COLLIER COUNTY — Robert John Newton hadn’t lived in Collier for 15 years, but that didn’t stop county commissioners from honoring his service earlier this week.
Newton, 21 and a lance corporal in the Marine Corps, died in combat Aug. 23. He was on foot patrol in Helmand Province in Afghanistan while supporting combat operations.
“He was like a magnet, everybody was drawn to him as friends and he wouldn’t turn anyone away,” his father Richard Newton said in a phone interview Tuesday.
“He always had that grin, that smile. I can’t never forget it. Nothing ever upset him, he was pretty cool mannered.”
The Newton family moved from Naples to Illinois when Robert was about 6 years old. His grandparents, Robert and Linda Newton, still live in Collier County, and were on hand Tuesday when Collier County commissioners honored their grandson.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Linda Newton said of the brief presentation.
Robert John Newton joined the Marines immediately after graduating from high school, his father said.
While several things likely contributed to his desire to join the Marines, Richard Newton said his son was probably most influenced by his great-grandfather, who served 30 years in both the Marines and the Army.
“My grandfather was in the military, and I think he might have gotten some of that from him,” his father said Tuesday.
“One thing (Robert) did do was whenever we allowed him to get a tattoo, it was in memory of his great-grandfather. That pretty much summed it up for me.”
Richard Newton said other things contributed to his son’s desire to join the Marines, including a large number of friends from high school who were enlisting.
“He was very adamant about doing it,” his father said.
Linda Newton said her grandson was sent to Iraq as soon as he completed boot camp, and was on his second tour with the Marines when he was killed. He was two months away from coming home when he was killed, his grandmother said.
“He’d be home right now,” Linda Newton said Tuesday.
Jack Mischug, a member of Collier County’s Marine Corps League, said he saw Robert Newton’s obituary in the Daily News, and contacted Commissioner Donna Fiala about honoring the Marine during a commission meeting.
Mischug said Fiala was “very receptive” to the request, and worked with the organization to get a proclamation ready in time for Veterans Day.
Robert John Newton’s name has been added to a veteran’s memorial at Cambier Park, and will be unveiled during a Veterans Day ceremony at 10 a.m. today.
Richard Newton said he is honored that his son will be memorialized in Naples.
“I was very proud of that,” he said.
“A lot of times I hear from a lot of people about how they are against the war, and what I’d like to say to citizens is these young boys go over and fight this war, don’t know or understand the politics behind this.
“They’re over there to do a job.”