Marine honored as family man, ‘protector’

Associated Press

WEBSTER, Texas — A message left on a cell phone by a Marine while he was serving in Iraq was played at his funeral service.

“Hey, Dad. It’s me,” Lance Cpl. Wesley Joel Canning of Friendswood said in the Nov. 7 message to his father, who couldn’t answer the phone while he worked on an oil rig. “I love you and miss you. We’re still over here. I love you and hope you’re doing all right.”

It was the last time Joe Canning of Friendswood heard his 21-year-old son’s voice. Wesley Canning was killed three days later during combat in Anbar province. About 250 people gathered Monday for the funeral service where he was remembered as a thoughtful husband and son who called often from Iraq.

Before calling his father that day, Canning also had called his mother, Jo Ellen. “He told me not to worry, that he’d be fine,” she said.

“He was gung-ho about the Marines,” Jo Ellen Canning said. “They had a speaker, a recruiter, at school and it really turned his head. He was already signed up when Sept. 11 happened, and that just made him want to go all the more.”

Canning decided to join the Marines while a junior at Friendswood High School. He went to boot camp in July 2002, two months after graduating from high school.

“It was his dream to become a Marine and serve his country,” said Scott Schiffner, a minister from Greeley, Colo., who officiated at the funeral service.

“Here is one man who lived his dream. He was a hero because he was willing to lay his life on the battlefield so we can enjoy our freedom.”

Chayla Canning was presented with the Purple Heart awarded to her husband. She also was given the American flag that draped his casket. Canning’s parents also were given a Purple Heart and American flag.

With overcast skies, Canning was laid to rest following a military service with a 21-gun salute and a Marine playing “Taps.”

Canning was deployed for a second tour of duty to Iraq on Sept. 11 of this year. His first tour was during the initial invasion of Iraq.

Before the service, Friendswood City Manager Ron Cox presented the Canning family with a proclamation naming Monday as “Wes Canning Day” in Friendswood, the Houston Chronicle reported in its Tuesday editions.

Canning is also survived by three sisters and a brother.