Michael Ferschke, a 2003 Maryville High School graduate and a U.S. Marine, died during a firefight Sunday in Iraq.
According to family friend Douglas Cooper, the family wasn’t given specific information on where the incident occurred. “They were doing a house-to-house search and entered a home and a gun battle took place. We still don’t have exact coordinates,” he said.
Michael and Robin Ferschke received a phone call on Sunday night about 10:30 p.m. at about the same time two U.S. Marine Corps personnel knocked on the door to officially notify them of the death, said Cooper.
“They’ve dreaded a late evening knock on the door since he talked about wanting to go into the Marines, but they believed in him and what he was fighting for,” Cooper said. “They couldn’t be prouder of their son.”
Cooper said funeral arrangements would be made once the family received more information from the military.
Ferschke and his wife, Hota, were newlyweds. “He was married for one month to the date of his death,” Cooper said. “They were married by video phone. She was in Okinawa, and he was in Iraq. She is five months pregnant and due in January.”
Ferschke was an honors student in math at Maryville High School and was involved in several drama performances there.
Cooper said Ferschke joined the U.S. Marine Corps out of high school.
“He was very, very proud Marine... What he wanted was a challenge out of life, and he knew the Marine Corps was the biggest challenge, and so he wanted to join the Marines and fight for his country,” Cooper said.
Cooper said that after five years in the Corps, Ferschke had attained the rank of sergeant and was in the infantry/reconnaissance.
“This was his first tour. He was due to get out this past October and told the Marine Corps he would re-up if they allowed him to go to Iraq. He wanted to fight for his country. They deployed him in March,” Cooper said.
Cooper said that as a high school student Ferschke enjoyed riding BMX bikes, dating and being an uncle to his niece. He had an older brother and an older sister. “At the time he only had one niece, and she was the apple of his eye,” Cooper said.
Cooper said Ferschke was strong willed, had a big heart, was a jokester and had a love in his heart for his family and friends.
“He’s effected so many lives here in Tennessee as well as where the family came from back in Rhode Island,” Cooper said.
Cooper said Ferschke was pictured in an image in a military magazine firing his weapon. “It shows Michael at his best,” Cooper said.
Sherry Petrowski, a drama teacher at Maryville High School, said she was privileged to watch him mature and grow into a young man.
“I had him in class for three years, starting when he was 15 as a sophomore,” she said. “I always knew he would join the military. He talked about it and how that was what he wanted to do. I knew that’s what his heart was set to do.”
Petrowski said Ferschke was a special student. “He was my go-to man and worked in all facets of production, from lighting director, stage manager and actor. He challenged himself to learn all areas of theater, even ones he was most uncomfortable in, and I was proud of him,” she said.
Petrowski said that while she has had students die from illness or vehicle accidents, this is the first death in the war in Iraq. Whenever she has a student go into the military, she always hopes for the best for them. “You know they’re going into danger zones, and, at some point, it’s going to hit close to home. This really did,” she said.
“Today has been a tough day,” she said. “He left a lot of rich memories here. I’ll miss seeing him pop in on us. He is someone who is supposed to be here.”
Petrowski said not only is Maryville High School proud of Ferschke, but the entire community is proud of him. “He served us proud. He loved his school, his community, and he loved his country,” she said. “There’s a certain degree of comfort in that he was doing something he really wanted to do.”