Remembering Maryland's dead

May 31, 2010

The war in Afghanistan was long considered a forgotten war, as the nation focused its attentions on the deadly conflict in Iraq. But since last Memorial Day, that has changed. As the United States has wound down its combat presence in Iraq and handed over more and more of the responsibility for that nation's security to its own government, it has escallated the conflict in Afghanistan. President Obama began sending tens of thousands more troops to a deadly conflict in a harsh region. A disputed election, official corruption and a strong Taliban insurgency make the political situation in Afghanistan uncertain. But the offensives conducted in the last several months have proven that with the proper resources and focus, the U.S. military can succeed — though not without a terrible cost.

This spring, the Afghan war passed the terrible milestone of 1,000 American fatalities. We hope that conflict never comes close to the more than 4,400 U.S. soldiers who have died in Iraq, but the toll in Afghanistan has recently accelerated. In the last year, no Marylanders died in the Iraq war, but 10 of them were among the U.S. dead in Afghanistan.

Specialist Rodrigo A. Munguia-Rivas, 27, who grew up in Germantown and had been on active duty for about a year, was killed June 21 when his unit came under attack in Bagram.

Sergeant 1st Class Bradley S. Bohle, 29, was a Green Beret medic who grew up in Glen Burnie and who was so calm that his family almost forgot to worry. He was killed by an improvised explosive device on Sept. 16.

Lance Corporal Jordon L. Chrobot, 24, was a Civil War reenactor who always wanted to join the Marines like his grandfather. The Frederick native was shot and killed in combat on Sept. 26.

Sergeant Charles I. Cartwright, 26, of Union Bridge, signed up for the Marines the day before the Sept. 11 attacks. He was killed in combat on his fifth tour of duty — three in Iraq, two in Afghanistan — on Nov. 11. He had been married for 11 months.

Specialist Christopher J. Coffland was something of a Renaissance man. The Gilman graduate played professional football in Finland, worked as a counselor at Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles, tended bar in Baltimore, studied anthropology and worked with pygmies in Africa. He enlisted just shy of his 42nd birthday. He was killed a year later, by a roadside bombing, on Nov. 13.

After a buddy was shot, Staff Sergeant Matthew A. Pucino, 34, of Cockeysville held his hand and told jokes as they rode back to the hospital — then donated two pints of blood to help his friend, got in a helicopter and went back to combat. He was killed by an improvised explosive device on Nov. 23.

Lance Corporal Jeremy M. Kane, 22, who lived briefly in Towson, joined the Marines because of the Sept. 11 attacks, which occurred when he was 13. He was killed Jan. 23 by a suicide bomber in what appeared to be retaliation for the seizure of weapons and drugs by his unit.

Sergeant David J. Smith, 25, of Frederick wanted nothing else in life but to be a Marine. He was killed by a suicide bomber on January 26.

Specialist Anthony A. Paci, 30, a father of three from Rockville, was killed when his vehicle rolled over while swerving to avoid a carload of civilians in the Gereshk district on March 4.

Corporal Kurt S. Shea, 21, of Frederick, was a big brother-type, whether it came to keeping his little sister's suitors respectful or taking care of his unit in Afghanistan. He was killed by enemy fire on May 10.

These are the Americans who have been killed since the Afghan war started nearly nine years ago, according to the website icasualties.org.

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