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Marine Mourns 11 Friends Killed in Bombing
The Associated Press
Haditha Dam, Iraq - Cpl. David Kreuter had a new baby boy he'd seen only in photos. Lance Cpl. Michael Cifuentes was counting the days to his wedding. Lance Cpl. Nicholas Bloem had just celebrated his 20th birthday.
Travis Williams remembers them all - all 11 men in his Marine squad - all now dead. Two months ago they shared a cramped room stacked with bunk beds at this base in northwest Iraq, where the Euphrates River rushes by. Now the room has been stripped of several beds, brutal testament that Lance Cpl. Williams' closest friends are gone.
For the 12 young Marines who landed in Iraq early this year, the war was a series of hectic, constant raids into more than a dozen lawless towns in Iraq's most hostile province, Anbar. The pace and the danger bound them together into what they called a second family, even as some began to question whether their raids were making any progress.
Now, all of the Marines assigned to the 1st Squad, 3rd Platoon, Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 25th Regiment, based in Columbus, Ohio, are gone - except Williams. They died in a roadside-bomb set by insurgents on Aug. 3 that killed a total of 14 Marines. Most of the squad were in their early 20s; the youngest was 19.
"They were like a family. They were the tightest squad I've ever seen," said Capt. Christopher Toland of Austin, Texas, the squad's platoon commander. Even though many did not know each other before they got to Iraq, "They truly loved each other."
All that is left are photos and snippets of video, saved on dusty laptops, that run for a few dozen seconds. As they pack up to return home by early October, the Marines from Lima Company - including the squad's replacements - sometimes huddle around Williams' laptop in a room at the dam, straining to watch the few remaining moments of their young friends' lives. Some photos and videos carry the squad's adopted motto, "Family is Forever."
In one video, Lance Cpl. Christopher Dyer, who graduated with honors last year from a Cincinnati area high school, strums his guitar and does a mock-heartfelt rendition of "Puff the Magic Dragon" as his friends laugh around him.
In a photo, Kreuter rides a bicycle through a neighborhood, swerving under the weight of body armor and weapons, as Marines and Iraqis watch and chuckle.
Each video ends abruptly, leaving behind a blank screen. Some are switched off as soon as they start - some images just hurt too much to see right now.