Marine from Twentynine Palms killed in Afghanistan
Marine Sgt. Jesse Balthaser, 23, of Columbus, Ohio, has been killed in Afghanistan during a combat operation in Helmand province, the Marines announced Thursday.
Balthaser was a combat engineer assigned to the 3rd Combat Engineer Battalion, 1st Marine Division, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, at the Air-Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms.
He enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2005 and had deployed twice to Iraq.
Balthaser's girlfriend, Erin McSweeney, told the Columbus Dispatch that he was killed Friday when he stepped on a buried roadside bomb. "They don't know if he was shielding it, but he took the initial blast," she said.
McSweeney is expecting the couple's first child, in December. Balthaser was slated to finish his deployment in November.
--Tony Perry in San Diego
Photo: Jesse Balthaser and girlfriend Erin McSweeney. Credit: Balthaser family.