Afghan war claims 2 Hawaii Marines
By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer
Two Kāne'ohe Bay Marines were killed over the weekend in separate incidents in southern Afghanistan, the first fatalities in a seven-month deployment by the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines, which left Hawai'i in November.
Lance Cpl. Mark D. Juarez, 23, of San Antonio, died Saturday when a roadside bomb blast hit his vehicle in Helmand province, officials said.
Juarez was killed in the blast along with Sunday Mirror reporter Rupert Hamer, Marine Corps officials said. Hamer was the first British journalist to die in Afghanistan.
The newspaper said its photographer and five other U.S. military people were wounded in the blast northwest of the town of Nawa, where the battalion of 1,000 Hawai'i Marines and sailors is located.
"I told him, 'Don't go. It's too dangerous over there,' " Juarez's grandmother, Elida Flores, told TV station News 4 WOAI in San Antonio. "He said, 'Grandma, I want to go. I volunteered to go. And I'll come back very soon.' "
Juarez leaves behind a 1-year-old son.
The Pentagon also said Lance Cpl. Jacob A. Meinert, 20, of Fort Atkinson, Wis., died Sunday "while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan."
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said Meinert died in a bomb blast.
The Marine, whose nickname in his company was "Slim," had played in his high school's pep band. Meinert was a "very nice young man. Probably where he was involved the most was in the jazz band here at school," Fort Atkinson High School principal Jeff Zaspel told the newspaper.
Meinert participated in the concert, marching and jazz bands and was a member of the school's chess club, the newspaper said.
According to Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Meinert was a radio telephone operator assigned to the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force.
Meinert joined the Marine Corps in July 2007, and reported to the 1st Battalion in January 2008.
He had previously deployed with the same battalion to Iraq, returning to Hawai'i in March 2009.
Juarez was a small-arms repairman and technician, according to base officials. He joined the Corps in March of 2007 and reported to the 1st Battalion in November of the same year.
He, too, had previously deployed with the 1st Battalion to Iraq.
The 1st Battalion Marines are in and around Nawa district farther south in Helmand province, which is a major poppy-producing region and in the heart of the Taliban insurgency.
The Marines hope to choke off the opium trade that funds that insurgency.
Yesterday's Pentagon announcement that two Hawai'i Marines had been killed came with a correction. The Defense Department originally identified Lance Cpl. Mark A. Juarez of Bakersfield, Calif., as being killed.
The Pentagon subsequently corrected the name, attributing the mistake to a "clerical error," and said the correct family had been notified by Marine Corps officials.
The initial identification caused alarm and a flurry of phone calls to Mark A. Juarez, who is a Hawai'i Marine with the 2nd battalion, recently served in Afghanistan, and is alive and well, officials said.