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Survivors of slain Ohio-based Marines mark grim anniversary

CINCINNATI (AP) — Jason Dominguez remembers vividly his last conversation with David Kreuter, as they were doing an overnight security watch from a rooftop in western Iraq.

Marine Cpl. Dominguez and Sgt. Kreuter usually joked around, but this night 15 years ago was different. Kreuter proudly showed him a photo of his 7-week-old son. “Wow, you’re a father!” Dominguez exclaimed.

“Yeah, I am,” replied Kreuter, 26, who then talked excitedly about getting to see and hold baby Christian for the first time. “His priorities in life had just shifted,” recalled Dominguez, who also looked forward to the end of their tour of duty in a couple more months.

The next day, Aug. 3, Kreuter was among 15 people killed by a roadside bomb near the town of Haditha. Eleven of them were Lima Company Marines.

The Columbus, Ohio-based Reserve unit was among the hardest-hit of the war in Iraq, losing 23 men after 180 deployed in early 2005.

The first day of a reunion canceled due to COVID-19 would have included a Marines-only workshop on coping with their painful memories and trauma all these years later, said Bryan Hillberg, a survivor who lives near the village of Waynesville.

“Some stuff is seared into your brain and some of it is just fuzzy,” said Hillberg, 39. Seared in: Aug. 3. Hillberg’s head and shoulders were out of his amphibious assault vehicle as the lance corporal served as gunner for the second vehicle in the convoy, just ahead of the one hit by the bomb.

“When it blew, it shook everything,” he said. “I remember looking back and it flipped it and split it in a way that with all the dust and everything, the shape looked normal. I looked at my buddy and said ‘Thank God, they missed.'”

He quickly realized he was wrong.

Lima Marines who witnessed the bombing were invited by their commanders to return to their base and meet with counselors, Hillberg said. They declined, some saying the World War II Marines their company traces roots to wouldn’t have left the battle on Iwo Jima.

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