JACKSONVILLE, N.C. – A U.S. flag flew at half-staff Tuesday outside Camp Lejeune for the 11 Marines stationed at the base who had died in the Middle East, most of them killed in the fighting near An Nasiriyah.
"It's time to take the gloves off," the father of one of the dead Marines said Tuesday.
The U.S. flag near the USO center outside flew at half staff Tuesday, and the USO's director, Judy Pitchford, tied an enormous yellow bow to a railing outside the building. Some 17,500 of the 30,000 Marines assigned to Camp Lejeune are overseas and flags and signs in their support dot roadsides and businesses all over Jacksonville.
The Department of Defense said Tuesday nine Marines stationed at Lejeune were killed Sunday in the vicinity of the Iraqi city of An Nasiriyah.
The Pentagon had said earlier that an Iraqi unit near An Nasiriyah indicated it was giving up, then opened fire when the Marines approached. U.S. military sources said about 40 were wounded.
The military identified the nine Marines Lance Cpl. Brian Rory Buesing, 20, Cedar Key, Fla.; Cpl. Randal Kent Rosacker, 21, San Diego, Calif.; Sgt. Michael E. Bitz, 31, Ventura, Calif.; Lance Cpl. David K. Fribley, 26, Lee, Fla.; Cpl. Jose A. Garibay, 21, Orange, Calif.; Cpl. Jorge A. Gonzalez, 20, Los Angeles; Staff Sgt. Phillip A. Jordan, 42, Brazoria, Texas; Lance Cpl. Thomas J. Slocum, age unknown, Adams, Colo.; and 2nd Lt. Frederick E. Pokorney Jr., 31, Nye, Nev.
Two other Lejeune Marines deployed to the Iraq war had died in accidents, the Pentagon said.
A memorial service for Pokorney was being planned Friday in Tonopah, Nev.
"He was just a wonderful all-around kid," said Janet Dwyer, secretary at Tonopah High School. "He was someone you'd be proud to call your son."
Garibay had sent two letters from the Middle East to Janis Toman, a resource specialist at Newport Harbor (Calif.) High School, for whom he had worked as a student aide in his senior year. One letter arrived Monday, and she was putting together a package of cookies and candy when she learned a few hours later that he had been killed.
"It felt like a punch in the stomach," she said. "He's one of the kids I feel I made a difference in his life. He's one of the reasons you want to teach."
Buesing "was full of energy in life, he always had a smile on his face," said Angie Doty, who works in the guidance office at the Cedar Key School, and whose daughter graduated with Buesing. "I know his parents were real proud of him."
There was no telephone listing in Cedar Key for parents Patti and Roger Steve Buesing.
Fribley knew going into the war that Americans could face tactics like those the Iraqis used near An Nasiriyah, his father said Tuesday.
"That's part of war," Garry Fribley said from the family's home in Atwood, Ind., just outside Warsaw where his son went to school. "It's time to take the gloves off. We're so intent on being the nice guys, and they (Iraqi soldiers) are not going to abide by anything."
The Defense Department said the two Lejeune Marines killed in accidents were Lance Cpl. Eric Orlowski of Buffalo, N.Y., who was killed by an accidental discharge of a .50-caliber machine gun, and Sgt. Nicolas M. Hodson, 22, of Smithville, Mo., killed in a vehicle accident.
Relatives said Orlowski was a reservist on his first deployment. He called his mother, stepfather and 3-year-old daughter, CamerynLee, in Buffalo just 10 hours before his death, according to the girl's mother, Nicole Kross.
"He was always there for his daughter, and he loved her more than anything," Kross, an Air Force reservist, said of her high school sweetheart.
In Missouri, friends said Hodson graduated in 1999 from Smithville High School.
Principal Wayne Krueger described Hodson as "the kind of kid that everyone knew and everyone liked."