Image: The plaques placed in memory of former students killed in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as seen in the memorial garden of Buchanan High School in Clovis, Calif.
Justin Kase Conder  /  AP
The plaques placed in memory of former students killed in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as seen in the memorial garden of Buchanan High School in Clovis, Calif.
By
updated 12/10/2010 2:52:49 PM ET 2010-12-10T19:52:49

It has become a never-ending heartache within the hallways of Buchanan High School: news that another former student has died in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Eight former students have been killed in the two wars, including a Marine sergeant who will be laid to rest Saturday after dying Dec. 2 of a head wound in Afghanistan.

The community in the heart of California's farm country has become all-too-familiar with the rituals of grief that have followed each death — tearful remembrances, flag-draped coffins, candlelight vigils. The school even built a memorial garden where the names of the fallen soldiers are cast in bronze to remember their service.

Austin Kohl is a Buchanan High senior who wants to enlist in the military and roams the hallways with a red and yellow Marines lanyard hanging from his pocket. The 18-year-old is nervous that he could go to war, nervous of his fate because of where he goes to school.

"We just lost another one. And most of them were from the branch that I want to join," he said Wednesday, his green eyes downcast, braces glimmering when he talks. "I think about it every day."

"I don't want to die but I don't want to be scared either," Kohl added.

'Don't know why'
Principal Ricci Ulrich says she's constantly asked why the wars have taken so many young men from the school, and she can't come up with an answer.

"I don't know why," she said. "I wish I had that answer."

See Instructions  /  AP
From left to right, Marine Sgt. Matthew Abbate, Marine Cpl. Jeremiah A. Baro, Marine Lance Cpl. Tony Butterfield, Senior Airman Nick Eischen, Marine Lance Cpl. Jared P. Hubbard, Army Cpl. Nathan Hubbard, Staff Sgt. Brian Piercy and Pfc. Rowan Dale Walter. All eight men were former students at Buchanan High School in Clovis, Calif.

More than 600 soldiers from California have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some high schools have suffered multiple losses, but Buchanan High seems to have been hit the hardest. And by contrast, the other high schools in Clovis have lost only two former students.

Buchanan is home to about 2,400 students, and the school grounds are bordered by a church, new beige houses behind the brick walls of subdivisions and a peach farm with a fruit stand. The neighborhood reflects values of this town of about 90,000 people: God, roots, family, the American Dream. The school colors are red, white and blue.

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"You see the patriotism of this place the minute you walk through the front door of Buchanan," said Sgt. 1st Class Charles Duke, an Army recruiter based in Clovis.

The first war tragedy struck in 2004 when a pair of best friends were killed, followed by the death of one of their brothers.

In 2007, three more soldiers who once walked the grounds at Buchanan High died overseas.

And this summer, so did 27-year-old Brian Piercy, a Marine 30 days shy of completing his second tour of duty in Afghanistan. His picture still rests at the school's memorial. Marine Sgt. Matthew Abbate, 26, became the eighth last week.

The lobby of the school's main office features a painting of three handsome Marines in their crisp white hats set against the backdrop of a waving American flag. They were the first three who died.

But with every new death, the school realized that it needed more to remember the troops to bring peace to people.

Ribbons and skinny trees
The Military Memorial Garden started out simply as the school's flagpole, situated atop a styled concrete block. The students helped design plantings and a pathway constructed in 2007 that have made it a solemn destination for students and community members alike.

The concrete block that anchors the American flag in the garden has become a frequent destination for local residents to drop off photos, poems and other mementoes to remember the former students.

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Ulrich is known as the "Mama Bear" around campus, a nod to the school's Buchanan Bears nickname. As she walks through campus, she greets each student, many by name, unafraid to put a hand on their shoulder. They talk sports or grades or futures, and the walls of her office are lined with photos of each graduating class.

In July, she walked through the triple-digit heat to the two trees at the front of the garden's walkway, put yellow ribbons on two skinny trees. It was the day Brian Piercy's death was announced.

