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- They're called "leathernecks" or "Devil Dogs," but some of the Marines killed in a desert training accident this week were just a year or so out of high school, their boyish faces not yet weathered by life's hardships

Just 19, Pfc. Josh Martino of Dubois, Pa., had already spent nearly half his young life dreaming of becoming one of "the few, the proud." He had joined in July and was hoping to marry his fiancee later this year before being deployed to Afghanistan, his mother said.

"Since he was probably 8 years old he wanted to be a Marine," Karen Perry said Wednesday after meeting with military officials to start planning her son's funeral. "That's all he wanted to do."

Lance Cpl. Josh Taylor, 21, also seemed to have been born for the Corps. The Marietta, Ohio, native had talked about being a Marine since he was about 5, said his grandfather, Larry Stephens. Josh, too, was planning for a wedding, scheduled for May.

Both young men were among seven members of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force killed late Monday when a mortar shell exploded in its firing tube during an exercise at Hawthorne Army Depot in Nevada. Eight men were injured, some severely.

A decade after the invasion of Iraq and nearly 12 years since the United States launched the global war on terror, Americans have become wearily accustomed to the sight of flag-draped coffins being solemnly offloaded at Dover Air Force Base. But news of such loss on American soil, far from any foreign battlefield, has the power to shock.
The seven Marines killed ranged in age from 19 to 26. Some had served overseas; others were training for their first deployment.

While many had long dreamed of being Marines, some were already making plans for a life after the Corps.

Twenty-six-year-old Aaron Ripperda of Highland, Ill., joined the service after graduating from a St. Louis culinary school and finding the job market flat. His father tried to gently dissuade him.

"He told us he always felt like he had a calling to join the Marines," Kent Ripperda told The Associated Press from his home in Marine, Ill. "I guess maybe it was a prestige thing."

During a 2010 deployment in Afghanistan, Ripperda's mobile unit was responsible for transporting food to bases in the region, Justin Bergstrom, a fellow Marine, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in an email.

"He did talk about his cooking abilities," Bergstrom wrote. They joked about him being able to keep his fellow Marines fed.

Kent Ripperda said his son was eager to go back to college and "get on with his life."

Roger Muchnick, 23, who grew up in Westport, Conn., had already pulled one tour in Afghanistan and was thinking about returning to college after his enlistment was up, said his grandfather, Jerome Muchnick.

Muchnick played on the football and lacrosse teams at Staples High School and went on to play lacrosse at Eastern Connecticut State University, where he studied business. In a biography on the university's website, Muchnick said the one thing he would like to do before he died was "live," and that his most embarrassing moment was getting caught lip-synching in a school talent show.

"He was a fabulous kid. Just fabulous," his grandfather said. "He was at the top of his game when this happened. ... You can't imagine losing a very handsome, 23-year-old grandson who was vital and loving."

Lance Cpl. William Taylor Wild IV, 21, joined the Marines shortly after graduating in 2010 form Severna Park High School near Annapolis, Md. His mother, Elizabeth Wild, said he was in a weapons platoon that was scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan in November. He already had been deployed twice to Afghanistan and once to Kuwait.

Wild said her son always wanted to go into the military, like his father, who is a command chief in the Air Force Reserve at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

The military Wednesday night identified the other Marines who were killed as Lance Cpl. David P. Fenn II, 20, of Polk City, Fla., and Lance Cpl. Mason J. Vanderwork, 21, of Hickory, N.C.

Both joined the Marines in June 2010 and were deployed to Afghanistan in 2011, a spokesman for the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force said in a written statement.

_

The explosion Monday caused an immediate suspension of the use of 60 mm mortars by the Marine Corps, with an exemption for troops in Afghanistan, U.S. military and Marine officials said. Marine units on the warfront may continue to use the mortars with the review and approval of their commanders. U.S. military officials in Afghanistan said they have not stopped using the mortars there.

The suspension, which will be in effect until the accident investigation is complete, largely affects units that are training, although those Marines could use the larger and more powerful 81 mm mortar systems if needed.
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Sad story.

Mortars have small removable charges near the base of the projectile commonly referred to as "cheese charges". Adding or removing these is part of getting the trajectory correct. Often, after firing all the practice rounds, you have quite a few of these spare cheese charges laying around. I have seen these burned off before and that initial ignition is awesome to watch. I can't help but wonder if they tried to put too many of these on a round headed down-range.
 
Thank you +Patty Garza  for posting this and also +Sifu Mode as I forgot what those devices where called even though I can remember using them only once and an explanation given as to how they work. Someone in charge actually did light one or them to show us.
"Semper Fi"
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+Ron Lewenberg Thanks for the poetry translation. Never seen those poems at any time. Nice. I'm sure you know what "Semper Fi" means and it's an old Marine saying one Marine to another Marine. The Motto." Honor,Courage,Country". "Death before Dishonor" A lot of tattoos with the Eagle,Globe and Anchor with that motto tattooed in the banner. And this one.
 SAEPE EXPERTUS, SEMPER FIDELIS, FRATRES AETERNI
(Often Tested, Always Faithful, Brothers Forever)
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