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Kaneohe Marine dies in Afghan river

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A Marine team carried a transfer case containing the remains of Kaneohe Marine Cpl. Joe L. Wrightsman at Dover Air Force Base, Del., Wednesday. According to his grandmother, Wrightsman, of Jonesboro, La., was swept away while crossing the fast-flowing Helmand River in Afghanistan.

The treacherous terrain of Afghanistan has claimed the life of a 23-year-old Kaneohe Marine.

The Pentagon said yesterday that Cpl. Joe L. Wrightsman of Jonesboro, La., died Sunday while supporting combat operations in southern Helmand province.

He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment.

Wrightsman’s grandmother Buffy Langford, who lives in Washington state, where the Marine grew up, told the Kitsap Sun newspaper that her grandson was swept away in the fast-flowing Helmand River.

Wrightsman and his unit were patrolling with Afghan trainees when they attempted to wade across the chest-deep river, the Kitsap Sun said.

Wrightsman made it across but went back to help an Afghan who was having trouble, Langford told the newspaper. Both were caught in the current. Their bodies were found a mile downstream the next day, the grandmother said.

"He said he wanted to be there for his country, and he was a Marine to his heart," Langford told the newspaper.

The rugged terrain of Afghanistan has been a formidable foe for foreign armies in Afghanistan for centuries.

Hawaii-based Marine Lance Cpl. Kevin Joyce, 19, died on June 25, 2005, after he was swept away in the Pech River in eastern Afghanistan.

The Arizona man’s vehicle slid down the side of a roadside embankment and into the river. Three Marines got out, including Joyce. Two were able to make it to shore. Joyce’s body was recovered nine days later.

Wrightsman enlisted in the Marine Corps in May 2005. He attended infantry school that August, the Marines said.

Wrightsman joined Kaneohe’s 3rd Battalion in October 2005. He served as a rifleman and team leader with Kilo Company, officials said. He had completed two previous deployments to Iraq with the 3rd Battalion.

About 1,000 Hawaii Marines and sailors with the 3rd Battalion left in May for seven months in Afghanistan.

The Marines are in and around Nawa district in central Helmand, an area of about 90,000 people that is considered to be relatively secure.

But nearby is Marjah, which was the scene of a big February U.S. offensive to root our militants. Since then Marjah has seen a resurgence of violence, with almost daily attacks on U.S. forces.

Another Hawaii Marine with the 3rd Battalion, Pfc. Jake W. Suter of Stevenson Ranch, Calif., died May 29 less than a week after arriving in Afghanistan.

The 18-year-old died while supporting combat operations, officials said.


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