The ribbons still were mounted on the trees when Ulrich stopped at the foot of the memorial this week and shed tears there as she has for years.

"It's a tight-knit community," she said. "You know their mothers, you know their worries. And to see their worst fears come true."

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: On the front lines

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  1. U.S. Army soldiers from Task Force Denali 1-40 Cav reposition a 105mm Howitzer during snowfall at FOB Wilderness in Paktya province, Afghanistan, on Dec. 9. (Zohra Bensemra / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Two soldiers of the Grenadier Guards use makeshift phone booths to phone home from Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, on Christmas Day. British soldiers in Afghanistan held their own Christmas celebrations as commanders visited rank and file troops to thank them for their work. (Ministry of Defence / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. U.S. Army Sgt. Shea Kelly from Task Force Bravo 2/151 Infantry keeps watch during a patrol at Alo Khil village in Khowst province, Afghanistan, on Dec. 26. (Zohra Bensemra / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. U.S. soldiers toast during a holiday meal on Christmas day at Camp Phoenix in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Musadeq Sadeq / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. U.S. Marines from the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines "Warlords" rest during an operation to hunt for insurgents following an exchange of fire in the Garmsir district of the volatile Helmand province in southern Afghanistan on Sunday, Dec. 20. (Kevin Frayer / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. German Bundeswehr army soldiers of the International Security Assistance Force attend a holiday service inside their camp in Kunduz on Dec. 20. (Fabrizio Bensch / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Pfc. Dufour of the 2nd Battalion 12th Infantry runs towards a firing position as incoming fire hits inside Command Outpost Michigan at the Pech River Valley in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, on Saturday, Dec. 19. (Dario Lopez-mills / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Spc. James Lollis, right, who was on his way to the gym, and Pfc. Dufour from the 2nd Battalion 12th Infantry take cover as incoming fire hits inside Command Outpost Michigan at the Pech River Valley in Kunar Province, Afghanistan on Saturday, Dec. 19. (Dario Lopez-mills / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. A U.S army soldier from Task Force Denali 1-40 CAV prays during a Christian worship service at Forward Operating Base Clark in Khowst province, Afghanistan, on Dec. 13. (Zohra Bensemra / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. U.S. Army Sgt Kaylon Ross from Task Force TF Yukon Charlie troops 1-40 CAV plays the guitar while his comrade jokes with an Afghan national army soldier at Wilderness Forward Operating Base in Paktya province, Afghanistan, Dec. 12. (Zohra Bensemra / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. United States Marine Cpl. Aleksander Aleksandrov from the 2nd MEB, 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion shaves at a base in Khan Neshin in Helmand province, Afghanistan, on Friday, Dec. 11. (Kevin Frayer / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. A U.S. Army soldier runs with the ball as U.S. Marines from the 2nd MEB, 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion try to tackle him during a game of mud football following a rain storm at their base in Khan Neshin in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, on Dec. 9. (Kevin Frayer / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. A United States Marine from the 4th Light Armored Recon walks toward a LAV fighting vehicle in Khan Nashin, in the Helmand Province of Southern Afghanistan, Thursday, Dec. 3. (Kevin Frayer / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Specialist John Dever of Chicago, Illinois with Blackfoot Company Army's 1st Battalion 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment has Thanksgiving dinner while standing watch in a guard tower on Thursday, November 26, 2009 in Matakhan, Afghanistan. