YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


2 Marines Reported Dead in Canal Crossing

The men and their unit were assigned to purify water for U.S. troops. Two other servicemen killed in the Middle East are identified.

March 27, 2003|Tom Gorman and Mark Z. Barabak | Times Staff Writers

Steve Korthaus is a Vietnam combat veteran who keeps a proud display of photos from his Marine Corps days in the family room of his Davenport, Iowa, home.

When his oldest son, Brad, was growing up, Korthaus occasionally would pull out an old military scrapbook; together, father and son would pore over the pictures.

So Korthaus was hardly surprised that his son followed him into the Marines, although he now acknowledges that he is a "little downhearted" at the decision "because I knew what was at stake."

On Wednesday, the 54-year-old Korthaus, a retired electrician, was waiting for a phone call telling him his son, missing in action since Monday, was safe. But wire services later reported that he was dead.

Brad Korthaus, 29, was attached to the 6th Engineer Support Battalion, based in Peoria, Ill. Members of the unit were attempting to cross the 30-yard-wide, 15-foot-deep Saddam Canal in southeastern Iraq to set up a security post on the far banks. The larger mission was to purify water from the canal for U.S. troops.

Korthaus and Marine Cpl. Evan James began swimming across the canal and never emerged, according to a unit spokesman. James' body was found Monday night.

The 20-year-old James, of La Harpe, Ill., was an expert swimmer who joined the Marines after graduating from high school in 2000. "That's the irony to the whole thing -- both of these guys were very qualified swimmers," said Gunnery Sgt. James Howard, who met James after he joined the unit and was serving as the family spokesman.

James, who was single, worked as a lifeguard at Southern Illinois University and was a physical trainer in weightlifting, Howard said.

His specialty was combat engineering, which included bridge construction and clearing land mines. "Cpl. James was soft-spoken ... but he wanted to be the best," Howard said.

On Wednesday, the Pentagon confirmed the identities of two other servicemen killed in action: Army Spc. Gregory P. Sanders of Hobart, Ind., and Air Force Maj. Gregg L. Stone of Boise, Idaho.

Sanders -- who began wearing his father's Navy shirts and hats as a 2-year-old when the family lived in San Diego -- died in uniform Monday, shot by a sniper's bullet while riding in his M-1A1 Abrams tank across the Iraqi desert. His job was to load rounds; he was struck while standing up through the hatch.

Leslie Sanders said she couldn't have been more proud of her 19-year-old son. He enlisted in the Army while a high school junior in Hobart, about 35 miles from Chicago, and began his duty after graduation.

"He had every intention of making the Army his career," she said Wednesday. "He wasn't afraid of combat. He knew that was his job, and that's what he trained for.

"A lot of people go into the service for free college education, but my son went in because he wanted to be a soldier."

Sanders is survived by his wife of one year, Ruthann, and their daughter, Gwendolyn.

"My pride in the job he was doing helps diminish the grief," Leslie Sanders said. "He sacrificed his life for his 1-year-old daughter, who one day will be able to sleep at night without fear of chemical warfare or planes crashing into buildings."

The Air Force's Stone was a veteran in the truest sense of the word; he had worked in and around the military for about half his 40 years and viewed his assignment in the Middle East as a kind of final exam, according to one sibling.

Stone's job was to coordinate air support for troops on the ground. He died Tuesday of injuries suffered last weekend when a disgruntled sergeant allegedly tossed hand grenades into three command tents at Camp Pennsylvania in Kuwait.

A divorced father of two sons, he had been fascinated with flight since he was a small boy. Even when he played army, he was more interested in the aviation part of the make-believe battles, said Ann Kibec, his stepsister.

Stone studied aviation science at Benson High School in Portland, Ore., and enlisted in the Air Force soon after graduation. He enrolled at Oregon State University following two years in the service, earning a bachelor's degree so he could return to the Air Force as an officer.

After failing at pilot training, he became a navigator and weapons system operator. When he left the Air Force in 2000, he joined Scitor Corp., a military contractor, working out of his home in Boise.

He also joined the National Guard, considering it a responsibility "to fight for the freedom we all enjoy," his ex-wife, Tonya, told the Portland Oregonian. The couple's sons, Alex, 11, and Joshua, 7, live with their mother in Boise.

Once Stone was deployed, "he would wait in line for hours at a time just to call and speak with them," Kibec said.


Times researchers John Beckham and Lianne Hart contributed to this report.

Los Angeles Times Articles