April 6,

April 6

Thirteen U.S. Marines killed as fighting spreads in Iraq

Knight Ridder ~~ RAMADI, Iraq - Three days shy of the one-year anniversary of the fall of Baghdad, intense combat spread to at least four more cities in Iraq Tuesday, killing at least 13 U.S. Marines. Some of the fiercest fighting, witnessed by a Knight Ridder journalist, took place in Ramadi, where eight Marines from Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Regiment, were killed when a multipronged assault caught the Marines by surprise as they were conducting routine patrols on foot at about 9 a.m. The attackers fired rocket-propelled grenades, mortar and assault rifles in what appeared to be a well-coordinated attack by at least four groups of fighters numbering between four and 15 members each. Three other U.S. Marine companies were also ambushed in Ramadi. There was no word on their casualties. By the end of the day, U.S. troops seemed to have taken control of most contested areas, but the fighting was far more extensive than at any time since Saddam Hussein fled Baghdad last April 9.

Pfc Deryk L. Hallal, USMC

The Department of Defense announced on 7 April the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Pfc. Deryk L. Hallal, 24, of Indianapolis, Ind., died April 6, due to hostile fire in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.

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Associated Press ~~ INDIANAPOLIS - A Marine from Indianapolis who joined the military less than a year ago was shot and killed Monday in Iraq during a firefight with insurgents, the military said Wednesday Pfc. Deryk L. Hallal, 24, died after he was shot during hostile fire in the al-Anbar province west of Baghdad, where Marines have fought heavily for several days. Three other marines died in fighting in that province Monday. Hallal was a member of the 2nd Battalion of the 4th Marines, stationed at Camp Pendleton, Calif. He graduated from North Central High School in 1998. "He was a fun-loving, wonderful child who brought me more joy in my life than I can say," said Hallal's mother, Pam Hallal. His death was the second Hoosier casualty this week. On Sunday, 20-year-old Army Pfc. John D. Amos II, who grew up in Griffith and Valparaiso, died after an explosive struck his vehicle in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk. Hallal was the 22nd person from Indiana to have died in the Mideast during the war in Iraq. Pam Hallal, 43, and her husband, Jeff, 46, were notified Tuesday of their son's death. He joined the Marines last May and arrived in Iraq in late February, his father said. "He was glad to be there," Jeff Hallal said. "He believed so strongly in the freedoms of America. ... When someone signs up in the times we've had since 9/11, you can't deny that philosophic feeling is there."

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WTHR13 -- INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana -- Deryk Hallal's Marine picture looks like a recruiting poster. A graduate of North Central High School, he's remembered as a character with character. Don Bartemus recalls, "His desire, when he had the opportunity to go, was to help free a people out of bondage. He believed in his country, his President. He believed in the cause and the purpose of going to Iraq for righteousness and for justice and to free people." His parents still hold to that sentiment, even as they take comfort at his calling. Twenty-four-year-old Deryk Hallal was shot and killed during a firefight in Iraq last week. All the while he was growing up people always told him he looked like a model. A member of the Fourth Marine Regiment stationed at Camp Pendleton, California, he lived his life like one, like a role model. "One of the first things he did out of boot camp was tell another person about Jesus Christ and what he means to him," says Bartemus. "So his religion, his faith and his Christ were very important to him." He served his God and his country. Semper Fi, "It's a Marine Corp motto," explains 1st Sgt. Christopher Borghese, "always faithful. We are a band of brothers and sisters. We take care of each other. We never leave a Marine on the battlefield and they always return home." Private Hallal returned home to be buried. Steve DeWitt says, "Deryk Hallal was the all American kid, the stereotypical Hoosier kid. He loved sports, basketball he loved video games. He enjoyed life. He enjoyed the moment. He was just a real blessing to our lives." Deryk Hallal waill be remembered as a Marine and a son. Visitation for Deryk Hallal's funeral is scheduled for noon Thursday.

The Department of Defense announced on April 7 the death of five Marines who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Pfc. Christopher R. Cobb, 19, of Bradenton, Fla.

Pfc. Ryan M. Jerabek, 18, of Oneida, Wis.

