Marine from Camp Pendleton unit is 1,000th U.S. military fatality in Afghanistan, news reports say [Updated]
As America settles in for the long Memorial Day weekend, the Marine base at Camp Pendleton appears to have marked another grisly wartime milestone.
The 1,000th U.S. military fatality in Afghanistan was a Marine from Camp Pendleton killed Thursday by a roadside bomb while on a foot patrol in Helmand province, according to a report by a Fox News reporter embedded with Marine troops.
[Updated at 1:27 p.m.: The Pentagon on Saturday identified the Marine as Cpl. Jacob C. Leicht, 24, of College Station, Texas, shown above in a picture held by his brother. Leicht, born in Lemoore, Calif., was assigned to the 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion. He had also deployed to Iraq where he received a Purple Heart and a Combat Action Ribbon, awarded only to Marines who have come under enemy fire.]
The Marine's family has been notified and his body is on the way home, according to reporter Rick Leventhal.
In the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, no U.S. military base has played a more significant role than Southern California's Camp Pendleton, home to the 1st Marine Division.
The first conventional U.S. troops into Afghanistan in 2001 to topple the Taliban government were from Camp Pendleton. The first conventional U.S. troops into Iraq in 2003 to remove dictator Saddam Hussein from power were from Camp Pendleton.
In both locations, the Marines were greeted by Navy SEALs from Coronado in San Diego County, and other Special Forces troops.
For much of the Iraq war, Camp Pendleton had the distinction of having had more troops killed than any other U.S. base. The Marines led the U.S. effort in the insurgent stronghold of Anbar province that is west of Baghdad.
But with the surge of U.S. troops in Baghdad, Ft. Hood now has had more fatalities. According to the independent website www.icasualties.org, the Texas Army base has had 485 troops killed in Iraq; Camp Pendleton has had 351 killed there.
In addition to the toll at Camp Pendleton are the 115 killed in Iraq from the Marine base at Twentynine Palms and 10 from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, according to the same website -- in all, 476 from the three bases.
(Exact counts are made difficult because of the complexities of how the military describes the commands to which its personnel are assigned. The tally that makes Friday's fatality the 1,000th for the U.S. comes from the Associated Press.)
In Afghanistan, more than 40 of the Marines fatally wounded since 2001 were from Camp Pendleton, Twentynine Palms and Miramar.
The Marines have the responsibility of wresting control of Helmand province from the Taliban. More U.S. casualties have occurred in Helmand than in any other province in the sprawling country.
More than 20,000 Marines are deployed in Afghanistan, about half from Camp Pendleton. The Marine leadership in Afghanistan is from the Camp Pendleton-based 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.
-- Tony Perry in San Diego
Photo: Marine Cpl. Jacob Leicht in picture held by his brother, Jonathan. Credit: Associated Press