Proof of that legacy can be found in what people have done for Josh since he died. His younger brother Tyson joined the Marines and was trained in boot camp by older brother Darren. A road was named after Josh in Oklahoma, which runs in front of his grandparents' house -- not far from where the "Grapes of Wrath" Joads hailed. The YouTube video of his funeral has had almost 19,000 hits.
His No. 50 Buhach Colony High School football jersey was retired at a moving ceremony before a game this season. Twenty-one oak trees have been planted for him on one of his uncle's farms. Five of his friends got tattoos featuring Josh's name, his dogtags, the Marines or praying hands. At least two of his buddies enlisted in the Corps after he was killed.
Josh's death last December came at a tipping point in the war in Iraq. That same month throughout Iraq, 23 other Marines died; only October, with 32 KIA, exceeded the lethal toll of the last month of last year. In all of 2006, 209 Marines were killed in Iraq.
He had arrived back in the "the Sandbox" for his second tour in early October last year; his first tour ran from September 2005 to April 2006, and he had volunteered to re-deploy sooner than his company was scheduled in the rotation. He landed in Anbar Province at Camp Fallujah, just outside the notorious Sunni city.
That put him right in the middle of some of the fiercest fighting of the war. The month he landed, a Marine intelligence report leaked to the press called Anbar politically lost. ABC reported that the Pentagon was pondering a major pullback of the Marines from the province. Only three weeks before Josh was shot by the sniper, the Washington Post reported that a classified Marine intelligence report said the U.S. military was no longer able to defeat the bloody insurgency in western Iraq or contain al-Qaida's growing popularity there.
Here's what else was happening in the war the day Josh Pickard was killed. The State Department's Iraq Weekly Status Report noted that "attacks in Iraq have increased in the last three months to the highest level since the Pentagon began issuing the reports in 2005." White House spokesman Tony Snow said that same week that the president "is moving toward a decision on how to move forward" in Iraq. A Pentagon report issued a day before Josh died identified "incremental progress in the capabilities of the Iraqi government." Sen. Hillary Clinton said she opposed a "surge" in Iraq troop numbers. The day Josh died, the new Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, said America "cannot afford to fail" in the Middle East. A day later, the president himself acknowledged, for the first time, that the U.S. wasn't winning in Iraq.
A month before Josh died, 2,200 Marines were deployed from their fleet in the Persian Gulf to Anbar.
The surge was beginning, and, as usual, the Marines formed the tip of the tip of the spear.
Through the end of October this year, the death toll for Marines in Anbar totaled 87, about half the 164 men lost in the same period last year. "Josh served at the height of the battle for Anbar," Owen West, a former Marine infantry officer in Iraq, novelist, frequent op-ed contributor and commodity trader with Goldman Sachs, said in an e-mail. "Only three months after his death, the combat ebbed. Today it is hard to find a firefight in Anbar. After a three-year battle, the population recognized that the Marine Corps was the strongest force on the battlefield. The province is pacified, largely because men like Josh were willing to fight in what once was the most violent fight in the country."