Pfc. Moises A. Langhorst, 19, of Moose Lake, Minn.

Lance Cpl. Travis J. Layfield, 19, of Fremont, Calif.

Pfc. Langhorst died April 5; all others died April 6. All died due to hostile fire in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. They were assigned to 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Pfc Christopher Cobb, USMC

NBC Sandiego ~ A 19-year-old U.S. Marine only months removed from playing in his Bradenton high school orchestra, Christopher Cobb was killed in Iraq this week two months into his tour of duty. Cobb, a member of the Camp Pendleton, Calif.-based 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, was sent to Iraq on Feb. 9, his mother, Sheila Cobb said. She was informed of her son's death Tuesday. Details of his death were not immediately available, but the Department of Defense said 12 Marines were killed Tuesday in a fierce battle Tuesday with insurgents in the city of Ramadi. The last time Sheila Cobb heard from her son, he was about 20 miles from Fallujah, where an organized insurgency against coalition forces began over the weekend. "He called from a satellite phone and said, 'Mom, I'm going to try and call you once a week.' But I didn't hear nothing all week from him, at all," Cobb told WFLA-TV in Tampa. Cobb's phone rang unanswered Wednesday morning. Christopher Cobb graduated from Bayshore High School in May and joined the Marines in June. Members of the school's ROTC unit lowered the flag to half-staff Wednesday morning in memory of Cobb, principal David Underhill said. Underhill said Cobb was "one of those students you could always depend on to be in class, on time, with his work completed."

