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10-21-06, 07:02 AM
48 Marines and one sailor receive Purple Hearts

By Associated Press

KANEOHE, Hawaii (AP) _ Forty-eight Marines and a sailor received Purple Hearts yesterday at the Marine Corps Base Hawaii at Kaneohe Bay for the service in Iraq.

The last group of third Battalion Marines returned home on October Fifth. Eleven Marines with the third Battalion and three troops attached to the unit has been killed in Iraq since March.

The battalion's executive officer Major Patrick Beckett said the troops saw very few quiet days.

A total of 88 were wounded. The most serious injuries include a leg amputation as a result of a roadside bomb and a gunshot would that caused partial paralysis.

The ceremony yesterday included the families of soldiers killed in action.


10-21-06, 07:31 AM
Posted on: Friday, October 20, 2006

Marine Purple Hearts: a time to recall, forget

By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer

U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Dino Vigliotti, 19, with the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, who served in Iraq, shows his emotion before a Purple Heart ceremony at Marine Corps Base Hawaii at Kane'ohe Bay. He is from Coral Springs, Fla.

Marine Lance Cpl. Chaim Kozak receives the Purple Heart from Sgt. Maj. William Stables, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, at Marine Corps Base Hawaii.

The Purple Heart was awarded to 48 Marines and a sailor during a ceremony at Marine Corps Base Hawaii to remember their sacrifices during the Iraq war.

KANE'OHE BAY — The Hawai'i Marines, most of them in their 20s, talked in clipped sentences about the violence that earned them Purple Hearts in Iraq.

Their descriptions of roadside bombs, attacks and the intensity of not knowing what was coming next spoke to the hostility in the Sunni heartland of Anbar Province.

A roadside bomb destroyed the Humvee Lance Cpl. Chaim Kozak was riding on April 22 in Baghdadi, northwest of the capital.

The 20-year-old from Michigan remembers "everything, but I'm kinda trying to forget, you know what I mean?" he said yesterday.

The hand, knee, spleen and other internal organ damage he suffered makes that difficult. He walks with a metal cane.

He and fellow Marines were "busy all the time. Hardly any sleep. Just trying to take care of killing some terrorists."

Sgt. Christopher Kelbaugh, 22, was sleeping when a suicide truck bomber on July 24 barreled into a fortified building he and 16 Marines were in.

"I remember shots and running," the Maryland man said.

A falling concrete block broke his nose. A monocle-like scar now circles his left eye.

Sgt. Jon Gonzalez, 27, from Arizona, was ambushed by several armed men in a palm grove in Baghdadi on Sept. 1. A machine-gun round shattered the bone in his upper arm.

They were among the 48 Marines and a sailor with the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment who received Purple Hearts yesterday with more than 900 fellow battalion members watching.

The last group of 3rd Battalion Marines, known as "America's Battalion," returned on Oct. 5. The Hawai'i battalion's headquarters was at Haditha Dam, northwest of Baghdad, but Marines were spread throughout the "Triad" of Haditha, Haqlaniyah and Barwana near the Euphrates River and down to the Baghdadi-Jubbah-Dulab region.

Sunni attacks on U.S. forces have increased with the continuing occupation and frustration with a Shiite-dominated government. Eleven Marines with the 3rd Battalion and three attached to the unit from elsewhere were killed in Iraq since March.

Maj. Patrick Beckett, the executive officer for the 3rd Battalion, said it was an "exceptionally hostile" environment.

"There were very few uneventful days in the battalion with IEDs (improvised explosive devices), mortars, small-arms fire and ambushes, and that raises the intensity level," Beckett said.

A total of 88 were wounded, with the most serious injuries including a leg amputation as a result of a roadside bomb and a gunshot wound to the chest resulting in partial paralysis.

The emotional trauma left some Marines deeply shaken, and a few buried their heads in their hands yesterday and wept during the Purple Heart presentation, which was made more personal with families of the dead Marines on hand. A memorial is planned at 3 p.m. today on the base.

Fourteen members of Cpl. Andres Aguilar Jr.'s family from Texas filled an entire row yesterday in the base theater. All wore black T-shirts with the Marine Corps logo on the front and Aguilar's name on the back.

The 21-year-old Marine was killed April 2 along with five other Marines when the 7-ton truck they were riding in rolled over during a flash flood near Al Asad.

"It's taken us days, weeks, months, but we're holding on," said Aguilar's uncle, Arturo Hinojosa. From the moment the family was told the news, "we were supportive of the troops, because this (being a Marine) is what he wanted to do."

The fight, and losses, continue on for Hawai'i Marines in the Haditha area of Iraq. The 2nd Battalion, which replaced the 3rd Battalion, already has suffered five combat fatalities since Sept. 26.

The latest was 2nd Lt. Joshua L. Booth, 23, of Massachusetts, who was felled by a sniper's bullet in Haditha on Tuesday.

