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Marines return from Valley of Death; memorial planned

October 18, 2011 |  3:24 pm

When British forces had responsibility for clearing the Taliban stronghold in the Gereshk Valley in southern Afghanistan, the British press referred to the region as the "Valley of Death."

And when Marines from the Twentynine Palms-based, 3rd Battalion, 4th Regiment arrived seven months ago "they had to fight their way in," according to a story in USA Today.

Now the Marines from Three-Four are returning to Twentynine Palms, after five dead and dozens wounded during the deployment. An earlier report from the Marine Corps put the number of dead at three.

Progress is difficult to gauge in Afghanistan--particularly in Helmand province, which borders Pakistan, where Taliban fighters have an unofficial sanctuary and Taliban leaders plot attacks on U.S. and Afghan forces.

But Marine brass are convinced the Three-Four's mission was a success. Taliban fighters have been forced to flee populated areas.

Villagers are able to use the main road to take their goods to market without Taliban checkpoints and extortion. The Afghan flag was raised over the Washir district government center for the first time in six years.

Next week, the Marine Corps will hold a memorial of appreciation for the Marines from Three-Four killed in the battle with the Taliban.

Killed were:

--Cpl. Paul W. Zanowick II, 23, Miamisburg, Ohio

--Lance Cpl. Jason D. Hill, 20, Poway, Calif.

--Cpl. Mark R. Goyet, 22, Sinton, Texas

--Lance Cpl. Christopher Camero, 19, Kailua Kona, Hawaii

--Staff Sgt. Leon H. Lucas Jr., 32, Wilson, N.C.

 As a sign of respect, the commandant of the Marine Corps, his wife, and the sergeant-major of the Marine Corps were at Twentynine Palms on Monday to greet the first Marines from Three-Four to return.


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---Tony Perry in San Diego

Photo: Cpl. Kevin Dubio, injured by a roadside bomb, greets 1st Lt. Nick Francona as the Three-Four returns to Twentynine Palms. Credit:  Lance Cpl. Sarah Dietz / Marine Corps