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Bradenton Herald - Not long after Sheila Cobb arrived home Tuesday night she heard a knock on the door. Outside stood two uniformed Marines. "Do you have a son named Christopher Cobb?" she was asked. She answered yes. "What's his birthday?" Jan. 1, 1985, she said. "What's his Social Security number?" She rattled off the nine digits. They asked her to please sit down and the horror of the moment began to sink in. "On behalf of the United States Marine Corps, your son's been killed in action ..." the Marine official told her. Less than two weeks after arriving in Iraq, 19-year-old U.S. Marine Corps Pfc. Christopher Cobb died there. Sheila was told her son died at about 11 a.m. Tuesday - about 3 a.m. in Bradenton. The young soldier, a member of Camp Pendleton, Calif.-based 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, was deployed to Iraq on Feb. 9. Details of how he died were not available late Wednesday. His unit suffered eight fatalities Tuesday in Ramadi when an assault caught the Marines by surprise while they were conducting routine foot patrols at about 9 a.m., according to Knight Ridder reports. "I'm so numb," Sheila Cobb said as she stared out the sliding glass doors of her apartment Wednesday. "I can't be alone right now because I know Chris is never going to come through that door again." Tear drops stained her white T-shirt embroidered with the words "United States Marine MOM." Chris Cobb is the 22nd Floridian to die in Iraq. Since Marines first arrived in Iraq last year, 112 have died there, and of those 29 have died since their return in recent weeks. "I'm mad at the Iraqi people for taking my son. I'm not mad at the Marine Corps because I know that was his job," Sheila Cobb said. "They need to get those guys out of there because I've got a lot of friends online who have kids over there." Chris Cobb, who is believed to be the first Manatee County resident to die in Iraq, joined the Marine Corps shortly after graduating from Bayshore High School in 2003. Braced for the worst Sheila Cobb said Wednesday that part of her knew bad news was coming. "Yesterday morning when I heard about all of this going on over there I got a really weird feeling," she said. Hours before she was notified of her son's death, she said she had an eerie premonition. Before going to work, she took a nap and woke up startled by the images she dreamed and yelling, "Chris, Chris, please don't hurt my Chris ... Please don't hurt my baby." Tuesday was the second time Sheila Cobb lost a loved one to war. Chris' father, Ronald Cobb, died when Chris was just 3 months old. A U.S. Air Force Vietnam veteran, he died from an illness stemming from his exposure to Agent Orange, Sheila Cobb said. Chris' stepfather, Howell Tuten, also served in the Marine Corps, but it was a desire to grow and travel that led Chris to enlist, Sheila Cobb said. "He joined because he wanted to travel. He wanted to get out of Bradenton because he thought there was nothing for him here. He wanted to better himself." The final communication Sheila Cobb heard her son's voice for the last time two weeks ago today. It was about 8 a.m. and he asked her to send his favorite snack, Soft Batch chocolate chip cookies. "He said 'Send me some cookies and candy' then I heard a loud noise, like a boom, and he asked 'Did you hear that?' " she said. "He gave candy to the Iraqi children and they called him Mr. Marine." Wednesday in a corner of the family's Saddle Creek apartment sat a white plastic garbage bag filled with snack foods - mostly Pringles potato chips and cookies and candy - that she was going to send her son. "Take that all out of here. I don't want it here," she told a family member, adding it was too painful to see reminders of what could have been. She cherishes the two weeks she spent with him in California before he went off to war on Feb. 9. "He said 'Mom, I'm scared, but I know I have to go,' " she said. "I knew that if I didn't go there and spend time with him I would regret it. "Now he won't be coming home sitting in a plane, he will be coming home in a box," she said, bursting into tears. A day of mixed feelings Sheila Cobb spent Wednesday somewhere between reminiscing about joyful memories with her son, dealing with the pain of the present and thinking of the career, marriage and children he would never have. "He was talking about being an officer some day, wanting to get married and having kids one day," she said as she clutched a photo of her son. "Now I'm never going to have grandkids." A continuous string of family, friends and neighbors filed in and out of her apartment Wednesday as word of Chris' death spread throughout the community. The apartment complex management distributed fliers about Chris and asked residents to leave their patio lights on in his memory. Chris' step-nephew, who was named after his uncle Chris and is known as "Little Chris," penned a note to Sheila Cobb on Tuesday. The 7-year-old's letter scribbled on lined paper read: "I'm sorry that Chris died. He was my best friend. Love Chris." As people gathered around the apartment building, a mailman left a box of Whitman's chocolates for Sheila. On Wednesday the family's strength was tested once again when Chris' stepbrother Jimmy Tuten learned his brother-in-law, USMC First Sgt. Charles Blumenberg, was reported missing in action in Iraq. "It just can't be. You just can't have two casualties in one family," said Howell Tuten. All day long the phone rang. Calls came from Chris' friends, co-workers and members of the American Legion Post 312 in Oneco. Mementos of his brief military career decorated the walls, windows and furniture of the family's ground floor apartment. On the sliding glass doors hung a U.S. Marine Corps flag and a paper yellow ribbon. Outside, a red, white and blue windsock swayed in the breeze. Sitting on a wooden cabinet, the television was framed by pictures of Chris and his family. In one he stands proudly donning a tuxedo beside his older sister Kelly on her wedding day. On the couch was a Ziploc bag filled with red, white and blue and yellow ribbons Sheila stitched together as tiny patriotic tributes to her son that she gives to everyone who enters her home. "I want people to remember him as a person who was passionate about his future, about being a Marine," she said. A teenager's life Before becoming a Marine, Chris led the life of a typical teen: playing on the computer, hanging out with friends, working part-time jobs and playing in his school orchestra. Chris' family says he was a quiet young man who liked running, playing violin and computers. Throughout high school, he worked part-time jobs at the Walgreen's and Winn-Dixie near Bayshore High and at a local nursing home. His mom said there was always a clean path from the door to his computer but the rest of the room was a mess. The Corps changed all that. "When I went to his room in Camp Pendleton, his room was so clean you couldn't believe it," Sheila Cobb said. Even though he was a gifted violinist in high school, Chris sold his instrument shortly before leaving for boot camp, his mother said. Like most young Marines, boot camp was a turning point in Chris' life, according to his family. "When he came back from boot camp we said 'Chris, you look taller' and he said 'No, I just stand up straighter now,' " said his stepbrother Jimmy Tuten. On the drive up to boot camp, Jimmy Tuten said Chris asked if they could play his CDs on the car stereo. Smiling slightly as he recalled that day, Jimmy Tuten said he hesitated but decided he could tolerate listening to Kid Rock and Eminem for the hours-long car ride to Parris Island, S.C. "He was proud. Look at that smile," he said while looking at a photo from Chris' boot camp graduation. Reaching out to friends After learning her son's tragic fate, Sheila Cobb called Irina Kouchnir, the mother of a fellow Marine who is one of Chris' best friends, Cpl. Eugene Kouchnir. Eugene, 18, attended Bayshore with Chris and they, along with a couple of other friends, joined the Marines together. A member of the 2nd Marine Division, he also is in Iraq. "I just wrote Eugene an e-mail about Chris," Kouchnir said solemnly on Wednesday. "He (Chris) sent us an e-mail Sunday morning." Irina Kouchnir struggled to find the right words to say. "You have to be with people because when you're not, you just let it all go," she said. "It's tough to be a mother but it's even tougher to be the mother of a Marine. "I'm stunned. Chris was here for Christmas and so was Eugene. They hung out together and joked around about how even though Eugene was younger he was higher ranking and he was going to be giving Chris orders. It was wonderful to see them so happy." Though it was a happy time, Sheila Cobb suspects her son already knew he was headed to Iraq. "I think he knew when he came home in December that he was going to Iraq, but he didn't want to tell me because he knew how much I would worry," she said, covering her eyes with her hands as tears streamed down her cheeks. Jimmy Tuten also noticed a change in Chris during that visit. "He was very reflective, very introspective when he came home last time," he said of the stepbrother he watched grow up. "You could just kind of see him mature right before your eyes. It was a real man who died over there." Jimmy Tuten asked, "Who are we helping over there anyway? If other parents get to see the cost, they can really re-evaluate whether we should be there." Planning services Sheila Cobb doesn't know when her son's body will arrive home, but she says the Marine Corps has promised to return the belongings, including his dog tags and CDs. Marine Corps officials have told her his body will arrive at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware by 9 p.m. Thursday. Sheila said she plans to bury Chris at Manasota Memorial Park, but will wait until after the Easter weekend to hold private services. The only thing people can do for her, she said, is pray. "Pray that they get these guys out of there, because it's bad - it's getting real bad." A hopeful wish for Chris' safe return remained on his mother's answering machine Wednesday where a cheerful voice said: "We're not home now ... if this is Chris calling, please call my cell phone and have a great day."

