Home-schooled throughout his childhood, Boelk lived in Korea, Iceland, Texas and both coasts of the U.S. before attending Golden State Baptist College in Santa Clara, Calif., where he also worked in security for Google. He talked about becoming a youth leader or doing missionary work, but left college without getting his degree.
Then the secular world beckoned. Boelk moved to San Diego with plans to work and study business. When the job he had counted on to support his studies fell through, he turned to the profession that had sent his family around the globe.
His father, David Boelk, is a retired Air Force master sergeant. But his brother-in-law, a Marine captain, proved a persuasive recruiter and in March of 2009, Boelk enlisted in the Marines. He signed up for five years, promising his mother that he would finish college after his stint in the service.
“He wasn’t exactly sure what he was going to do for the rest of his life,” said his mother, Cilicia Boelk, of Manassas, Va.
The second of seven children, James had five sisters and one brother. “We are a close family,” Cilicia Boelk wrote in an e-mail. “James was there for each of us. He always gave his siblings attention and had fun with them. He called home often and [would] text his siblings daily. He would always say ‘I love you’ at the end of all phone calls to us. When he was with us he would give hugs, especially group hugs.”
Boelk, 24, who lived in Oceanside, liked to surf and make his friends laugh, but he was also a hard worker.
“As one of my Marines I will always remember his work ethic,” Staff Sgt. Matthew B. Cartier said in a posting on The Times’ War Dead database. “No matter how hard the task, he would put on this half-grin and charge full speed ahead to accomplish it.”
Boelk was a rifleman assigned to Camp Pendleton’s 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force.
In September, he shipped out to Afghanistan. A few weeks later, on Oct. 15, he was returning from a two-day patrol in Helmand province when he was killed by a bomb, military officials said. He was one of eight in his battalion who died in the span of a week.
“This was his first deployment. This was his first patrol,” his mother said.
Boelk is buried in Quantico National Cemetery in Virginia. In addition to his parents, he is survived by sisters Amanda, Allyssia, Christina, Oressa and Charlynn, and a brother, Timothy.