43-Year-Old Former Marine Infantry Battalion Commander Dies After Sudden Illness

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Lt. Col. Geoffry Hollopeter.
Lt. Col. Geoffry Hollopeter. (U.S. Marine Corps)

The former commander of the Marines' legendary "Dark Horse" battalion has died after a short illness, the Marine Corps announced Tuesday.

Geoffry M. Hollopeter, 43, died April 3 in San Diego "after going into cardiac arrest," 1st Marine Division said on its official unit Facebook page.

Hollopeter had departed 3/5 Feb. 27, passing command to Lt. Col. Benjamin Middendorf; he had been set to take charge at the Marines' Infantry Officer Course at Quantico, Virginia this summer, a 1st Division spokesman, 1st Lt. Cameron Edinburgh, told Military.com.

"Lt. Col. Hollopeter was well known throughout the Marine Corps for his impeccable character and intellect," Col. Robert Weiler, commanding officer of 5th Marine Regiment, said in a statement. "He led his Marines with humility, and was a servant leader of impeccable moral and ethical code who shaped the lives of countless Marines."

According to an obituary published in the San Diego Union-Tribune Tuesday, Hollopeter is survived by his wife, Michelle, and four children.

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"Geoff loved sharing his passion for camping, running, beer and root beer brewing and working on his truck and jeep with his family, and built countless and cherished memories doing the things he loved with the ones he loved," his heartfelt obituary said. "The strong virtues of hard work, compassion, selflessness and kindness that exemplified Geoff's character will continue to thrive in his children."

Hollopeter, a prior-enlisted Marine trained as a light armored vehicle crewman, earned a commission in 2001 after graduating from the University of Wisconsin, according to his official biography.

He had previously served as executive officer for 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, and current operations officer for the 1st Marine Division. He took command of 3/5 in Feb. 2018.

During his career, Hollopeter had deployed to the Philippines, Iraq and Afghanistan, and to the Pacific with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

He was a two-time recipient of the Bronze Star with Combat Distinguishing Device; the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with Combat Distinguishing Device; the Meritorious Service Medal; and the Combat Action Ribbon. He had also received the Purple Heart.

"Despite serving in countless dangerous operations, enduring periods of separation from his family and bearing the massive burdens of command, Geoff was a model Marine Corps Officer," his obituary said. "Well known throughout the Marine Corps for his impeccable character and intellect, he led his Marines with a devotion to honor, justice, service to others and humility. This servant leader of impeccable moral and ethical code shaped the lives of countless Marines past, present and future.Geoff possessed a determination to better everyone in his life, and his personal and professional persona were one and the same."

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

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