Pfc. Ryan M. Jerabek, USMC

WBAY TV ~ Another U.S. Marine from northeast Wisconsin has died in fighting in Iraq, the second local Marine killed this week. Pfc. Ryan M. Jerabek died yesterday fighting in the city of al-Ramadi. That city, west of Baghdad and Fallujah, makes up one corner of the so-called Sunni Triangle, a hotspot of anti-American sentiment and resistance by Sunni Iraqi militants. Jerabek was 18 years old. He leaves behind his father, mother, and two brothers. He graduated last year from Pulaski High School and enlisted in the Marines soon after. His father tells us PFC Jerabek was in Iraq only four weeks before he was killed. "He went over to Kuwait in February. He was three weeks in Kuwait and from there he went to Iraq for four weeks, and now we gotta bring him home," Ken Jerabek says. A scrapbook full of pictures and letters is now a lasting treasure that the senior Jerabek has of his son's life as a Marine. "We have everything he sent us. We kept everything, all his letters," he shows us. "His first letter he ever sent us...." Ryan seems much too young to be remembered only through pictures and letters. "He was the youngest Marine out of 1,500 Marines that left Camp Pendelton in February to go to Iraq." "He had such a love for this country, it was unbelievable. That's why he joined the United States Marine Corps, he wanted to make a change in the world, and he thought he could do it." News of PFC Ryan Jerabek's death arrived at his family's doorstep several hours after he was killed in Iraq. "At 8:30 in the evening, two United States Marine Corps officers came here and informed us that my son had delivered the ultimate for his country." As Ken grieves his son's death, he was quick to remind he is not alone. That at this moment, several other families are dealing with the same loss. "He went in with another boy from Pulaski, in the buddy system in the Marine Corps, and I pray to God he doesn't have to go over there." Ken said Ryan enlisted with the Marines over the summer along with his best friend. Now, only six months later, the Jerabeks find themselves planning Ryan's funeral. Ken says he's waiting to hear from the Marines on when their son's body will be returned home so they can plan his funeral. Ever since the news, a constant stream of friends and family stop by, not far off the family's flag flies at half staff. During his short time in Iraq, Ken says Ryan made a lasting impression handing out candy to Iraqi children when he would patrol the streets of Ramadi. "He went through the streets and the kids would come up to him and they would ask him for candy. That's the kind of boy he was, he was just a wonderful son." "He was a wonderful boy," his dad mourns. "There's going to be a deep hole here for a long, long time."