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Specialist Travis Heslet from Carrollton, Texas, belonging to Alpha troop of the 3-71 Cavalry squadron, guards a position with fellow soldiers near the town of Baraki Barak, Logar province, Afghanistan, on Monday, November 23. (Dario Lopez-mills / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. A U.S. Army soldier takes photos of the eyes of an Afghan man at a checkpoint near Forward Operating Base Tillman on November 24. (Bruno Domingos / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. U.S. Army sergeant Chong Lee of 3/509 infantry lifts weights before a firing training session at FOB Tillman, Afghanistan, November 11, 2009. (Bruno Domingos / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. SFC Korey Staley, right, a U.S. soldier from Atlantic, Iowa and the 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division takes an over watch position on a mountain top as the sun rises in the Pech Valley of Afghanistan's Kunar province Saturday, Nov. 7, 2009. (David Guttenfelder / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. A U.S. special operations member pays his final respects for a comrade killed in Afghanistan's Farah province. (Maya Alleruzzo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Spc. Justin Moore, and Lt. Thomas Goodman return fire on Taliban positions as Taliban fighters ambush U.S soldiers during a patrol in the Pech Valley of Afghanistan's Kunar province on Tuesday. (David Guttenfelder / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. SPC Thomas Upton provides security in the village of Qatar Kala while his platoon commander meets with village elders in Afghanistan's Kunar province on Tuesday. (David Guttenfelder / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. A member of a U.S. special operations unit, center left, speaks with villagers in Afghanistan's Farah province on Tuesday, Nov. 3. (Maya Alleruzzo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. A security guard keeps watch on Tuesday as U.N. staff carry coffins of U.N. employees killed in a bombing in Kabul last week. (Gemunu Amarasinghe / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Cpl. Casey Liffrig leaps for cover while Lt. Thomas Goodwin gets down as Taliban fighters ambush U.S. soldiers during a patrol in the Pech Valley of Afghanistan's Kunar province on Tuesday. (David Guttenfelder / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. The boots of a U.S. soldier are soaked in muddy water as soldiers take cover and return fire during a Taliban ambush in Afghanistan's Pech Valley on Tuesday. (David Guttenfelder / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. An Afghan soldier crouches near the shadow of an American soldier on Monday, Oct. 26, in the village of Hazi Madad in the Kandahar province of Afghanistan. American and Canadian troops in the area have been trading blows with Taliban militant fighters. Local tribal chiefs complain that civilians have been caught in the crossfire. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. U.S. soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division cross a bridge over the Pech River as they patrol in the Pech Valley of Afghanistan's Kunar province on Oct. 26. (David Guttenfelder / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Cpl. Jeremy Foley of Bloomington, Ill., and fellow U.S. soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division prepare to fire mortars in the Pech Valley of Afghanistan's Kunar province on Oct. 26. (David Guttenfelder / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. U.S. soldiers patrol high in the mountains above the Pech Valley on Oct. 25. (David Guttenfelder / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Army fight medic Sgt. Nathaniel Dabney, of Prescott, Ariz., with Charlie Company, Task Force Talon, attaches a heart monitor to the fingertip of his patient, a young Afghan accident victim with a head injury, during an airborne medical evacuation over Helmand Province, southern Afghanistan, on Oct. 23. (Brennan Linsley / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. U.S. Army Pfc. Repass, right, of 2nd Platoon, Baker Company, 2-12 Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, and Air Force Airman Moulton return fire on enemy positions as the platoon came under intense fire during an ambush at the village of Lanyal in the Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, on Oct. 20. (Simon Lim / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Petty Officer 2nd Class Courtney Lust, a U.S. Navy SARC, or Special Amphibious Reconnaissance Corpsman, with U.S. Marines Alpha Company-Task Force Raider, 2nd Recon Battalion, is seen before going on a night mission from a temporary staging area at a combat outpost, in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan, on Oct. 12. (Brennan Linsley / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, head of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, works on his laptop onboard a C-130 aircraft after attending a meeting with regional Afghan commanders in Mazar-e-Sharif, north of Kabul, on Oct. 21. (Altaf Qadri / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. Afghan children watch as soldiers with the U.S. Army's 293rd Military Police conduct a dusk patrol on Oct. 22 in Kandahar. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. U.S. Army soldiers in the 1/501st of the 25th Infantry Division shield their eyes from the powerful rotor wash of a Chinook cargo helicopter as they are picked up from a mission Oct. 15 in Paktika Province. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. A U.S. Marine dog handler with Alpha Company-Task Force Raider, 2nd Recon Battalion, walks with Pinkie, a bomb-sniffer, as his unit arrives at a forward operating base en route to a mission in Helmand province on Oct. 12. Task Force Raider is a strike force that conducts raids targeting Taliban networks in the province. (Brennan Linsley / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  37. U.S. Marines attend an injured colleague after a Taliban ambush in Helmand province Oct. 9. (Asmaa Waguih / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  38. U.S. marines fire during a Taliban ambush as they carry out an operation to clear an area in Helmand province, Oct. 9. (Asmaa Waguih / Reuters file) Back to slideshow navigation
