View Full Version : Families nationwide mourn Marines killed in Fallujah

12-05-05, 06:13 AM
Families nationwide mourn Marines killed in Fallujah
Los Angeles Times

TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- A week ago, Marine Lance Cpl. Robert Martinez called his mother from Iraq with exciting news.

"He said, 'Mom, go to Zales and buy a carat-and-a-half diamond -- I'm coming home,' " Kelly Hunt said.

Martinez, 20, planned to propose to his longtime girlfriend as soon as he got home to Splendora, in East Texas, maybe as early as January.

Now Hunt is planning a funeral, not a wedding.

Martinez and nine others from the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment were killed Thursday outside Fallujah by the blast of a bomb cobbled together from four artillery shells. It was the largest one-day loss of the Iraq war for Marine units from the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, based in Twentynine Palms. The units augmented the 2nd Marine Division based at Camp Lejeune, N.C. Initial reports said the dead Marines were from there.

The 2nd Battalion has been in Iraq since July, its third deployment to the war zone. The bombing pushed to 75 the death toll from the sprawling Twentynine Palms base in the Mojave Desert.

"These men did not give their lives in vain," Col. William Crowe, commanding officer of the 7th Marine Regiment, said Saturday of the 10. "We will not forget them."

The battalion lost three of its members earlier in the war, and families' nerves are frayed. But a recent newsletter from the command had suggested that the worst was over.

"Things are going very well," the newsletter said. "While we have had casualties, our spirits are high and we continue every day to look for ways to win."

Some families had dared to plan for a celebratory return.

Shirley Watson of Union City, Mich., was going to greet son Lance Cpl. Craig Watson, 21, as soon as he stepped off the bus in Twentynine Palms.

"He told me I'd better have a beer in my hand for him," she said. "He was so ready to come home; he was so close."

In Romeoville, Ill., the family of Lance Cpl. Adam Kaiser, 19, had planned to keep the Christmas decorations up until he came home, they hoped in mid-January. Then came the midnight visit from the casualty team.

"Soon as you see their faces, you can tell what happened," Kaiser's father, Wade, said. "The worst part is later: You sit there in disbelief. You can't sleep, you can't eat, you keep thinking maybe it's a mistake.

"It's about as horrible as you can imagine."

Timothy Holmason of Scappose, Ore., lost his son, Lance Cpl. John Holmason, 20.

"It was about 1 a.m., and I heard the knock," he said. "I looked out from the second floor, and I knew immediately when I saw the Marines there."

On Saturday, some parents pondered their sons' fateful decision to enlist in the branch of military most likely to send them into a combat zone.

"When he talked about the military, I suggested the Air Force, but he was Marine Corps all the way," Timothy Holmason said.

In Twentynine Palms, some business owners and patrons fought tears as they took in the news.

"I hope it was no one I knew," Bessy Sanford said as she clipped one Marine's hair at Cuts Un'tl. "They're our Marines. ... It just hurts me that they are dying."


12-06-05, 06:25 AM
Fallen Marines remembered as sons, husbands, friends
Deaths mourned at base, in Sacramento, and in hometowns across our nation
Darrell Smith
The Desert Sun
December 6, 2005

Ten Marines are dead, all from the same unit, from the same base, men who called Twentynine Palms their adopted home.

The men were Marines from Pensacola, Fla.; and Naperville, Ill.; Splendora, Texas; and Little Falls, Minn.; and towns and cities in between.

Now, family, friends, neighbors and comrades are left to mournthe men of 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines. The unit has seen its share of loss in Iraq on a base that now counts 75 of its own among the dead.

A roadside bomb believed built from artillery shells struck the team Thursday night while it was on patrol near Fallujah. Eleven other Marines were wounded in the ambush. It was unclear if they, too, are from the Marine Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms.

"My first thought is for the wives and the families left behind," the Rev. David Squyres said on a crisp Sunday morning, minutes before he delivered his weekly service. "Their lives will never be the same."

Words of sympathy came from Sacramento, too.

"These 10 heroic Marines fought and died for their country and have our deepest respect and everlasting gratitude," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Monday in a prepared statement. "The death of these Marines reminds us of the dangers inherent in protecting this country, and their service will not be forgotten."

Schwarzenegger ordered flags at the state Capitol flown at half-staff.

Squyers knows the anxiety, the worry, the grief that comes with the Marine life.

He is the pastor at Palms Southern Baptist Church in Twentynine Palms, where six of every 10 of his parishioners are Marines, sailors or the families of Marines and sailors stationed at the base.

"When they get the news, they think of their family, that they are a father, a brother, an uncle, that they're in harm's way," Squyres said. "That's what comes to mind."