Lance Cpl. Travis Layfield

Mercury News -- When Hollywood casts a Marine, it thinks Rambo -- biceps bulging and a string of bullets slung across a camouflaged chest. Lance Cpl. Travis Layfield seemed born to that role. Family and friends gathered Thursday in Fremont to remember Layfield, 19, who was killed by hostile fire Tuesday in Iraq. They recalled a young man who, from almost Day One, was fascinated with the military, wars, soldiers and guns. He was a Marine in every sense. And so much more. ``His heart was so big,'' said his cousin Ashley Mills, 19, of Tracy. Mills remembered a night a little more than a year ago when she was fighting with her boyfriend. She turned to Layfield. ``I had no one else to call,'' Mills said. ``He was with his own girlfriend. And he dropped everything to comfort me. ``He protected me.'' Others who gathered Thursday at his mother's small apartment recalled the time when another cousin broke her arm and had to go to the hospital. It was Travis who stayed by her side to comfort her. Diane Layfield learned of her son's death Tuesday night. She was returning home from her grandson's Sunnyvale baseball game about 7 p.m. when three uniformed Marines entered her gated apartment complex. They hadn't said a word. But she knew. ``I just lost it,'' she said. Two neighbors grabbed her, holding her up. The officers escorted her upstairs. One knelt by her side, giving her what little news he had. The Department of Defense is reporting that Layfield, assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, was one of nearly 20,000 Camp Pendleton Marines trying to quell insurgents in the area in and around Al-Fallujah and Ar-Ramadi. The area is a stronghold of anti-Western fundamentalists and the epicenter of resistance to coalition forces. Layfield was killed on a day when there were at least 12 Marine casualties in Ar-Ramadi. That same day, Lance Cpl. Kyle Crowley, 18, of San Ramon, from the same battalion, was among those killed in the ambush there. Layfield and Crowley are among the 642 U.S. military personnel who have been killed since the United States invaded Iraq last year. Layfield's grandfather was a Navy Seabee in World War II, and he has a cousin and uncle in the Army, relatives said. Still, no one could quite explain why Layfield seemed hard-wired at birth to be a military aficionado. ``I would be watching some kind of sports on TV,'' his brother, Tyler, 17, recalled Thursday. ``And he would grab the remote and switch it to some boring stuff, something military or on the History Channel.'' When the Marines came by Washington High School in Fremont to recruit him, he was an eager candidate. He enlisted in 2002 and was stationed at Camp Pendleton since September. His first assignment overseas came Feb. 16: He was sent to Germany, Kuwait, and then Iraq, where he had been since last month. He embraced Marine life with gusto, sporting a ``Devil Dog'' tattoo and a feather tattoo, symbolic of his Lakota Sioux background. His father, John Layfield, a forklift operator at NUMMI in Fremont, is American Indian. Though deeply proud of their son, unlike many military families who find some measure of comfort in knowing their loved one died for a just cause, John and Diane Layfield, who are divorced, do not support the war, Diane Layfield said. Layfield's own presence in Iraq presented a dilemma for his two-sided character. He never thought of ditching his duty as a Marine, but his mother said in his last phone call to her on St. Patrick's Day that he was concerned for the Iraqi people. Among his duties was scouring neighborhood garbage cans and debris-strewed streets for possible bombs. ``He was very proud; he loved what he was doing,'' said his mother, a packer at Scholastic Book Fairs in Union City. ``But he also was asking, `Why are we here? They don't want us here.' '' Like always, at the end of the call, he assured his mother that he was smart and would be careful. ``I'll be fine,'' he told her. It was his way to always comfort her, to promise he would make it back. And true to her son's protector spirit, she recalled another phone conversation in which he explained that a friend had asked him to deliver a goodbye letter to his wife, just in case. He refused, because he refused to accept that outcome. Besides, he had a better idea. ``He said he wouldn't deliver it,'' his mother recalled. ``He said, `I'm going to take care of you.' ''

The Department of Defense announced on April 8 the death of four Marines who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Lance Cpl. Kyle D. Crowley, 18, of San Ramon, Calif.

