This Cleveland suburb was in shock yesterday as its Marine Reserve unit was struck by one of the deadliest roadside bombings yet suffered by Americans in Iraq and the second deadly attack on the unit this week. Yesterday, 14 Marines were killed when their troop carrier was blown up by a huge roadside bomb in Haditha.
BROOK PARK, Ohio - This Cleveland suburb was in shock yesterday as its Marine Reserve unit was struck by one of the deadliest roadside bombings yet suffered by Americans in Iraq and the second deadly attack on the unit this week.
Yesterday, 14 Marines were killed when their troop carrier was blown up by a huge roadside bomb in the western town of Haditha. This attack came only days after Monday's attack, in which six Marines from the unit died.
In Brook Park, City Councilman Jim Wilson usually comes to the local Marine Reserve center to coordinate local Veterans' Day ceremonies or help sponsor rallies for the troops in Iraq. But yesterday he came to the reserve center and wished he was in Iraq.
"I want to go over and help. They are my brothers in arms," said the Army veteran.
Eric Lynn and his wife, Amanda, place military prayer cards as their son, Eric, Jr., watches outside the Marine Corps reserve center in Brook Park, Ohio, home of the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines.
The Brook Park center is home of the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines, and this week also has been home base for an outpouring of grief from the local community. Some of those who came here yesterday already had started their crying.
Kathie McPheron of North Olmsted, Ohio, found out yesterday that her future son-in-law was one of those killed on Monday. She picked up a newspaper yesterday in the grocery store to read about him and began sobbing.
"It's been an emotional roller coaster," she said. "Monday we held out hope and Tuesday our worst fears were confirmed."
She stopped by the center to pin a letter on the chain-link fence next to a growing line of American flags and miniature crosses.
The letter read:
"Jeff: I love you sweetie. I could not have asked for a better man to marry my daughter. You made us all very proud of you.
"You will be missed more than words can say." It was signed, "Love always, Mom #2."
She stopped briefly to share some memories of her future son-in-law.
"He loved the military. He was so gung ho."
She said her daughter, Shelley Tevis, and her future son-in-law, Cpl. Jeff Boskovitch of North Royalton, Ohio, would often visit Target store. "He was a kid at heart. She would turn around and he would be stuck in the GI Joe aisle at Target."
Mr. Wilson said he wants his town to plan a memorial service.
"We're a very patriotic town. We know everybody here. We've had ceremonies for when they left and when they came back."
It seems only fitting, he added, that they hold another ceremony for those who won't be coming home.
A memorial service for later this week is being planned as politicians of this Democratic stronghold huddled at City Hall. U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, whose district includes the battalion, put aside his well-known criticism of the war to offer comfort.
"Someone's love has been destroyed here. Someone's child or husband or wife has been killed," the Democrat said on WEWS-TV. "We need to close ranks as one community to support these families."
In Iraq, Haditha is one of a string of cities along the Euphrates River that American commanders believe form the network that shuttles insurgents traveling through Syria into Baghdad and other parts of the Iraqi heartland.
The Marines have launched a series of operations in recent months to bring the area under firmer control and to choke off the flow of insurgents. But success has been elusive.
The insurgent group Ansar al-Sunna claimed responsibility for the ambush that killed the American snipers on Monday, and said in an Internet posting that it had captured one of the Marines alive. The group claimed it had killed eight Americans altogether, and that its fighters had beheaded some of the Americans who were still alive after the ambush.
There was no way to verify the claim that the group had taken an American prisoner, and the posting did not contain any video or photographs. The group said a video of its American prisoner was forthcoming.
Later in the day, however, Ansar al-Sunna posted a video that apparently depicted the attack on the snipers. The video shows what appears to be two Humvees moving across the top of a desert ridge, and then, at different times, six distant figures walking in the desert off the road.
"These are the crusaders," a caption on the video says.
Then a voice can be heard chanting "God is great!" while three masked men fire mortar shells from atop a dune, though it does not show what they hit. The video shows what appears to be a dead American serviceman, his shirtless body burned and mangled.
The video offers a close-up of the man's lifeless face. Then a pair of hands reach down and cut the dog tag from around his neck. The camera zooms in on the tag, but it is not readable.
At a news conference at the Pentagon, Brig. Gen. Carter Ham, a military spokesman, denied that any Marines were being held by insurgents, saying that all had been accounted for. He said there was "no indication" that any of the Marines killed on Monday had been beheaded.
American commanders did acknowledge that one of the Marines caught in Monday's ambush had become separated from the others, and that his body was not found until later, about a mile away from the scene of the ambush. That suggested that it was at least possible that one of the Marines had been captured alive by the insurgents and killed later. General Ham did not rule out that possibility.
"We just don't know what happened," General Ham said.
The Pentagon identified the six dead Marine snipers from Monday's attack as Cpl. Jeffrey Boskovitch, 25; Lance Cpl. Roger Castleberry, Jr., 26, of Austin, Texas; Sgt. David Coullard, 32, of Glastonbury, Conn.; Lance Cpl. Daniel Deyarmin, Jr., 22, of Tallmadge, Ohio; Lance Cpl. Brian Montgomery, 26, of Willoughby, Ohio, and Sgt. Nathaniel Rock, 26, of Toronto, Ohio.
According to Gunnery Sgt. Brad Lauer, public affairs chief, the battalion was activated in January and went to Iraq in March. Military officials told the families of Lance Cpl. Edward Schroeder, 23, of Cleveland; Lance Cpl. Timothy Michael Bell, Jr., 22, of West Chester in suburban Cincinnati, and Lance Cpl. Brett Wightman, 22, of Sabina, Ohio, that they were among the Marines serving with Lima Company who died yesterday.
"My son was the last of the John Waynes, but tougher," said Timothy Michael Bell, Sr., who last talked to his son two weeks ago.
Corporal Schroeder's mother, Rosemary Palmer, said she and her husband were talking about plans to attend funerals of the reservists killed Monday when the Marines came to tell her family about her son's death.
Ms. Palmer said her son joined the military in 2002 despite her opposition; she wouldn't even let him play with toy guns while he was growing up. "He was persuaded that if he joined the Marines he would get a new sense of purpose," Ms. Palmer said.
Corporal Wightman's aunt, Missy Luttrell, said her nephew, who lived outside Sabina, about 30 miles southeast of Dayton, had been interested in the military since he was 3 years old.
"He would play with those GI Joes and he'd say, 'I'm going to grow up and be one of these guys.'●" she said.
The names the other Marines killed yesterday were not immediately released.
A Marine officer, speaking on condition of anonymity for security reasons, said the attack occurred as troops were traveling in an armored amphibious vehicle to assault insurgent positions around a village near the Haditha dam, a longtime way station for foreign fighters infiltrating Iraq from Syria
The New York Times and Associated Press contributed to this report.