Tuesday, December 06, 2005
Camp Lejeune is Famiiar with Mourning and Winning Battles
Camp Lejeune in North Carolina is familiar with mourning. This memorial honors the 241 Marines and sailors killed in Beirut in 1983.
N.C. base steadfast in face of casualties
Despite deadly ambush, respect remains for 'the Marine mission'
By Gary D. Robertson
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 12.04.2005
JACKSONVILLE, N.C. — The grim news that a roadside bomb killed 10 Marines in Iraq arrived at Camp Lejeune just days after President Bush outlined his strategy for victory, a speech delivered in the face of increasing calls to bring the troops home.
But even after learning about Thursday's ambush — the deadliest against U.S. troops in four months — this city's embrace of its Marines, their base and their job remains resolute.
"Even when people differ in opinions, you're still respectful to the Marine mission," said Pat McLane, a retired master gunnery sergeant from Jacksonville. "We're still going to take care of our Marines."
The 10 Marines assigned to the Lejeune-based 2nd Marine Division were on foot patrol outside Fallujah, a former insurgent stronghold, when a bomb fashioned from four large artillery shells exploded.
They attached to the unit once in Iraq; all those who died — with hometowns from Tomah, Wis., to Surprise, Ariz. — were from the 1st Marine Division, based at Twentynine Palms, Calif.
"The loss of any Marine life is always tragic. ... it makes for a somewhat somber mood," said 1st Lt. Christy Kercheval, a spokeswoman for the Twentynine Palms base. "But at the same time, just as the president said in his recent speech, the best way to honor the loss is to carry out the mission that they defended."
That the 10 Marines never spent time at Camp Lejeune, a sprawling base of 25,000 service members and the Corps' largest on the Atlantic coast, didn't matter in Jacksonville. They were Marines.
"We are one community and one family here," said Reid Flinchum, 65, who has lived in and around Jacksonville for more than 40 years.
It's a place familiar with mourning so many, so quickly. On March 23, 2003, during the earliest days of the ground war, nine Marines from Camp Lejeune died during an ambush as their company crossed a bridge at Nassiriyah.
And most of the 241 Marines and sailors who died in the Oct. 22, 1983, barracks attacks in Beirut, Lebanon, were based at Lejeune and the adjoining Marine Corps Air Station New River.
Bush came to Camp Lejeune within two weeks of the Nassiriyah attacks, cheered on by 20,000 Marines, their families and locals.
When Bush spoke Friday from the White House Rose Garden about the economy, he didn't mention the Marines' deaths, though White House press secretary Scott McClellan said the president had been briefed twice about the incident. Typically, Bush does not comment on specific losses in Iraq.
Support for the president and his Iraq policy remains high here.
"We all have our opinions, but the best capacity of a Marine is a mission accomplished," said Sgt. Paul Mancuso, 22, who returned two weeks ago from nine months in Iraq as a combat videographer.
The Associated Press