Staff Sgt. Allan K. Walker, 28, of Lancaster, Calif.

Lance Cpl. Marcus M. Cherry, 18, of Imperial, Calif.

Pfc. Benjamin R. Carman, 20, of Jefferson, Iowa.

All four died April 6, due to hostile fire in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. They were assigned to 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Lance Cpl. Kyle D. Crowley

San Francisco Chronicle -- The lush golf-course communities, tidy parks and sprawling Bishop Ranch office complexes in San Ramon are worlds apart from the battlefields of Iraq, but the war hit too close to home this week when a young local Marine was killed in action. Unaccustomed to dealing with the tragic aftermath of combat, many residents, students and teachers were struggling Thursday not only with their grief over the death of 18-year-old Kyle Crowley, but also with the nagging feeling that the war's toll is turning out to be too high. "I think there definitely comes a point when we say we've done what we could do,'' said Anne Stevens, 29, watching her 4-year-daughter Tabatha play in a large fountain at the city's Central Park. Stevens said she had supported the war because the United States had to do something about Saddam Hussein, but the fierce fighting this week that left dozens of American troops dead, including two other Bay Area young men, gives her pause. "I think there comes a point when the government needs to say enough is enough,'' she said. Larry Grey, who was taking a day off from his job at PeopleSoft to be with his 18-month-old son, said he thought the Bush administration's reasons for going to war in Iraq were "ill-founded.'' However, he believes it may be worse to pull out. "I think there is danger of mishandling things over there,'' said Grey, who was picnicking in the glorious spring weather next to a manmade lake. "At this stage, doing nothing or pulling out is going to be worse.'' That San Ramon has mixed feelings on the war isn't a surprise. Voters in the Contra Costa County city of about 45,000 people also split in the 2000 presidential election, when Bush won 9,525 votes compared to 9,384 for Gore. In San Ramon, as in most suburbs around the Bay Area, American flags fly from some homes, but there is nothing like the overwhelming display of colors and yellow ribbons seen in military cities like Fairfield or Oceanside, near San Diego County's Camp Pendleton. A year ago, several hundred out-of-town anti-war protesters converged at ChevronTexaco's world headquarters in San Ramon, but even though they were greeted with epithets from some passing commuters, the event was peaceful. Protesters arrested for trying to block the company gates ended up praising San Ramon police for being so polite. Many residents say their day-to-day concerns focus more on the local economy, jobs, traffic and their families. Still, learning that a local teen died in a fierce firefight east of the Iraqi city of Ramadi made such concerns seem pedestrian. Marcy Watson, 36, said she supported the war and the president, but she's glad it will be many years before her two sons, ages 1 and 4, are old enough to join the military. She said she was heartbroken that Crowley was among the Marines killed at Ramadi. "They're just such little kids,'' she said of the troops. "They're so innocent and naive. And it seems like a day doesn't go by where there's not young kids who are losing their lives. My heart goes out to (Crowley's) family. '' The epicenter of San Ramon's grief Thursday was at California High School, where students and teachers stopped in front of a growing memorial around a redwood tree on the front lawn, crying and hugging as they stared at the smiling photo of Crowley in the Marines dress blues that he was proud to wear. Darren Nudelman, 19, last saw Crowley before he shipped out to Iraq a few months ago, and said he and his friends had stayed up all night Wednesday to make a poster with photos of Crowley and hand-scrawled tributes from those closest to him. "All of our love was combined into one thing,'' Nudelman said of the hours spent making the display. "It felt like a family.'' Questions about whether to support or oppose the continued presence of American troops in Iraq were not on the minds of Crowley's friends or teachers. Instead, they praised his courage, spoke fondly of his ready smile and upbeat personality and said he had died doing a job he had longed to do for years. "He's one of the bravest people I know,'' said his cousin, Steve Speights, 18, who recalled that Crowley wanted to be the kind of Marine who would go behind enemy lines. "He wanted to be in the most gnarly position. He knew what he was getting himself into.'' Crowley's closest friends were planning a candlelight vigil and memorial service at Central Park tonight at 9. Chad Higgins, 18, who was in Crowley's class, said with tears in his eyes that it helped to make the plans. "Anything you do in remembrance of Kyle is positive,'' Higgins said. Tamara Reneau, a campus supervisor who knew Crowley, watched carefully as students gathered at the memorial. "I think having them come together like this not only helps remember Kyle but helps us get back to the things that are important in life,'' she said, adding that students who didn't even know the young man were moved to tears by his death. "It puts things in perspective. "He died for what he loved,'' Reneau said, recalling that Crowley had visited the campus in December wearing his Marine uniform. "He was so proud. He stood taller. He just looked so mature.'' However, she added, students along with Crowley's family and friends -- and the whole city of San Ramon -- will have to deal with the fact that he died in war less than a year after graduating from high school. "It's not something we can ignore,'' she said. "It's at the front door now, and these kids have to see it.''

