AFGHANISTAN: Fatalities among Twentynine Palms Marines
A third was 19 years old and had only recently married his high-school sweetheart. And the fourth had tried to enlist in the Marines soon after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks but was rejected because he was only 16.
All four were part of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Regiment, based at Twentynine Palms in the desert east of Los Angeles. They were killed June 14 by a roadside bomb in Farah province, where the battalion is assigned to shape up the Afghan security forces.
Killed were: Sgt. Michael T. Washington, 20, of Tacoma, Wash.; Lance Cpl. Layton B. Crass, 22, of Richmond, Ind.; Pfc. Dawid Pietrek, 24, of Bensenville, Ill.; and Pfc. Michael Robert Patton, 19, of Fenton, Mo.
Although often overshadowed in the media by Camp Pendleton, Twentynine Palms has been key to the U.S. efforts in Iraq and, now, Afghanistan. According to the unofficial website icasualties.org, 117 Marines from Twentynine Palms have been killed in the two conflicts (23 of the 117 are listed in The Times database for troops with hometowns in California).
Camp Pendleton, with more battalions, has had at least 335 killed (78 are listed in The Times database).
Pietrek, the Polish emigre, "had his dreams and goals and he achieved it," a family friend told the Chicago Tribune. "He always wanted to be a Marine."
Washington's father was a Marine during the Persian Gulf War, his grandfather during the Korean War. Crass' brother Devin, 19, is also a Marine stationed at Twentynine Palms.
UPDATE: The Pentagon on Monday announced the deaths of two Marines and a Navy corpsman from Twentynine Palms, pushing the base's death toll to 120.
— Tony Perry in San Diego
Photo: The casket of Marine Sgt. Michael T. Washington arrives Thursday at a funeral home in Auburn, Wash. Saluting in the doorway is his father, Michael W. Washington. Credit: Associated Press