COLUMBUS, Ohio — Rosemary Palmer and her husband were making plans to attend memorial services for six Marine reservists killed earlier this week — five of them from the same battalion as her son, Lance Cpl. Edward Schroeder — when two uniformed servicemen came down her street.
It was her family’s turn.
“We knew. They didn’t even get a chance to knock,” Palmer said.
For relatives of those in the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines, there has been a sudden spike in such grim visits from uniformed servicemen.
Schroeder, 23, of Cleveland, and eight more Marines from the Ohio-based battalion were killed Wednesday along with a civilian interpreter in the deadliest roadside bombing in Iraq.
The news came two days after the same battalion that the Lima Company is part of — 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines — lost five other members in fighting. And two other members of the suburban Cleveland-based battalion were killed in combat last week.
The Marines originally said all 14 who died Wednesday were part of the same battalion. Thursday, Chief Warrant Officer Orrin Bowman said the other five were part of a different unit and ran the vehicle that all 14 were in.
'A little bit ridiculous'
At Lima Company headquarters Thursday, 20 pink roses and a teddy bear were propped up, and the fence that surrounds it had a yellow ribbon and a balloon with the words “proud and free” written on it.
Pat Wilsox, who manages a doughnut shop by the battalion’s headquarters in the Cleveland suburb of Brook Park, threw her hand over her heart when she heard of the latest deaths.
“Oh my God,” she said softly. “I’m all for protection but this is getting a little bit ridiculous.”
Lance Cpl. Timothy Michael Bell Jr., 22, of West Chester, Lance Cpl. Brett Wightman, 22, of Sabina and Lance Cpl. Michael Cifuentes, 25, of Oxford, were among the Lima Company casualties, said relatives and a spokesman for one family. Military officials said they would not release a list of the dead until they finished tracking down relatives.
Among the members of Lima Company is Lance Cpl. John David “J.D.” Coleman, son of Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman. The family had not heard anything on his status as of Wednesday, said Mike Brown, the mayor’s spokesman.
Isolde Zierk, 59, coordinator of Lima Company’s family support group, found an answering machine full of messages from worried families when she got to her Columbus home after work Wednesday evening. A neighbor stopped by to see if she’d heard anything about her own son, Sgt. Guy Zierk, 29, who serves in Lima Company. She hadn’t.
“My stomach’s in knots,” she said, choking back tears.
Mohammed Modiur Rahman, 54, of Columbus, said he last heard from his son, Cpl. Mohammed N. Rahman, about three days earlier. The Marine sounded nervous, his father said.
The father said his son told him he lost his best friend in the unit, Cpl. Andre L. Williams, who was killed last Thursday when Lima Company came under attack near Cykla in western Iraq.
A rising toll
Jeff Mers, commander of a VFW post that has raised money and sent care packages to Lima Company, said that even before this week’s attacks, he and other veterans were dazed from attending funerals of those killed in Iraq.
“I think I’ve been to nine of these just in central Ohio in the past few months,” he said outside Lima Company’s headquarters.
The front door of the Montgomery family home in Willoughby east of Cleveland is decorated with two blue stars, one for each of the sons who served with the Marines in Iraq.
Eric Montgomery, 21, will be coming home soon — but only to escort the body of his older brother, 26-year-old Lance Cpl. Brian Montgomery, among the six killed in Monday’s attack.
Palmer said she and her husband, Paul Schroeder, last spoke with their son about a week ago. He said he was tired of flushing insurgents out of the same places, just to have them reappear with better weapons.
“He said the closer they got to the time to come home, the less it was worth it,” she said.
Battalion has storied history
The 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines, was first activated on May 1, 1943, and fought in several battles in World War II. It helped capture a key airfield at the Battle of Iwo Jima in the Pacific. Members, based in this blue-collar Cleveland suburb of 21,000, were activated in January and went to Iraq in March.
Lt. Col. Kevin Rush, part of the family notification detail, said the volunteers were aware of the risks.
Donald Morgan, 21, of Parma Heights, another Cleveland suburb, just finished a tour of duty and is planning to re-enlist. He had yet to serve in Iraq but said going was “not a problem.”
“All Marines are brothers,” he said, placing two flags amid flowers, crosses and stuffed animals at display outside battalion headquarters. “I only took a moment to reflect on it. We all have a job to do.”
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