July 3, 2008 – Sgt. Sean Webster served two tours in Iraq, was awarded two Purple Hearts and was severely wounded by shrapnel from an explosion in 2005. Afterward, he endured more than 10 surgeries and relentless physical therapy, and was working to make sure other wounded veterans got the care they needed.
But after surviving a war zone, the 23-year-old Webster, a Charlottesville native and graduate of McLean High School, was found dead Saturday at Camp Pendleton, the Marine Corps base north of San Diego. Base officials declined to divulge the circumstances surrounding his death, citing an ongoing investigation.
A base spokesman, 1st Lt. Tom Garnett, said that Webster’s body was found about 2 p.m. in Area 27, a large area in the southeastern portion of the base that includes a naval hospital, barracks for wounded veterans where Webster was assigned, and Lake O’Neill.
Webster’s father, Kenneth Webster of Charlottesville, said he had been informed of the circumstances of his son’s death but declined to discuss them.
Sean Webster was stationed at Camp Pendleton as a barracks manager and police sergeant with Wounded Warrior Battalion West, a unit founded in March 2007 that is dedicated to helping wounded Marines and sailors and their families navigate the various stages of their recovery.
The elder Webster said his son was a dedicated Marine who knew by 17 that he would join the service.
“He came to us and said, ‘Mom and dad, I want to join the Marines,’ ” Webster said. “He said, ‘You send me to college, you know what, I’m going to fool around, I’m going to waste your money.’ I guess he talked to a Marine recruiter, and we thought it was a great idea.”
Webster pre-enlisted and joined up right after graduating from high school in 2003. A lover of physical challenges who grew up swimming, playing soccer and skateboarding, Webster picked the Marine Corps because “they were the toughest, they had the hardest boot camp, and they were the strongest and the best,” his father said.
After basic training, Webster was stationed at Camp Pendleton, where he was trained as an assault amphibious vehicle crewman. He was deployed to Iraq in 2004 for his first six-month tour.
In June 2004, a rocket exploded near the vehicle Webster was riding in, near the Syrian border. Webster escaped with only cuts to his face. The wound led to his first Purple Heart, an honor that “embarrassed” him, his father said.
“He thought it was too minor to ever have earned a Purple Heart,” Webster said.
In September 2005, during his second tour, an anti-tank mine exploded under Webster’s vehicle, tearing the skin off his thigh and shattering his right elbow. The decorated veteran spent the following years in physical therapy trying to regain full use of his arm, his father said.
Webster eventually returned to Camp Pendleton, where he continued to receive medical care. In 2007, he was one of the first Marines to enter the Wounded Warrior program and remained there to assist other veterans.
“He didn’t really talk much about his work, but he seemed to like it a lot, and he seemed to really have a sense of camaraderie with the guys who were there,” his father said. “He himself almost never complained about his injuries. The only thing I really heard him get angry about was he couldn’t put deodorant on . . . and he couldn’t really tie his boots.”
In addition to his father, Webster is survived by his mother, Michele McCarthy, and his sister, Jessica Scopelliti.
A viewing will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. tomorrow at Teague Funeral Home in Charlottesville. Funeral services will be 2 p.m. Saturday at Christ Episcopal Church in Charlottesville. Interment, with an honor guard, will follow at Monticello Memory Gardens.