Marine families mark 10th anniversary of Iraq war battle

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CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — To the outside world, the names mean nothing. But to Marines who fought in Ramadi, Iraq, and to the families of the fallen, the names will forever be redolent of service and sacrifice: the Snakepit, Hurricane Point, Junction City, Blue Diamond, the government center and Charlie Med, the field hospital where dead and dying Marines were brought.

Several hundred Marines and family members gathered Sunday morning to mention the locations of outposts and firefights and to remember the Marines who fought and died in Ramadi, a battle that began 10 years ago Sunday.

Saddam Hussein had been deposed a year earlier, and the Marines of the 2nd Battalion, 4th Regiment had deployed to Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, in March 2004.

The mission of the 2/4 was supposed to be “security and stability:” to aid in Iraq’s transition to democracy, maybe to start sports teams for the young and help in the construction of schools and health centers.

Instead, Ramadi soon “transformed to full-blown urban combat,” Lt. Col. Rob Weiler, who was with the 2/4 in 2004, told the gathering. “We fought alone but not afraid,” Weiler said, his voice breaking with emotion.

On April 6, 2004, the first day of fighting, 12 Marines were killed. By September of that year, 34 Marines and a Navy corpsman had been killed and 269 Marines had been wounded.

There would be further skirmishes in Ramadi in succeeding years but never again would the insurgents attempt an all-out assault. The Marines of the 2/4, a battalion known as the Magnificent Bastards, had done their job, Marine brass said.

“I walked the streets of Ramadi in 2006 without a flak jacket or helmet because of the work done by the Magnificent Bastards in 2004,” said Maj. Gen. Lawrence Nicholson, now commanding general of the 1st Marine Division.

No Marine battalion in the Iraq war suffered as many casualties as the 2/4 during that deployment, Nicholson said.