They were those things, husbands, too, someone's son or grandson. They were young men like John Holmason.

Lance Cpl. John M. Holmason
John Holmason believed in what he called the "Marine way," his father Timothy said from the family home in Scappoose, Ore., a town of about 5,000 people roughly 20 miles north of Portland. "He believed in the Marines and what they stood for."

John's life in tiny Scappoose was the outdoors. He loved to hunt and fish. His dad still talks about the 38-pound king salmon John landed as a kid on a fishing trip with his grandfather.

He played Pop Warner football, golf in high school. He was an Eagle Scout and was well-liked and well-known in his small town.

But John didn't know where life would take him after high school. He thought about college, his father said, but didn't want to go just to go. He wanted experience, something beyond the jobs he had taken out of high school.

The Marines and the "Marine way" stood out, his father said, as a fit for his strong beliefs.

He became a Marine in September 2004. By March 2005 he, too, would become a member of the 2-7. He shipped out on the Fourth of July, first for Kuwait, then for Fallujah.

Back home, the Holmasons were concerned about their son, but they knew this:

"If he was going over there, he couldn't have gone with better people. They will cover each others' back until the end and, if called for, he was going to cover his friends' backs," Timothy Holmason said. "He knew the possibilities (of harm) were there, but he believed in the Marine way. That's what he decided."

Holmason's body will arrive at Dover Air Force Base, Del., on Friday. His buddy, Lance Cpl. Adam Hayward will escort his fallen friend on the long ride home. Services are Sunday.

Holmason leaves behind his father, Timothy, of Scappoose; his mother, Karleen Comfort of Farmington Hills, Mich., and his grandfather Richard Holmason of Portland, Ore.

Staff Sgt. Daniel J. Clay
Clay, of Pensacola, Fla., was a husband to wife Lisa, a son to Sara and Clarence Clay, a leader to his men in the 2-7.

A platoon sergeant, he was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, two years ago in November 2003 and left for Iraq with his men in July.

Lance Cpl. Adam W. Kaiser
Adam Kaiser was among the youngest who died Dec. 1. The 19-year-old rifleman was born the day before Independence Day, 1986, in Loudon County, Va., and had been with the 2-7 just two months before he got the order to head to Iraq in July. He is survived by his parents, Christine and Wade of Romeoville, Ill.

Lance Cpl. David A. Huhn
Lance Cpl. David A. Huhn was 24 years old. He, too, was assigned to the 2-7 in March, joined the Marines a month after Holmason did, in October 2004. Like Holmason, Huhn was a rifleman.

He leaves his mother, Diane, of Portland, Mich.

Lance Cpl. Robert A. Martinez
Lance Cpl. Robert A. Martinez was 20. Houston-born, he enlisted in the tiny Texas town of Splendora in June 2003. By November 2003, the young rifleman was one of the men of the 2-7. He shipped out to Iraq with his unit in July.

He leaves his mother, Kelly Hunt of Splendora.

Cpl. Anthony T. McElveen
Anthony McElveen, like many of the men who lost their lives on the first day of December, was just 20 years old. But the young man and husband who joined the corps from Little Falls, Minn., was serving as a team leader when he and his men shipped out to Iraq in July.

He is survived by his wife, Carrie; and his parents, Debra and Thomas of Little Falls.

Lance Cpl. Scott T. Modeen
Scott T. Modeen, like McElveen, was a Minnesotan, born in the Twin Cities suburb of Edina.

At 24, he also was a team leader, joining the Marines in 2003. He would have marked his second year with the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines in January.

He is survived by his father, John, of Inver Grove Height, Minn., and mother, Kimberly, of Blaine, Minn.

Lance Cpl. Craig N. Watson
Craig Watson was a rifleman with the 2-7. The Kansas-born 21-year-old became a Marine in June 2003 and by November of that year was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines.

Watson is survived by his father, Jay, of Caro, Mich., and mother, Shirley, of Union City, Mich.

Lance Cpl. Andrew G. Patten
Andrew Patten had just been assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines when his unit got the call in July. He joined the unit in March as a rifleman. Among the youngest of the men, he was 19 years old.

Patten is survived by his father, Alan, and mother, Gayle Nachansky, both of Byron, Ill.

Sgt. Andy A. Stevens
At 29, Andy Stevens was the eldest of the 10 who lost their lives. A 10-year Marine Corps veteran, the Wisconsin-born Stevens was a scout sniper in his third year with the 2-7 when he died.

Stevens is survived by his father, Allen, of Tomah, Wis., and mother, Kaye Olson, of Maryland Heights, Mo.