At Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Base in California, a memorial was held Friday for 13 Marines who were killed in Iraq's Anbar Province west of Baghdad. CBS News correspondent Jerry Bowen says the day was filled with many tears — but even more pride.
They came from across America to this sun-baked parade ground to remember the lost Marines.
Thirteen Marines of the 2-7, 10 of them from Fox Company, were killed one December day alone by an IED — a bomb — in the insurgent hotbed of Fallujah.
Karla Comfort came from her home in Oregon, driving the tricked-out Hummer she painted in tribute to her son John and the others who died with him in Fallujah.
Twentynine Palms is the largest Marine base in the world in terms of territory — it's two-thirds the size of the state of Rhode Island. In all, 50,000 Marines and reservists come through here every year. Every Marine headed to Iraq passes through Twentynine Palms first.
It's where they train, where they return as war veterans to welcome home signs, and where the fallen are honored as heroes. They are remembered, like Karla's son John, in ritual and word. Thirteen rifles, helmets and boots in a row amid words from a solemn commander:
"They volunteered to place themselves between murderers and the innocent," said Lt. Col. Joseph A. L'Etoile as "Amazing Grace" was played on bagpipes. "They accepted the bombs, the mortars, the snipers as the cost of protecting a vulnerable people."
It is ritual for the bagpipes to play — and wrenching for the families when that final roll call is sounded. The only response is silence on the wind.
Karla Comfort says she is as proud as any parent can be and yet today this is the last place on earth she wanted to be.
"I was sitting between two moms," she said, her eyes filling with tears, "and we shouldn't have to be here."
It was a hard day — for mothers and Marines alike.