UPDATE: Two more Marine casualties in June have been announced since this blog entry was posted Wednesday. They are Sgt Chad Frokjer, 27, of 1st Battalion, 5th Marines; and Cpl. Kyle Schneider, 23, of 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines. Both Marines were killed June 30, putting the Marine casualty count this month at 17.
Marine forces may be making progress in pacifying Afghanistan’s volatile Helmand province, but the price paid remains high.
At least 15 Marines have been killed in fighting there this month. The most recent one reported was Lance Cpl. John Farias, 20, who died Tuesday in Helmand, Pentagon officials said. He was with 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, out of Camp Pendleton, Calif. The unit is deployed to Sangin district, home to some of the war’s most bloody fighting.
It’s a sobering reminder that even with Marine leadership talking regularly about progress, the war isn’t over. June is now the deadliest month for Marines in 2011. Last year, at least 15 Marines each were killed in May, June, July, August and October.
One death this month hit a little bit closer to home for me. Battle Rattle readers may remember me spending time last May at the Yellow Schoolhouse, a small patrol base in northern Marjah that was then in the middle of violence all the time.
The Marines there at the time were with 3rd Platoon, India Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines, and had spent much of the initial assault on Marjah working with Gunnery Sgt. Ralph “EJ” Pate, 29, who was killed Sunday in Helmand province.
By the time I arrived in Marjah last year, Pate had been reassigned. In fact, Gunnery Sgt. Benjamin Lepping of Sarah Palin tattoo fame replaced him in theater with 3rd Platoon, Marines said.
Pate may not have been that flamboyant, but they loved him, too. Two Marines with 3rd Platoon have approached me this week and asked that I write about how much they thought of him. They described him as a selfless Marine who was tough as nails, but willing to share anything he had with those around him.
Pate, a father of two, disarmed countless improvised explosive devices in Marjah in February and March last year. He’s quoted in this NPR story, describing the IEDs he’d found to that point.
His story is just one of many involving sacrifice this month.