Marines salute the casket of U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Steven P. Stevens II during funeral services at Hope United Methodist Church in Southfield, Mich., Monday, July 2, 2012. / ANDRE J. JACKSON/ Detroit Free Press
DETROIT (Elisha Anderson, Detroit Free Press) - Mourners wiped tears from their eyes as they remembered U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Steven Stevens II as a husband, father, son, grandson, nephew, friend and soldier at his funeral service today in Southfield.
Stevens, 23, grew up in Detroit and was killed in Afghanistan when his platoon was ambushed while on patrol June 22.
He was deployed in March eight days before his only child, Kairo, was born. Stevens never had the chance to meet his son face-to-face, but his wife Monique Stevens told the Free Press Sunday that her husband listened to their baby's voice across a phone line and watched him over Skype.
"Please watch over our son and help guide him in the right direction," Monique Stevens said in the program handed out before the service at Hope United Methodist Church. "Watch over us from heaven."
Stevens' flag-draped casket sat at the front of the church as those in attendance, estimated at more than 500 by church officials, remembered his life.
"Steven Stevens was a champion swimmer, which required discipline, commitment and fortitude," the Rev. Stancy Adams of Russell Street Baptist Church said as she gave the eulogy.
Stevens started swimming as a baby when his parents put him in a pool at 14 months old.
Adams recalled a story that relatives like to tell from his high school days. Stevens graduated from Technology High School in 2006, but swam for Pershing High School because Tech didn't have a swim team. He was the only person on the swim team.
One day, he was down to swim in the 1600-meter relay. People who swim relays usually swim as part of a team, but not Stevens.
"When you're a swim team of one, you do the whole thing," Adams said. "Steven stepped up to the plate, swam all 1600 meters, beat the other four and walked away with pride."
She said he often swam against his own time just for competition. He won city and state championships and received a full swimming scholarship to Florida A&M.
Adams said she spoke to Stevens' wife Monique on Sunday.
"She wanted us to know that her husband was a good man," Adams said. "Steven was her best friend and the love of her life, and now she has to face the future...without him."
Stevens was honored by his college, several churches and the Wayne County Sheriff's Office during the service.
"We stand along his beloved parents Lois and Steve, wife Monique and their precious son in remembering the true hero with a heart of gold," said a proclamation and memorial signed by Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon and read during the service.
Stevens enlisted in the Marine Corps in June 2009. Family members said the thought of traveling the world and studying abroad was enticing to him.
He was on his first deployment to Afghanistan when he was killed. He was assigned to the 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.
He received a Purple Heart Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the NATO Medal-ISAF Afghanistan.
Burial was to be at Mt. Hope Memorial Gardens, 17840 Middlebelt in Livonia.