaho. When they crossed into Montana Tom, saw a change in Joey.
“You could just see him, he was infatuated with the place,” Tom said. “He told me ‘Dad I want to live here.’”
The seed was planted in Joey and after the trip brought the two through Canada he asked Tom if they could spend more time fishing in Montana.
“He was hooked on the place,” Tom said. “It was all he could talk about.”
For the remainder of the trip and beyond, Montana was a constant source of conversation for Joey – who wanted to save his funds from his time serving to purchase property so his brothers in the Marine Corps could have a place to hunt and fish after their own service was up.
Tom still thinks fondly of the trip he spent with his son and the way his eyes lit up fishing the rivers and lakes of Montana. To him it was the perfect send off for his son to begin his enlistment because as Tom said, he would soon be going from the heaven that is the Big Sky State to the hell that is the conflict in Afghanistan.
Tom sits at the Lozeau Lodge, eight miles outside of Superior, holding a photo of his son on the back of a CH-53D Sea Stallion Helicopter in Afghanistan and talks about how much Joey loved serving in the Marine Corps.
“I have never seen a kid his age love what he was doing so much,” Tom said. “Joey has the finger and you can imagine what the finger means.” The finger of the helicopter, used for transporting troops and providing cover fire, is on the rear of the Sea Stallion and serves two purposes – one as a means for troops to quickly deploy and the other as a platform for a .50 caliber machine gun operated by a Marine tethered to a cable.
“This is when he was happiest,” Tom says of the photo. “Smiling like a fat cat on his .50 cal machine gun. He once called me and said, ‘Dad how cool is this? I get to fly around in a helicopter and shoot big guns and get paid.’”
Over the course of his two deployments in Afghanistan Joey served with five other Marines – Captain Daniel Bartle, Captain Nathan McHone, Master Sergeant Travis Riddick, Corporal Kevin Reinhard and Corporal Jesse Stites – a group described by Tom as “professional, highly decorated soldiers” assigned to the Lucky Red Lions Squadron.
Joey formed an immediate bond with all of his squad, in particular Cpt. Bartle, who was a Montana native.
“They would get together and all they talked about was Montana,” Tom said. “I would have loved to have listened in on some of those conversations.”
In his two deployments in Afghanistan, Joey flew in 42 combat missions and countless more supply missions – earning two air medals for his service.
“I think he was trying to shoot for 100 combat missions before he came home,” Tom said.
Prior to each of those missions the Marines would kneel and pray because as Tom said “they never knew when they were going to meet their maker.”
On the evening of Jan. 18 in the mountains of Afghanistan, Joey and his fellow Marines once again kneeled for prayer prior to their second combat mission of the day.
The mission would be Joey’s last.
All six of the squad lost their lives when the Sea Stallion suffered from mechanical failure and crashed in the mountainside.
The tragic death of Joey Logan and the rest of his squad would set events in motion that would fulfill the 22-year-olds dreams into Mineral County Montana.
“He paid for this, for his dream, with his blood,” Tom said.
Several months after the death of their son, Tom and Debbi decided to take a trip retracting the same route as the fishing trip four-years earlier. There were two reasons for the trip – one to spread some of Joey’s ashes and two to look for a final resting place for their son in Montana where they intended to build a cabin and bring Joey’s dream to life.
They found both.
Joey had saved all of his deployment checks and Tom and Debbi intended to use those funds to purchase property in Montana.
“We looked all over the state and on the next to the last day a realtor called us and said he had found a piece of heaven,” Tom said.
That piece of heaven was located in Mineral County and when the Logan’s arrived at the property Tom said there were “rays from heaven” as if Joey was smiling down on the place.
“This is it,” Tom and Debbi said in unison.
The Logan’s purchased the 164-acre property, which is completely surrounded by the Lolo National Forest eight-miles outside of Superior.
As a thank you to the men and women serving in the military and as a way of honoring their son, Tom and Debbi plan to build six cabins on the property –one for each of the “Fallen Six.” An open invitation has been given to military personnel to utilize the cabins as a quiet place where they can hunt, fish and hike.
“Joey’s dreams will come true,” Tom said. “Joey’s memories and the Warrior Spirit will always be there.”
Joey’s ashes are buried on the property and both Tom and Debbi agree their late son would be proud of what has become the “The Fallen Six Project.”
To learn more about “The Fallen Six Project” visit http://www.redlionusmcproject.com.