Staff Sgt. Allan K. Walker

Associated Press -- PALMDALE, Calif. - Staff Sgt. Allan K. Walker, a fun-loving Marine who would have celebrated his 29th birthday Friday, died this week in fighting in the Anbar province of Iraq. An American flag and a black ribbon of mourning flew Thursday outside the Lancaster home of Walker's mother. Walker served nine years with the Marines and worked as a drill sergeant until he was sent to Iraq six weeks ago, said his stepsister Jamie Doucette, 26. She described Walker as tough but fair with recruits. "His nickname was 'The Beast' because he was hardcore and very good at it, but he treated everyone equally," she said. Walker was among five Marines killed Tuesday from the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, 1st Marine Division, Expeditionary Force, based at Camp Pendleton. Doucette described Walker as outgoing and hard to categorize. "He was not typical," she said. "He liked Celtic music but also loved punk-rock music." At his high school in Palmdale, Walker was a football player and a wrestler who also enjoyed drama. He joined the Marines because he was tired of flipping burgers, Doucette said. "If he was going to have someone bark commands at him, why not do something to support our country," she said he told her. His mother, Nancy, said while she opposed the U.S. military occupation of Iraq, she knew her son would have supported it. "My personal belief about what is going on with our nation's intervention in Iraq is not fit for publication on the airwaves," she told KABC-TV. "Because I do not believe we are being good. That's my opinion. My son would have had a different opinion." Walker's best friend, Leonard Piontkowski, held an "Irish wake" Wednesday with mutual friends that included Irish music, beer drinking and stories about Walker. Piontkowski and his wife earlier broke the news of Walker's death to his fiancee, April Diorio. Walker is survived by his father, Ken Walker, of Palmdale; stepmother, another stepsister, and two sisters.

Lance Cpl. Marcus M. Cherry

The News Tribune -- Cherry, 18, a fire team leader in the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines Echo Co., was killed in action along with 12 other Marines in the Anbar province of Iraq on Tuesday, April 6, 2004.

Lance Cpl. Benjamin R. Carman

Lance Cpl. Carman, from Jefferson, Iowa, died Tuesday, due to hostile fire in the Al Anbar Province of Iraq, according to the Department of Defense. Fighting this week in Fallujah, Ramadi and elsewhere has left 36 Americans and at least 459 Iraqis dead.

