Families Cope With News of Gulf Casualties
Undated (AP) _ The first Marines killed in ground combat in the Persian Gulf War were beloved husbands, sons, brothers and friends. More than that, their families said, they were patriots and heroes.
On Thursday, the Pentagon released the names of 11 Marines killed in the first sustained ground battle of the Gulf War. Another Marine airman was listed as missing when his jet was shot down. All were attached to a unit based at Camp Pendleton, Calif., but the loss was felt in small towns across the country.
In Bountiful, Utah, James T. Stephenson, a Marine veteran of the Vietnam War, said his son gave his life for a purpose, for the Kuwaitis and for the children of the Middle East.
″That’s what the war was about to him,″ Stephenson said. ″My boy’s death was not in vain.″
Lance Cpl. Dion J. Stephenson, 22, was a swimming star at Woods Cross High School, where he graduated in 1987. He was a children’s swimming teacher before enlisting, his father said.
His body will be accompanied home by his brother, Sean, a Marine lance corporal serving with a different gulf unit.
When the news came to the Camp Pendleton home of Carol Bentzlin, 28, the door was open. She didn’t want to hear the knock.
She and her husband, Cpl. Steve Bentzlin, 23, celebrated their first wedding anniversay by mail on Dec. 29. In a statement released Thursday, Mrs. Bentzlin said: ″Steve loved his country and was proud to serve it. He loved what he was doing and I hope his death contributes in some way to our freedom here. I loved my husband with all my heart and soul.″
In Wood Lake, Minn., Bentzlin’s mother Barb Anderson, wept and sought comfort in her Sioux culture and religion.
Mrs. Anderson said she believes in the allied cause, but doesn’t blame Saddam Hussein for her son’s death.
″Each of us believes what we’re doing is right, that God is with us,″ she said. ″If we pray hard enough, maybe the God who is within will help change his mind and end this.″
When Lance Cpl. Michael E. Linderman Jr. left Roseburg, Ore. to go to war, he gave a military photograph to his grandparents. He and his mother, Danese, often stayed with them while his father was away with the Navy.
″Grandmother & Grandfather,″ the 19-year-old Marine signed his picture, ″Thank you so much for all the love and support throughout the years - I love you very much 3/8 I’ll visit in Roseburg every chance I can 3/8 Love you bunches 3/8 Michael.″
Freda Sigfridson said her grandson was, ″a wonderful kid, a gentle person.″
In Whitehouse, Texas, Bruce Nolan Walker, the father of 20-year-old Lance Cpl. Daniel B. Walker, said: ″Daniel was proud to be a Marine. He and I both feel like Saddam Hussein is a madman. I think (my son) died bravely and proudly.″
Also among the brave and proud: Marine Capt. Michael Craig Berryman, 28, whose Harrier jet was shot down over Kuwait. The Pentagon listed him as missing in action.
When the news reached Berryman’s hometown high school in Cleveland, Okla., about 35 miles northwest of Tulsa, students searched the senior photos on the multipurpose room wall for his face, and grew quiet when they found him there.
He graduated 11 years ago, a three-sport letterman elected student council president and voted Best All-Around Student.
″It had been several years since I had seen Craig, but he was a very strong individual - strong mentally, strong spiritually,″ science teacher David Jobes said. ″If there was a way to get out, Craig found it. In my heart, I believe he’s still alive.″
Flags flew at half-staff Thursday throughout Mariposa County, Calif., California’s Mother Lode gold mining region.
Lance Cpl. Thomas Jenkins, 20, graduated from Mariposa High School in 1988. He worked for the U.S. Forest Service in the summer, and was a member of the sheriff’s search and rescue team. He was the seventh generation of his family to live in tiny Coulterville.
His parents, Thomas and Joyce Jenkins, issued a statement saying they were ″100 percent behind their son, and their hearts go out to all our troops.″
At the Wauwatosa, Wis., home of Don and Sharie Schroeder, 10 small American flags adorned the door. The man who answered later had tears in his eyes and nothing to say.
Pfc. Scott Schroeder, who graduated from Wauwatosa East High School in 1989, was the kind of kid everybody liked, the kind of kid who liked an adventure.
In the lobby at East, there is a plaque listing students who died in the service. Schroeder’s name will be the 88th.
Tad Schroeder said his brother wanted to be a Marine ″since he tried on Grandpa’s uniform.″
Others killed in the ground battles were:
Cpl. David T. Snyder, 21, Kenmore, N.Y.; Lance Cpl. Frank C. Allen, 22, Waianae, Hawaii; Cpl. Ismael Cotto, 27, New York City; Lance Cpl. James H. Lumpkins, 22, New Richmond, Ohio; Sgt. Garett A. Mongrella, 25, Belvidere, N.J.