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thedrifter
08-31-09, 09:25 AM
Feeling the loss: Camp Lejeune has had 20 casualties in Afghanistan in less than two months
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August 30, 2009 7:38 PM
AMANDA HICKEY

Lance Cpl. Dennis Burrow. Lance Cpl. Javier Olvera. Lance Cpl. Patrick Schimmel. Lance Cpl. Bruce Ferrell. Lance Cpl. Leopold Damas.

They are all Camp Lejeune Marines who have died in Afghanistan in August.

Fifteen others ranging in rank from private first class to master sergeant have died there since July 1, according to a count by The Daily News.

The main body of 2nd Battalion 8th Marines left Camp Lejeune May 18 en route to Afghanistan. Three months into their seven-month deployment, the unit is already down 11 Marines, according to Daily News records.

The Marines and sailors of 2/8 are not the only ones dealing with loss while still conducting combat operations in Afghanistan.

The 3rd Marine Special Operations Battalion; 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion; 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines; and 8th Engineer Support Battalion have also had losses since July 1.

“We honestly haven’t seen a significant spike in casualties at the beginning of operations because, frankly, a lot of our casualties are due to (improvised explosive devices) and those can hit Marines any time and any place and that’s also a focus of effort, a counter IED piece,” said Capt. William Pelletier, public affairs officer for MEB-Afghanistan, during a phone call from Afghanistan Tuesday.

The Marines and sailors of 2/8 had their first loss July 2, when Lance Cpl. Charles Sharp, 20, died while supporting combat operations in Helmand province.

Sharp was killed on the first day of Operation Khanjar, where more than 600 members of the Afghan National Army and nearly 4,000 Marines and sailors from Marine Expeditionary Brigade-Afghanistan began to secure population centers along the Helmand River valley from the Taliban and other insurgent intimidation and violence, according to information from MEB-Afghanistan.

Among the MEB-Afghanistan Marines and sailors were 2/8, whose participation included clearance of a 12-kilometer area near the Helmand River to allow the Afghan National Army to provide security for people in the southern regional of Helmand Province.

“Any time we lose a Marine or sailor, it hurts,” said Pelletier. “You lose a member of the team, it’s difficult. There’s the emotional loss; there’s also the practical effect that someone has to step up and do that Marine’s job now so it’s tough for our forces.”

Most recent casualties have been due to IEDs, Pelletier said, but Marines haven’t been hit as hard as Afghan locals.

“A lot of the areas in which we are operating … had been Taliban controlled for so long, they’ve been selling IEDs there for years. It’s not just Marines. Since we’ve been here … four Afghans (are) killed for every coalition forces killed,” Pelletier said.

Often wounded Afghans are brought to the Marines for help.

“We’ve had people show up … missing hands. We’ve had people wheel people up in wheelbarrows who’ve had legs blown off. … It’s horrible but (insurgents are) as much of a danger to the Afghan population as they are the Marines and Afghan Security Forces,” Pelletier said.

When a casualty occurs, Marines and sailors have resources to help them through it, Pelletier said.

“As soon as a unit loses a Marine or sailor, the chaplains go out and talk to the Marines. The Marines that were on that patrol, maybe, or the corpsman who helped try to save someone’s life, they’re available to talk to them. … Anytime a Marine or sailor needs to talk to a chaplain here at Camp Leatherneck or another forward operating base, we make sure the chaplains have the ability to get around to the places they need to go to take care of the Marines’ spiritual needs,” he said.

According to Daily News records, Camp Lejeune had 304 casualties in Iraq beginning March 22, 2003, averaging nearly five casualties a month over 64 months.

Since March 7, 2004, Camp Lejeune has had 50 casualties in Afghanistan — 20 of those have occurred this summer.

The losses, however, haven’t slowed down Camp Lejeune troops currently deployed to Afghanistan and their resolve to stabilize the region.

Marines and Afghan National Army soldiers launched Operation Eastern Resolve II in the Now Zad district of Helmand province Aug. 11 in an effort to disrupt insurgent violence and intimidation campaigns and provide Afghan citizens with the opportunity to vote in provincial and national elections, according to information from MEB-Afghanistan.

Approximately 500 troops were involved in the operation, including 400 MEB-Afghanistan Marines and sailors.



To learn more, visit the Remember the Fallen special report at jdnews.com.

http://portal.jdnews.com/iraq5/casualtyList.cfm

Contact Amanda Hickey at 910-219-8461 or ahickey@freedomenc.com. Read Lejeune Deployed at http://lejeunedeployed.freedomblogging.com.

Ellie