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Family, friends honor fallen Tampa soldier, remember his humor and joy

TAMPA — When Brittany Jackson-Marquis looks into the eyes of her young son, she sees her husband.

In that, she finds strength.

Army Spc. Christophe Marquis died Sept. 4 from injuries he suffered last month in the Kandahar province of Afghanistan. A suicide bomber set off an improvised explosive device at the checkpoint where Marquis was working.

Family and friends gathered Saturday at Springhill Missionary Baptist Church in East Tampa to remember Marquis, 40, of Tampa. An honor guard carried his flag-draped casket into the sanctuary while members of the Patriot Guards looked on and mourners filed into the church.

Jackson-Marquis sat in the front row along with Marquis' family, many of whom flew in from France. The group included: his mother, Francine Soucat; his father, Joel Marquis; brothers Sebastien, Romain and Benjamin; and his sister, Magali Naas.

Instead of one eulogy, those who knew Marquis were invited to speak. His wife read a poem she wrote for him, named after their 2-year-old son, Christopher.

"In Christopher's eyes I see yours, those I looked into right before falling asleep, those that gave me strength in the delivery room two years ago, those that radiated love beyond my understanding, through his eyes — your eyes — I find the only reason I'm still standing."

Many at the service spoke of Marquis' sweet smile and sense of humor.

"He made me laugh a thousand times," said Matt Lunsford, who was a longtime friend of Marquis. "He enjoyed life."

Patrick Hudson, another friend, shared similar memories.

"It was impossible to ever stay mad at him," Hudson said. "He'd get you laughing and give you this little boy look."

But among the happy memories, sad ones remained.

"I can't help but wonder if the man who did this knew what he was taking from this world," Hudson said.

Marquis grew up in Strasbourg, France, and joined the French army at 18. After serving five years, he left and opened two bars.

In 2008, Marquis moved to Seminole Heights to be closer to his sister and opened the 502 Sports Cafe in downtown Tampa.

He met Jackson-Marquis at a nearby bank, where she worked as a teller.

They were married in September 2009.

Marquis joined the Army in April 2010 to help provide for his family and soon shipped out to Afghanistan.

Maj. Gen. Douglas P. Anson, deputy director of operations at U.S. Special Operations Command, presented Jackson-Marquis with a Bronze Star, an Afghanistan Combat Campaign Medal and a NATO medal.

Anson also read a letter written by Marquis' father, Joel Marquis, to his son. It was translated from French to English so it could be shared.

"Your joie de vivre — your joy of life — was contagious," he read. "Your life was too short, but, oh, what a life."

A French government official offered condolences on behalf of his country to the family in French and English.

The service ended with one last glance at Marquis, while the couple's favorite song, Happy Together by the Turtles, played repeatedly:

The only one for me is you, and you for me. So happy together.

Shelley Rossetter can be reached at (813) 661-2442 or srossetter@sptimes.com.

Family, friends honor fallen Tampa soldier, remember his humor and joy 09/24/11 [Last modified: Sunday, September 25, 2011 12:13am]
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