Brig. Gen. Mastin Robeson, the 3rd Marine Division commander out of Okinawa, told the 3rd Battalion Marines yesterday they accomplished the toughest mission that a Marine has — making the "spur-of-the-moment decision" about when to use lethal force.

"You killed when you needed to kill. You saved when you needed to save," he said.

Beckett said one of the 3rd Battalion's legacies in Iraq is a more capable Iraqi security force. The primary mission now for U.S. forces is to train up Iraqi counterparts.

An Iraqi army battalion that wasn't doing independent squad operations is now doing company-sized operations, he said. The force is primarily Shiite in a Sunni region, and "there were (acceptance) challenges with the local population; however, they were very professional," Beckett said.

There were also attrition problems with Iraqi soldiers going AWOL, but the core group that remained was very proficient, he said.

Kelbaugh, the Marine injured in the suicide vehicle attack, said for him, a previous deployment to Afghanistan was "very quiet." He's getting out of the Corps in two weeks and going to college to be a wildlife biologist.

"Iraq's definitely a very different place and a lot more violent towards Americans," he said.

Reach William Cole at wcole@honoluluadvertiser.com.


10-21-06, 07:41 AM
48 Marines and a sailor receive the Purple Heart for service in Iraq
By Robert Shikina

LANCE CPL. Dino Don Vigliotti was manning a 50-caliber gun on top of a Humvee when an improvised explosive device hit his vehicle, throwing him 150 feet. Two Marines in the vehicle were killed immediately.

The driver took most of the blast, saving Vigliotti and another Marine.

"It would have been me and my corporal," said Vigliotti, who spent 12 weeks in the hospital.

Vigliotti and several other Marines of the 3rd Battalion 3rd Marine Regiment who were injured in Iraq commended their fellow Marines for saving their lives yesterday at a Purple Heart ceremony. The Marines finished returning this month from a seven-month deployment to the Haditha area in Iraq.

In front of nearly 1,000 Marines filling the Base Theater at the Kaneohe Marine Corps Base Hawaii, 48 Marines and one sailor with the Hawaii unit were honored with the Purple Heart medal.

Lt. Col. Norm Cooling noted that the ceremony was informal and would not take away from the memorial service tomorrow for the 12 Marines in the unit who died in Iraq.

"Nothing that we recognize here today compares to the sacrifice made by the families of the Marines that did not come back with us," Cooling said.

"Although you have lost a son, there are 960 more behind you," he told the family members of Marines who were killed in Iraq.

Marines lined up, offering their condolences to the mother of Cpl. Michael Estrella, who was killed in Iraq. After speaking with Estrella's mother, Lance Cpl. Cogen Nelson said, "I just wanted to let her know that her son was a great person, a great friend. He was also a great Marine."

The honored Marines and sailor marched onto the stage in companies. Cooling pinned the purple ribbon medal onto the left breast pocket of each Marine. Three Marines earned two purple hearts, Cooling said. Seventy-four Marines of the battalion were wounded in Iraq.

Sgt. Jon Gonzalez wore a black brace on his left arm. Three weeks before he was scheduled to return home, he was hit with a rifle bullet that broke his arm and severed his artery. Doctors told him he should regain 90 to 95 percent use of his arm.

For Gonzalez the Purple Heart was not of great importance. "I haven't really thought about it," he said. "I'm glad I'm back and all my guys came back alive."

In August nearly 1,000 Marines with the 2nd Battalion 3rd Marine Regiment began deploying into Iraq to replace the 3/3.

Some Marines were anxious about the memorial service today for fellow Marines who were killed in Iraq.

"Tomorrow's going to hurt," Lance Cpl. Matthew Melendez said. "It's going to bring back the feeling that I first had. It's all balled up right now. I can feel it's right there, ready to pop."

3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, casualties in 2006:

April 2: Cpl. Andres Aguilar Jr., 21, of Victoria, Texas, died when the 7-ton truck he was riding in rolled over in a flash flood near Al Asad.

April 20: Staff Sgt. Jason C. Ramseyer, 28, of Lenoir, N.C.

April 22: Cpl. Eric R. Lueken, 23, of Dubois, Ind.

May 12: Lance Cpl. Adam C. Conboy, 21, of Philadelphia died of nonhostile wounds.

May 14: Lance Cpl. Jose S. MarinDominguez Jr., 22, of Liberal, Kan., and Lance Cpl. Hatak Yuka Keyu M. Yearby, 21, of Overbrook, Okla.

May 22: Sgt. David R. Christoff, 25, of Rossford, Ohio, and Lance Cpl. William J. Leusink, 21, of Maurice, Iowa, died from wounds received May 21.

June 14: Cpl. Michael A. Estrella, 20, of Hemet, Calif.

Sept. 14: Lance Cpl. Ryan A. Miller, 19, of Pearland, Texas

>> Sept. 20: Cpl. Yull Estrada Rodriguez, 21, of Alegre Lajas, Puerto Rico