  39. U.S. Army Engineer Staff Sgt. Rick Atkinson of Roswell, N.M., plays Oct. 7 with a puppy that soldiers of Forward Operating Base Zerok adopted in Zerok, Afghanistan. Oct. 7th marks the eighth anniversary of the beginning of the Afghanistan war in 2001. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  40. An Afghan man steps out of his house as U.S. Marines search his village during the launch of Operation Germinate into the restive Bhuji Bhast Pass in Farah Province, southern Afghanistan. The Taliban has mined the pass with improvised incendary devices. (David Furst / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  41. U.S. Marines from Fox Company, 2nd Battalion settle into a makeshift patrol base during Operation Germinate iin Farah Province, southern Afghanistan, on Oct. 21. (David Furst / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  42. A member from the U.S. 8th Marine Regiment checks his military vehicle at Hassan Abad patrol camp in Helmand province on Oct. 21. (Asmaa Waguih / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  43. Spc. Matthew King of Lompoc, Calif., rubs his face in a ground bunker in Forward Operating Base Zerok in Afghanistan on Tuesday, Oct. 6. He has been without a shower since July 4, but that’s the least of his worries. Conditions are harsh for soldiers of the 3-509 U.S. Army's 25th Infantry Division and their Afghan Army counterparts who are based near the Pakistani border. Troops patrol the mountains on foot and face frequent attacks from militants. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  44. During a firefight with the Taliban, Marine Lance Cpl. Jordan Christie, of Washington, Ind., sprints down an irrigation canal to launch a rocket on Sunday, Oct. 4. He’s with the 3rd Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion 5th Marines in the Nawa district in southern Afghanistan. Extremists have attacked the platoon on patrol using assault rifles, machine guns, and snipers. (Brennan Linsley / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  45. Soldiers from the U.S. Army's Alpha Battery, 425 Field Artillery, 3rd brigade of 10th Mountain Division based in Fort Drum, N.Y., fire 155 mm Howitzer in Cop Cherokee base in Kherwar district in Logar province. (Nikola Solic / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  46. Some cards and cigars among members of U.S. 2/8 2nd battalion 8th Marines Regiment at Camp Delhi in Helmand province, on Saturday, Oct. 3. (Asmaa Waguih / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  47. Marines from Fox Company 2nd Battalion 3rd Marines shop at a mobile PX convenience store that arrives once a month in a container on a flatbed truck, at their forward operating base, in Farah Province, southern Afghanistan, on Sept. 28. (David Furst / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  48. A Marine jokes around with Afghan villagers while on patrol in Farah Province on Wednesday, Sept. 23. (David Furst / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  49. Pfc. Joshua De Jonge of Smithfield, Va., keeps watch during a patrol mission on Tuesday, Sept. 13, in Zerok District, East Paktika province in Afghanistan. (Dima Gavrysh / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  50. U.S. Army Specialist Meredith Smith tries to get some sleep inside an armored vehicle during a convoy operation in Zerok District, East Paktika province in Afghanistan, Friday, Sept. 11. (Dima Gavrysh / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  51. A U.S Marine from Delta Company searches an Afghan man for weapons near the town of Khan Neshin in Rig district of Helmand province, southern Afghanistan, on Sept. 8. (Goran Tomasevic / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  52. U.S Army SPC Sam Garvin, 22, of Middleburg, Fla., displays his father's dogtag and a cross. Garvin is currently on his first deployment in Logar province. "The military is something that's been big in my family for a long time. We've done good things here. I'm proud I joined, makes me feel good and better as a person.” (David Goldman / Gamma) Back to slideshow navigation
