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Bill would allow widow of Marine killed in Iraq to stay in the U.S.

October 14, 2009 |  2:41 pm

Jwidow2

Mike200 The widow of Marine Sgt. Michael Ferschke Jr. paid a visit to Camp Pendleton last month to show her young son to the Marines who served with his father before his death in Iraq.

Now those same Marines are supporting an effort to let Hotaru Nakama Ferschke stay in America with her 8-month-old son, Michael "Mikey" Ferschke III.

Michael Ferschke met his future wife, a Japanese citizen, while he was stationed in Okinawa. After he deployed to Iraq they were married in a ceremony conducted by telephone. Hotaru was three months pregnant.

A month after the ceremony, on Aug. 10, 2008, Ferschke was killed outside Fallujah, without having returned to Okinawa. He was 22 years old.

The couple's marriage is recognized by the Department of Defense but not the Department of Homeland Security, which controls immigration applications. Homeland Security cites a 1950s rule that says a marriage must have been consummated to be considered valid.

Without official classification as the widow of a Marine killed in Iraq, Hotaru cannot be assured of receiving permanent resident status so she can remain in the U.S.

A bill in the House introduced by a Tennessee Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. would allow Ferschke's widow and son to remain in the U.S. This week, Sen. James Webb of Virginia introduced a similar bill in the upper house.

In the meantime, widow and child are staying with Ferschke's family in Maryville on a visitor's visa.

"He looks just like his daddy," Robin Ferschke, Michael's mother, says of her grandson.

-- Tony Perry in San Diego

Photos, from top: Hotaru Nakama Ferschke and son "Mikey" at the home of mother-in-law Robin Ferschke in Maryville, Tenn.; slain Marine Sgt. Michael Ferschke Jr. Credits, from top: Associated Press; family photo

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