The vehicle parked in front of the Wells residence had stickers saying "Proud Mom of a Marine" and "My son is a U.S. Marine" and a U.S. flag hung from a pole on the front porch. Sprayberry High graduate and ROTC student Skip Wells was was one of the Marines killed in the Chattanooga shooting yesterday. A steady stream of visitors stopped by his mother's house this morning.
Photo: BOB ANDRES
Photo: BOB ANDRES

Remembering Skip Wells

Soldier who died in Tennessee shootings 'was keenly aware of what he was getting into'

He was a graduate of Sprayberry High School, the class of 2012. He went off to Statesboro to attend Georgia Southern University, but left when he felt the call of military service.

That call placed Lance Cpl. Skip Wells in Chattanooga, where a suspected terrorist killed on Thursday killed the Marietta resident and three fellow Marines Wells was 21.

News of his death spread quickly, as bad news always does. Friends were angry, sad, stunned. They all recalled a fine young man.

“He was an effervescent kid,” said Andy Kingery, a Marietta resident. Kingery watched the boy turn into a man, the man, into a Marine.

“He was keenly aware of what he was getting into,” said Kingery, who spoke on behalf of Wells’ family. “He was absolutely aware of what he was doing when he joined the Marines.”

Wells, he said, had been in the corps’ reserve program at Georgia Southern University, but left school to enlist. He’d reached the rank of lance corporal and soon would have been assigned to active duty, Kingery said.

On the day Wells was killed, Kingery said, the young Marine was on his first day of temporary  active duty in a program created for reserve forces.

Wells had always been interested in the military, said Nolan Opp. He met Wells when they were in the sixth grade and remained friends throughout their years at Sprayberry High School.

“We were very close,” said Opp, now a private first class in the U.S. Army, stationed at Fort Stewart. “From the moment I met him, he had a demeanor about him. He was a great guy. … He always wanted to learn. He wanted to be the best he could be at anything he did.”

Wells brought a similar zeal to First Baptist Church of Woodstock, where he played clarinet in the church orchestra.

“You could count on him,” orchestra Director Gary Gaston recalled in an email. “Skip was a genuine follower of Jesus.”

So genuine, Gaston said, that the orchestra director occasionally wondered if his clarinetist was trying to pull a fast one.

“Skip was so polite and courteous that it almost made you suspicious,” Gaston recalled. “Once you got to know him, you discovered he really was that nice.”

A few Sundays ago, said Gaston,  the young man came to church. As always, he had his Bible. He wore the full regalia of a U.S. Marine, the dress blues. The congregation stood and applauded. The young Marine beamed.

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