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Marine Contingent in Kuwait Wrapping Up

Military: Troops at Camp Pendleton mourn comrade who was slain in gun battle this week.

October 12, 2002|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The 1,000 Marines whose training exercise in Kuwait was marred by a fatal shooting this week have finished their maneuvers ashore and are preparing to return to their ships, officials said Friday, as the fallen Marine was remembered in a ceremony at Camp Pendleton.

The officials said the exercise, Eager Mace, will be completed Oct. 20 as scheduled. In the final phase starting this weekend, the Marines will clean their equipment and move back aboard the ships Mt. Vernon and Denver, the officials said.

The troops are from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, whose flagship, the amphibious assault ship Belleau Wood, is not participating in the exercise.

On Tuesday, two Kuwaiti gunmen shot two Marines participating in the exercise on Faylakah island, killing Lance Cpl. Antonio J. Sledd, 20, of Tampa, Fla., and wounding Lance Cpl. George R. Simpson, 21, of Dayton, Ohio. The gunmen moved to a second location and fired on more Marines before being killed by return fire. The Kuwaiti government denounced the attack as an act of terrorism.

At Camp Pendleton on Friday, more than 1,200 Marines dressed in camouflage fatigues gathered solemnly to remember Sledd, who was posthumously promoted to corporal.

"Cpl. Sledd is our brother, and he has fallen and we will not forget," said Col. Joe Dowdy, Sledd's commanding officer.

Before the ceremony, a Marine plunged a rifle bayonet into the athletic field and placed an empty helmet on its stock and left a pair of empty boots in front of the rifle--a tribute to fallen comrades. A lone bugler closed the ceremony by blowing taps.

Sledd's mother, Norma Figueroa, has asked President Bush to transfer her son's twin brother, also a Marine, from Japan to a base near the family home in Tampa.

"I have Tony's twin brother, Michael Hiram Sledd, stationed in Okinawa and he is coming home for his brother's funeral," she wrote Thursday in an e-mail to Bush. "We already sacrificed one of our sons for our country."

U.S. forces have been deployed in Kuwait since the end of the 1991 Persian Gulf War that liberated Kuwait from Iraqi occupation.

The two attackers were part of a terrorist cell that planned more assaults on Americans, but no connection between them and Al Qaeda has yet been established, a Kuwaiti Interior Ministry official said Friday.

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