WAFB photographer reflects on Central Marine who trained with hi - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

WAFB photographer reflects on Central Marine who trained with his son

Lance Cpl. Taylor Conrad and Cpl. Brock Portier in April 2016 (Source: Rick Portier) Lance Cpl. Taylor Conrad and Cpl. Brock Portier in April 2016 (Source: Rick Portier)

Rick Portier is a longtime 9News photographer and storyteller. His son, Cpl. Brock Portier, became friends with Lance Cpl. Taylor Conrad while they were both U.S. Marine recruits in the Baton Rouge area.

They went through U.S. Marine Corps boot camp and infantry training together. Conrad, of Central, was one of four Marines who died Tuesday in a helicopter crash near El Centro, California. 

RELATED: Central Marine 'with big heart' among 4 killed in chopper crash

Brock and Taylor stayed in touch even though their military careers went their separate ways. 

The following is a piece Rick Portier wrote a for his personal blog in honor of Taylor Conrad:

I wish I could say I knew him better. He’s a big reason my son is the Marine he is today.

Conrad always pushed Brock. He was a Marine’s Marine. Hard as nails, but somewhere inside, a man who cared deeply for everyone whose path he crossed.

In school, Conrad was a stand-out athlete, but ask the coaches or teachers at Central High, and that’s not what they remember most. They remember a guy who took the time to take care of the weakest among us — the kids in the special needs class, to care for a coach’s autistic children, to touch every single heart on campus.

It’s too bad we don’t learn all those things until it’s too late.

My wife and I only met Conrad a couple of times. Every time we did, we were thankful he had entered Brock’s life. Conrad was someone to push him to be the best, whether it was on the PT field, the obstacle course, in the classroom, or on the rifle range.

We got the call about 12:30 Wednesday morning. Conrad’s CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter had gone down in a training exercise near El Centro, Ca. Conrad was presumed dead.

It’s funny how someone so young can have such an impact on so many. You see, Taylor Conrad wasn’t a drill instructor molding doughy recruits into men. Hell, wasn’t even a Marine. When Brock met him, Conrad was a Poolie — a prospective recruit at the station recruiters called Beastmode. Just a kid, three years out of high school, who wanted more than anything to serve his country.

He and Brock were bunk mates in boot camp, where Conrad’s fire challenged every recruit in the platoon. They came home together after graduation, and left for infantry training together.

From there, they parted ways. Conrad had a thing for avionics. It figures a man like that would pick one of the more challenging fields. He became a crew chief, and shipped out to Miramar. Along the way, he met the woman who he planned to marry this summer.

Soon, Brock will say good-bye to a brother; a mother will bury a son; and the city of  Central will remember a man who embodied the spirit of that small community — a man my wife and I wish we had gotten to know little bit better, and to whom we will always be grateful for the impact he had on our lives without even knowing it.

RELATED: 4 killed in Marine helicopter crash

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