2nd Lt. John Thomas "J.T." Wroblewski, USMC

Associated Press -- A Marine who died Wednesday from wounds he received during a gun battle this week has become the first Morris County resident killed in Iraq. 2nd Lt. John Thomas "J.T." Wroblewski, 25, died one day after he was wounded during a shootout with insurgents in Al Anbar Province, Iraq, the Defense Department said in a statement issued Thursday night. The fighting began when some Marines stopped to investigate a white civilian pickup truck left next to a wall on a footpath on a dusty street, its doors open as if its occupants had fled in a hurry. The resident of Oak Ridge in Jefferson Township, who was deployed shortly after being married last July, was one of at least 12 Americans killed in the battle. He was based at Camp Pendleton in California and was an infantry officer assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, 1st marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, according to Camp Pendleton's public affairs office. "He loved what he was doing. He was going to be a Marine for life," his father, John Walter Wroblewski, told the Daily Record of Parsippany. A former Marine himself, the elder Wroblewski said his son was a World War II expert who had a lifelong interest in the military that was "intensified" by the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. "He became my hero. He became my role model," Wroblewski said of his son, a Rutgers University graduate who would have turned 26 on Friday. "He was a true Marine, through and through." Wroblewski joined the Marine Corps on Dec. 13, 2002. His personal awards include the National Defense Service Medal.

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Associated Press -- WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP, New Jersey -- Funeral services were held this week for a Marine Corps officer from New Jersey who was killed during a gun battle in Iraq earlier this month. 2nd Lt. John Thomas "J.T." Wroblewski, 25, of Jefferson Township, died April 7, one day after he was wounded during a shootout with insurgents in the Al Anbar Province. Wroblewski, who was deployed shortly after being married last July, was one of at least 12 Americans killed in the battle. Wroblewski's wife, Joanna, and his father, John, both delivered eulogies during Wednesday's service at Our Lady of the Mountain Church in Washington Township. Wroblewski, the first Morris County resident to die in Iraq, will be buried Friday at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. Reading from a letter she wrote her husband after his death, Joanna Wroblewski said she would always cherish the times they shared together. "You always told me, on the battlefield, you would be the last to leave. I know that even in death, you are still trying to bring them home," she said. Wroblewski's father offered similar sentiments. "He was our hero. He loved his family, his country, the United States Marine Corps. He was a dedicated and loving husband," John Walter Wroblewski said. "As an older brother, he was truly a role model. As a son, we couldn't be more proud. We will always cherish his memories." A Rutgers University graduate, the younger Wroblewski joined the Marine Corps on Dec. 13, 2002. He was based at Camp Pendleton in California and was an infantry officer assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force.

Pfc. Anthony P. Roberts, USMC

Pfc. Anthony P. Roberts, 18, of Bear, Del., shown in this undated family photo was among the U.S. troops killed in fighting in Iraq on Tuesday. Marine officials visited Emma Roberts' home in Bear on Tuesday night, April 6, 2004, to inform her of her son's death.

Pfc. Christopher Mabry, USMC

Associated Press -- A Marine from Lauderdale County was killed in Iraq this week in the Sunni Muslim town of Ramadi, family members say. The family members identified the Marine as Pfc. Christopher Mabry, 19. The name of his unit was not immediately available. The Department of Defense has not identified Mabry as a casualty. Mike Mabry of Meridian said his nephew was in the Marines and stationed in Iraq. "My brother, Lewis, was working in the yard yesterday when Marines came up the house and told him,'' Mike Mabry told The Associated Press. "They are supposed to be at my mother's house this afternoon. "This is a shock to everybody,'' he said. Family members said Mabry was one of 12 Marines killed while battling Suni insurgents on Wednesday in Ramadi, west of Baghdad. Mabry was an honors student at Clarkdale Attendance Center where also played football. Mabry was deployed to Iraq in February, months after becoming a Marine. He signed up to enlist last year during his senior year in high school. "He was an exceptional person,'' his grandmother, Frances Mabry, told The Associated Press. "The entire community is offering their support, our church, everyone.'' Family members last spoke to the Marine about two weeks ago. Frances Mabry said her grandson asked for Pop-Tarts, M&Ms, trail mix and disposable razors. She said she mailed the box along with a birthday card last week. Mabry would have been 20 on April 29. "He wanted me to send him stuff that he could share with the other Marines,'' Frances Mabry said. Family members said Mabry's funeral is expected to be held next week after an autopsy has been performed on his body in Denver and then returned to Meridian.

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