Last Surviving Marine Mourns 11 Lost Squadmates

The Associated Press profiles Marine Lance Corporal Travis Williams, the last survivor from 1st Squad, 3rd Platoon, Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 25th Regiment. The other eleven members of the squad were killed in action on 3 August.

Last Marine in Unit Mourns 11 Lost Friends (AP)

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.”

A sad story which reminds us of the horrors of war. In World War II, Korea, and Vietnam these stories were so common as not to be national news. Thankfully, this is still a war where every death is noteworthy.

Correction: As originally posted, the lead-in inadvertantly identificed the late Cpl. David Kreuter, the first name mentioned in the AP story, as the survivor rather than Cpl. Williams. OTB regrets the error.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Beldar says:

    Your last sentence in this post is especially deep and profound, Dr. Joyner. Thanks.

  2. Anderson says:

    JJ, your post has one of the victims named as the last survivor; might want to fix that. And thanks for the post.