MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- -- A mother shared her journey of loss and forgiveness in the wake of her daughter’s death due to a drunk driver during a presentation to Marines at the base theater aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, June 5.
It was Renee Napier’s third year speaking to the Marines of 2nd Maintenance Battalion, and each year the Marines leave inspired, said Capt. Steven B. Cole, a logistics officer with the battalion who helped coordinate the event. After last year’s presentation, it was months before the unit faced a drunk driving incident, he added.
“We felt her story would make an impact on the Marines who came to listen,” said Sgt. Maj. Ronnie E. Ellis, the battalion sergeant major of 2nd Maintenance Bn. “I hope they realized the importance of having a plan when alcohol is involved. The most valuable asset the Marine Corps has is its Marines, and to lose one or to have one cause the loss of another life due to drunk driving is unacceptable.”
Napier hopes to use her story to impact the groups she speaks to, she explained. If the Marines walked away with only one thing from the presentation, Napier hoped it would be a commitment to never hurt others or themselves by driving while under the influence.
“Listening to her experience was amazing,” said Cpl. Matthew Carroll, an assault amphibious vehicle repairer with 2nd Maintenance Bn. “Everything she said inspired me. Her message hit us hard. It’s something I know we won’t forget.”
Napier spoke of how she learned of her daughter’s death, and her journey to do her part to decrease or stop drunk driving in society. She shared details of her family life before and after the accident, the trial of Eric Smallridge, her daughter’s killer, and how she forgave and sought to help him.
She spoke of the effect the decision to drive drunk had on Smallridge, who was initially sentenced to 22 years in prison for manslaughter.
“It boils down to making a choice,” said Napier to the Marines at the presentation. “I know you made a choice to change the world by joining the Marine Corps, and I want to ask you to make a choice to change the world by making sure you have a plan when you drink.”
For more information about Napier’s DUI awareness effort, visit www.themeagannapierfoundation.com.