- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 21, 2015

MARIETTA, Ga. (AP) - Lance Cpl. Skip Wells was remembered during a memorial Tuesday night as a dedicated Marine whose death during attacks on military facilities in Chattanooga, Tennessee, crystalized him as the hero those who knew him said he was destined to be.

Hundreds gathered at Sprayberry High School in the Atlanta suburb of Marietta to remember 21-year-old Squire Wells, known as “Skip,” who was slain Thursday in an attack that authorities have characterized as an act of domestic terrorism. Wells attended Sprayberry and Georgia Southern University before enlisting in the Marine Corps.

Andy Kingery, a friend who is acting as a family spokesman, said in an email that funeral plans for Wells have not been finalized. Wells’ relatives attended the memorial but did not address the crowd.

Sprayberry ROTC instructor Lt. Cmdr. Dennis Wonders read final orders relieving Wells of duty and officials said a memorial plaque would be installed on campus in his honor.

Wonders said he tried persuading Wells to attend college before enlisting, but he enlisted after a year at Georgia Southern.

“He figured if he was going to serve, he would go all the way and be one of the few and the proud,” Wonders said. “If you needed something done, you went to Skip and there was no concern after that.”

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal on Tuesday ordered flags throughout the state to be lowered to half-staff in honor of Wells and Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith of Rossville - just south of Chattanooga.

The two were among four military personnel killed last Thursday when an armed man opened fire at two military facilities in Chattanooga. The man was killed by police.

“We lower the U.S. and state flags as a sign of respect and as a reminder to all of the sacrifice it symbolizes,” Deal said in a statement. The flags will fly at half-staff through sunset on July 30.

Lance Cpl. Charles Mathis traveled from Chattanooga for the memorial and compared Wells’ death to losing a brother. Mathis said he’d known Wells for about a year and formed a tight bond with him when the two traveled to California for training exercises.

“It’s like a bad dream you can’t seem to get up out of,” Mathis said, looking past a line of American flags lining the edge of the football field just before sunset. “His whole aura was freaking contagious.”

Mathis said Wells told him he either wanted to die as an old man or on the battlefield and he always talked about defending the country from any potential threat.

“I’m not worried about what he could have been. He was already fantastic as a person,” Mathis said. “That’s something terrorism and evil can’t outweigh: the happiness of other people and the memory of who people really were.”

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