Marshall graduated from high school in 1984 and served his country in decorated military service. Excellence marked his life, as he garnered distinction and recognition from his high school sports successes through his career as a U.S. Navy SEAL.
With altruism unbounded, Marshall encouraged, motivated, and inspired all that knew him to fulfill the potential within them.
He lived his short life to the fullest with a passion to achieve and measured his worth according to the integrity of his heart. In all his endeavors, he pushed himself beyond his limits.
When his health began to deteriorate under the aggressive assault of a virus in his heart, Marshall fought with a fierce focus that impressed his doctors. His high level of fitness buoyed him far beyond their expectations. He was likewise encouraged by a bottomless well of love and support from his mother, step-father, sisters, brother, and grandparents.
Once the virus persisted, Marshall was in and out of VA hospitals. Doctors were reluctant to place him on a list for a heart transplant, as they feared his weakened body would not survive the operation.
But, Marshall never let his eyes falter from his course, despite a daunting prognosis. He kept his chin up and counseled others: evaluate what is truly important in life -- let go of trivial concerns and worries.
I visited Marshall in Houston during the summer of 1999. He was having a good day, and we met at a McDonald's near the Astrodome. We had a wonderful time reminiscing about school days, bygone track meets, and our respective military experiences, but he carefully orchestrated the conversation to avoid the future.
As we left in our separate vehicles, I followed Marshall briefly before our destinations caused our paths to diverge.
I watched him drive away, his silhouette through the back window of his truck. I wondered if I'd ever see him alive again.
Eventually, Marshall woke each morning to combat the looming specter of mortality and continual complications. Breathing became a battle. But he still cherished all that life had given him.
I visited Marshall in the hospital on Mother's Day of 2000. His previously fit body had withered and lost considerable muscle mass. It seemed clear the end was near, but he was at peace.
He died at the age of 34 within the week of my Mother's Day visit. His brave determination and his mother’s love were not enough in the end.
But, his loved ones and the nation he served can be proud of his legacy.
I miss him.