MARINE DEATHS Community gathers in support of families
A larger memorial will be held Monday at a Cleveland convention center.
COLUMBUS (AP) -- With the last of 16 Ohio families notified that their Marines were dead in Iraq, other military families rallied to help, and hundreds gathered for a prayer vigil in Cleveland.
"When my son comes home, I can have my nervous breakdown," said Isolde Zierk, who leads a support group for a Columbus-based reservist company that has suffered 11 of the casualties. "Until then, I'll just keep on doing what I can."
Tears flowed at a prayer vigil for Ohio's fallen Marines that ended with a bagpiper playing "Amazing Grace."
With his wife crying at his side, Jim Boskovitch, the father of Cpl. Jeff Boskovitch, said his family wanted to honor his fallen son and support the troops still in Iraq.
"We wanted to show, even though we're still grieving, we're still part of this community and we're going to get up and move on," Boskovitch said.
The losses came in quick succession for the suburban Cleveland-based 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines. Two soldiers died July 28 in a gun battle, followed by five on Monday while on sniper patrol. Then nine members of the battalion were killed Wednesday along with five other Marines and an interpreter in the deadliest roadside bombing of U.S. troops in Iraq.
Laurie Meadows, 29, said she spent several hours Wednesday at a front window of her home in the Cleveland suburb of Parma, just to make sure no one in a Marines dress uniform was approaching about her husband, Cpl. Jason Meadows, 28.
Now that she knows he is alive, she is calling and e-mailing people with a connection to the reservist battalion, determined to make sure there will be a significant show of support for those grieving.
Many were in tears at Friday's service, including workers from the nearby Department of Defense finance center, which handles payroll for the servicemen.
"These are wonderful lives of hope and promise that were taken from us," Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell said. "We want you [families] to know in the midst of your grief you are not alone."
A larger memorial will be held Monday night in Cleveland at a convention center that can hold 30,000 people.
The remains of the nine killed Wednesday should return to the U.S. within about five days, said Capt. Chris Logan, a Marines spokesman. Lt. Col. Kevin Rush said two other battalions are each sending 15 Marines to provide full military honors for the funerals.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, a critic of U.S. policy in Iraq, has attended six war-linked funerals since the war began and said he would attend as many as he can for the most recent casualties.
"You have to understand the human dimension," Kucinich said. "For those families, this becomes a tragedy of monumental proportions. There have been more than 1,800 families like that."
Some family members connected to the Lima Company are doing what they can to make the surviving Marines' homecoming a welcome one.
Retired Sgt. Jim Bannister hopes to collect $50,000 by October to pay for members of the company to attend the Marine ball in November. The desire to help has only grown as the company's casualties have mounted, said Bannister, who attended a family picnic for the company Sunday.
"You could just sense it," he said of the atmosphere at the event. "There's been a real outpouring of support."