  53. Children greet an armored U.S. Army vehicle from Fort Richardson, Alaska, during a patrol in Khowst province, east of Kabul, on Sept. 5. (Dima Gavrysh / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  54. Army Sgt. Jeremiah Terrell and Sgt. Hyon Stiffler, from Fort Richardson, Alaska, are joined by Sgt. James Apgar as they wrestle in their gym at a base in Khowst province on Sept. 5. (Dima Gavrysh / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  55. Men walk past burned vehicles in the Pakistani town of Chaman along the Afghanistan border Aug. 31. Suspected Taliban militants set fire to 18 container trucks carrying supplies for western forces in Afghanistan. (Saeed Achakzai / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  56. Lance Cpl. Joshua Bernard of Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines, patrols on point through the bazaar in the village of Dahaneh, Aug. 14, in Afghanistan's Helmand Province. Less than an hour later Bernard's squad was ambushed by Taliban fighters waiting in a pomegranate grove. Bernard was hit with a rocket-propelled grenade and died. (Julie Jacobson / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  57. U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Lawrence Nicholson, left, and 2nd MEB Sgt. Major Hooph pay their respects to Lance Cpl. Joshua Bernard during a memorial service at a forward base on Aug. 27. (Julie Jacobson / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  58. Staff Sgt. Jonathan Pena, with the 159th Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, eats Lucky Charms cereal while manning his weapon during a helicopter flight in Afghanistan Sept. 7. (Alex Brandon / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  59. A U.S. soldier shaves at his bunker in the village of Bargematal, Nuristan province, Aug. 23. (Oleg Popov / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  60. U.S. soldiers from 2nd Platoon, Alpha Company, 32nd Infantry Regiment fire against attacking Taliban forces from their position over the village of Bargematal, Nuristan. (Oleg Popov / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  61. Lance Cpl. Seth Ramsey, of Springfield, Mo., keeps watch from a tower during a night shift at a combat outpost near the village of Now Zad in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. (Julie Jacobson / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  62. Marines move to take positions on a mountainside at the start of Operation Eastern Resolve 2 against the Taliban outside the village of Dahaneh on Aug. 12. The operation was an attempt to push militants from the key Helmand village and ensure that citizens will be able to vote in upcoming elections. (Julie Jacobson / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  63. Marines take a position on a rooftop during fighting Aug. 12 in the village of Dahaneh. The troops exchanged heavy fire with the Taliban over more than eight hours. (Julie Jacobson / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  64. A U.S. Marine watches over a detainee during fighting in the Helmand village of Dahaneh on Aug. 12. It was the first time NATO troops had entered the village, which has been under Taliban control. (Julie Jacobson / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  65. A border patrol officer in Spin Boldak, southern Afghanistan, guards a post overlooking the Pakistani town of Chaman on Aug 10. The border is easily crossed by Taliban extremists in their battles with U.S. troops. (Emilio Morenatti / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  66. A boy wounded in the takeover and gunbattle in Logar Province on Aug. 10 is evacuated. (Massoud Hossaini / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  67. An Afghan man sits in a car as U.S. soldiers of Alpha company 2-12 Infantry 4BCT-4ID Task Force Mountain Warrior search the boot at a checkpoint in Manugay village, at the Pech Valley in Kunar Province August 8. (Carlos Barria / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  68. The U.S. strategy in Afghanistan includes befriending locals. This soldier drinks tea with villagers in Kharah, Kunar Province, on Aug. 8. (Tim Wimborne / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  69. British soldiers search a dwelling in Afghanistan's Sangin Valley on Aug. 11. Some 300 British troops, joined by scores of Afghan troops, swooped into a network of narcotics labs in the valley, seizing a huge haul of opium and killing a number of insurgents. (Ministry of Defense via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  70. U.S. Technical Sergeant Richard Gibbons of the 741st EOD Battalion Counter Improvised Explosive Device Team lifts a shell from a weapons cache discovered in a house in the centre of Logar Province in Afghanistan on July 25. (Shamil Zhumatov / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  71. A U.S. soldier from the 741st EOD Battalion Counter Improvised Explosive Device Team walks past an old Soviet howitzer in the village of Nawa-Kala in Logar Province on July 29. (Shamil Zhumatov / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  72. U.S. Marines from the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade sleep in their fighting holes inside a compound