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thedrifter
06-19-06, 06:32 AM
Posted on: Saturday, June 17, 2006
Kane'ohe battalion loses 12th Marine since March

By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer

Cpl. Michael A. Estrella

The death Wednesday of a Hawai'i-based Marine while on foot patrol in Iraq has brought to 12 the number of Marines lost since March by the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment.

Cpl. Michael A. Estrella, 20, of Hemet, Calif., was hit by small-arms fire while on patrol in western Iraq, a release from the Kane'ohe Bay base said.

No other details were released about his death.

The field radio operator joined the Marine Corps in 2003.

Before Iraq, Estrella had deployed to Afghanistan from November 2004 to June 2005.

Estrella is survived by his mother and father, the Corps said.

His death comes as the Pentagon reports that 2,500 U.S. service members have been killed in Iraq since the war there began more than three years ago.

Estrella's family told the Press-Enterprise in Riverside, Calif., that he loved the military and wanted to make it a career. His great-grandfather, Victor Gonzalez Sr., had served in the Army in World War II.

Estrella's mother, Maria Estrella, told the newspaper that she had misgivings about her son's military career, but that he said he was willing to give his life, if necessary.

"He said, 'Mom, if it happens, it happens. It's God's will,' " she recalled.

Cpl. Estrella, the oldest of six children, was "very loving, always smiling," his mother said.

He recently sent his car home to California from Kane'ohe Bay, and she told the Press-Enterprise that it was a premonition on her son's part.

Between April 22 and the unit's arrival in Iraq in March, the 3rd Battalion of the 3rd Marines had lost three members. From April 28 through Wednesday, at least nine were killed.

The Hawai'i battalion's headquarters is at Haditha Dam, northwest of Baghdad, but its nearly 1,000 Marines are spread throughout the "Triad" of Haditha, Haqlaniyah and Barwana near the Euphrates River and down to the Baghdadi-Jubbah-Dulab region.

A California Marine unit that preceded the Hawai'i Marines in Haditha is being investigated in the shooting deaths of 24 Iraqi civilians. Hawai'i Marines say they have improved relations in the region, but they still face regular ambushes.

Of the 12 Hawai'i Marines killed in western Iraq since March, nine were felled by roadside bombs, Estrella was killed by gunfire, one died as a result of a vehicle rollover and another Marine was killed in a friendly-fire incident, according to that man's mother.

Sgt. Roe F. Seigle, a 26-year-old combat correspondent from Marietta, Ga., deployed with the 3/3 Marines — known as "America's Battalion" — reported that attacks against the Marines are commonplace in Haqlaniyah, an area where 15,000 people live south of Haditha.

On June 3, three masked insurgents opened fire with automatic rifles on Marines working in front of a U.S. base. The Marines returned fire and within 10 minutes, two of the insurgents were dead, Seigle said.

Less than a month before, Hawai'i Marines saw several armed insurgents running into a hotel and then firing from shattered windows. A U.S. aircraft leveled the building with precision-guided bombs, Seigle said.

The Marines work with a civil-affairs unit to improve relations with Iraqis. They also visit schools and hand out supplies. With the 3rd Battalion in its third month of an expected seven-month deployment, the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines, at Kane'ohe Bay are preparing for their deployment to Iraq.

Reach William Cole at wcole@honoluluadvertiser.com.

Ellie

thomas bruce
07-05-06, 07:26 PM
I was in Hawaii on vacation when I saw this in the local newspaper. Cpl. Estrella waas the 2500th serviceman to die.

I was stationed with 1/3 Weapons in '85-'86 and this hit close to home.

Saw an interview with one of his officers the other day. Damn shame this happened to a good Marine.

Semper Fi,
T.J.