Ceremony Honors Fallen Ohio Marines

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Recent fighting in Iraq took an exceptional toll on a Marine unit based in the Cleveland suburb of Brook Park, Ohio. Bill Rice of NPR station WCPN attends a memorial service at Cleveland's Convention Center.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Thousands of residents of Ohio paid tribute to members of the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment who were killed last week in Iraq. The battalion lost 20 in all, mostly from Ohio. Six were killed by snipe fire and another 14 were killed by a powerful bomb that blew apart their vehicle. Bill Rice reports from member station WCPN in Cleveland.

Unidentified Man: The United States Army, Cleveland Recruiting Battalion.

BILL RICE reporting:

Members of all branches of the US military were represented at Cleveland's IX Convention Center. They stood alongside state and local officials, numerous Ohio congressional delegates, friends and family of the fallen Marines and many who came just to support their communities. Ohio Governor Bob Taft said the loss has resonated statewide.

Governor BOB TAFT (Ohio): Tonight, from here in Cleveland, to Akron, to Columbus, to Cincinnati, to the far corners of our state, Ohioans, one and all, mourn our heroes fallen in a cause greater than themselves.

RICE: A helmet, a pair of worn boots and a folded American flag sat on the stage. Bagpipers and a wind ensemble played patriotic songs. Cleveland Bishop Anthony Pilla gave the invocation. Many in the audience professed a strong belief in the cause of fighting terror on Iraqi soil. Sue Barber(ph) of Brook Park, where the 325th is based, says she's a Christian first and foremost and that she and her fellow parishioners pray every week that the troops will come home safe.

Ms. SUE BARBER (Brook Park Resident): And I believe it's for a good cause, because it's keeping us free from terrorism. And we'll get those guys one day. It might take a little bit of time, but I know our guys are making the ultimate sacrifice. And I'm here to support all the families of all the troops that have died.

RICE: But others say they're beginning to lose faith in the war. Georgianna Deuley is the cousin of Jeffrey Boskovitch, one of the fallen Marines being honored.

Ms. GEORGIANNA DEULEY (Cousin of Fallen Marine): I was all for our guys being over there.

RICE: But now that the Iraq war has hit so close to home, Deuley says, she wants the US to pull out.

Ms. DEULEY: Let them fight their own battle. You know, let them do what they got to do. Our boys are being killed. My family's being killed.

RICE: Dignitaries who spoke on stage put differences aside, focusing instead on comforting those who lost loved ones. Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell was one of the few who made any references to those differences at all, and that only in passing.

Mayor JANE CAMPBELL (Cleveland): We are here to acknowledge that whatever disagreement there is about the policy, there is absolutely no disagreement about the bravery, the courage, the honor and the dignity.

RICE: Campbell urged mourners to stand together and find a way to create a future, a future with only the memories of those who were lost.

For NPR News, I'm Bill Rice in Cleveland.

INSKEEP: This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

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