where they stayed for the night, in the Nawa district of Afghanistan's Helmand province, on July 8, 2009. (David Guttenfelder / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  73. Specialist Jeffery Adams of Road Clearance Package (RCP) eight of the 2-12 Infantry, 4th Brigade, patrols near marijuana plants during a mission in the valley of the Kunar River in Afghanistan's Kunar province on July 28. (Tim Wimborne / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  74. First Sgt. Lorusso, U.S. army instructor, right, monitors a training session for Afghan National Army recruits at the Kabul Military Training Center in Kabul, Afghanistan on Saturday, July 18. (Emilio Morenatti / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  75. A U.S. Marine of 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade runs to safety moments after an IED blast in Garmsir district of Helmand Province in Afghanistan on Monday, July 13. Two U.S. Marine soldiers were killed when the explosion occured as they tried to clear a route into the Taliban heartland of southern Helmand province. (Manpreet Romana / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  76. U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Christopher Breen of Chicago, Illinois from 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, RCT 2nd Battalion 8th Marines Echo Co. searches an Afghan man during a search of an area where shots were fired toward the Marines on Monday, July 6 in Mian Poshteh, Afghanistan. The Marines are part of Operation Khanjari, launched to combat Taliban fighters using areas in the Southern Helmand Province as resupply routes, and to help the local Afghan population prepare for the upcoming presidential elections. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  77. Medics attached to the U.S. Marines from the 2nd MEB, 1st Battalion 5th Marines carry a Marine, who was overcome by heat exhaustion, to a medical evacuation helicopter in the Nawa district of Afghanistan's Helmand province on July 6. (David Guttenfelder / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  78. U.S. Marines from 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, RCT 2nd Battalion 8th Marines Echo Co. meet with Afghan villagers who returned after the Marines drove Taliban fighters from the center of the village on July 5 in Mian Poshteh, Afghanistan. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  79. A U.S. Marine from 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, RCT 2nd Battalion 8th Marines Echo Co. talks through his interpreter to an Afghan man during a patrol on July 6 in Mian Poshteh, Afghanistan. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  80. U.S. Marines from 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, RCT 2nd Battalion 8th Marines Echo Co. run through a door that they had to blow open with explosives after taking fire from inside the compund on July 4 in Mian Poshteh, Afghanistan. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  81. U.S. Marines from 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, RCT 2nd Battalion 8th Marines Echo Co. shoot at enemy targets during a firefight on July 3 in Main Poshteh, Afghanistan. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  82. Troops from the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, 1st Battalion 5th Marines wait at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, on Thursday, July 2, to board helicopters for the assault in Helmand province. (David Guttenfelder / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  83. A Marine from 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, RCT 2nd Battalion 8th Marines Echo Co. takes up a position July 2, after off loading from a helicopter during the start of Operation Khanjari in Main Poshteh, Afghanistan. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  84. Several hundred Marines were in Helmand province before the new offensive. A Marine directs an arriving convoy at Camp Dwyer on June 30. (Manpreet Romana / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  85. Troops from the 2nd MEB, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines fire mortars at Taliban positions from inside their base at Now Zad on June 22. (David Guttenfelder / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  86. A U.S. medic treats an Afghan suffering from back problems as Marines visit Khwaja Jamal in Helmand province on June 22. (David Guttenfelder / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  87. Marines take a break during a lull in fighting near Now Zad on June 20. (David Guttenfelder / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  88. Marines battle Taliban fighters inside a mud walled compound near Now Zad in on June 20. (David Guttenfelder / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image: U.S. army soldiers from Task Force Denali 1-40 Cav reposition a 105mm Howitzer during snowfall at FOB Wilderness in Paktya province
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