Two years ago, Chief Warrant Officer Vincent Pope was sitting in a meeting when he learned the Weapons Training Battalion aboard the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Virginia, was slated to erect a new building.
"We don't get new buildings very often so as soon as they started planning, I said 'Hey I've got a name for it,' " said Pope, director of Marine Corps marksmanship programs.
Pope petitioned to name the new building for Staff Sgt. James M. Malachowski, of Hampstead. On Jan. 19, the Malachowski Hall was dedicated in the fallen Marines' honor.
Malachowski, 25, was an infantry rifleman who served three combat tours in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2004 to 2007. He was a combat marksmanship coach and primary marksmanship instructor at Marine Corps Recruit Depot in Parris Island, South Carolina. He was also a member of the Marine Corps Shooting Team.
In 2010, Malachowski was reassigned as a platoon sergeant for 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines and was deployed to Marjah, Afghanistan, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. In March 2011, while clearing a building to establish a security control base in the village, he was killed after he stepped on an improvised explosive device.
"I was with him for a couple of days before he made the ultimate sacrifice," Pope said. "He was a phenomenal leader. He epitomized what a Marine can be and set an example for us to follow."
Pope said the building is a daily reminder of the sacrifice Malachowski made.
"A lot of buildings and halls are named for people who were worthy, but this one seems to be a little more relevant because it's from a conflict that every Marine in uniform now is a part of," Pope said. "The war on terror is relevant for this generation. He was one of our own. He will not be forgotten. This puts an exclamation mark on it."
Maj. Adam Sacchetti, who commanded Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines in Marjah, said he had the privilege and honor of serving next to Malachowski.
"He did a really good job of establishing relationships with locals, particularly with the children," Sacchetti said. "In one minute he could be a combat leader and in another minute he could be building a relationship, having tea with a local elder. He was good at every aspect of his job."
Sacchetti said the new building will be a focal point for the unit.
"That building is not a working building, it's used to feed Marines. It's a place of camaraderie and a place to feel at home," he said. "Nothing but positive stuff is coming out of that building. He would be very pleased with that."
James' mother, Alison Malachowski, of Westminster, said she was stunned by the extent of the honor.
"The ceremony's attention to detail, the kindness and warmth from everyone, the words spoken -- it was beautiful," she said. "It was difficult at times to hear but it's important to never forget. It was an incredible tribute to our son."
Alison Malachowski said the building seats over 250 people inside and 80 people outside. The hall also features a drive-through for to-go meals.
"Even the backs of the chairs are beautiful," Malachowski said. "They're metal and have cutouts of the Marine Corps emblem."
Alison Malachowski, who herself was a Marine for four years, said the structure is very near where her duty station was at Quantico.
"I never dreamed when I was a Marine that one day I would have a son that was such a distinguished shooter at that range," she said. "He really loved being in the Marine Corps. He was going to be a lifer."
Alison Malachowski said she is honored to see her son's name on such an important building.
"It's where everybody gets together, relaxes and talks," she said. "It's not just for the local Marines. When other people come on base, they will also eat at that incredibly beautiful facility. He'd like that."