At least 17 Marines killed in Afghanistan in June

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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.

Marines with 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines, pay final respects to Sgt. Joseph Garrison, a squad leader with Fox Company 2/8, during a June 15 memorial service at Camp Hanson, in northern Marjah district, Afghanistan. (Photo by Sgt. Jesse Stence)

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.

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About Author

I’m a senior writer with Marine Corps Times, covering ground warfare, manpower, weapons acquisition and other beats. I embedded in Afghanistan in spring 2010, and plan to return at least once in 2011.

14 Comments

  1. I’m keeping you all in my thoughts, especially my best friend and his platoon who’re there right now…come home safe boys.
    <3

  2. Fifteen is fifteen too many. The price we pay goes higher each day. Thanks to those who have fallen. We pray that God Almighty will comfort their families as they suffer the loss of a loved one.

  3. Ej we love u! My husband is still there and thinks about u all the time. Watch over the EOD community and all the others.
    U r forever in my heart!

  4. Paul Petersen on

    I check the names every day and pray for all- my son is
    a grunt and doing his job somewhere in Southern Afghanistan.

  5. EJ you were our hero. Every one of us last year came home in one piece because of you. The world won’t see another one like you, but we were blessed enough to call you a brother, and that’s more than any Marine could ever ask for. Rest in peace EJ, we fight for you now and we always will.
    India Company, Third Battalion, Sixth Marines.
    Marjah, Afghanistan- Jan-Aug 2010, Jun 2011-Present.

  6. Of the Marines from 2/8 who gave their lives in recent days, does anyone know whether any were from E Co?

  7. I am the widow of a Nam vet. praying for each and everyone of you. We will celebrate the freedom of the 4th because of your sacrifices and devotion to our country. May God bless and keep you in His loving hands. As George Patton said, “make them die for their country.” You all come home safe.

  8. I had the great privilege of knowing and working with Sgt Chad Frokjer. He was a great friend and an even better Marine. He always had a positive outlook on any situation the Marine Corps threw his direction. He will be greatly missed but never forgotten. Semper Fi Frok Daddy! From your 505 Boyz

  9. Arlene Frokjer on

    To all Chad’s brothers over in Afghanistan. Stand tall and keep fighting. Chad would want this. When you all return home me and his dad want to meet you all

  10. SSGT Ryan Clay on

    Ej,
    Words can not describe how deeply missed you are by all. Nor can words explain the thanks from all of us that was with you in Marjah last year…. You saved our lives on more than one occasion, while exposing yourself.
    -Dan, thank you for writing about this. He was considered and I say it myself…. The best at what he did. A true professional, and a true friend.
    Rest Easy Ej… See you one day.

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