They are Marines

The “brushfire” wars of the 21st century don’t always draw the kind of public interest and support as the Battle of Midway or the invasion of Normandy. Americans are even free to debate – and voice their judgment at the polls – whether these foreign interventions are worth the blood and treasure they cost.

But one group of young people is not free to decide whether to go in harm’s way. America’s men and women in uniform go where they’re sent, put their lives on the line and get the job done.

Some don’t make it home. And for the families they leave behind, it doesn’t matter whether they die in combat, of the diseases that have always plagued armies far from home, or selflessly racing to rescue a brother-in-arms.

Marine Corps officials report Cpl. Jon-Luke Bateman, 22, of Pahrump, and Lance Cpl. Kenneth E. Cochran, 20, of Wilder, Idaho, were killed Jan. 15 in an electric generator accident while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

Cpl. Bateman, a 2007 graduate of Pahrump Valley High School, was the 78th U.S. military member with ties to Nevada to die in the nation’s wars overseas since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. He was the first Nevadan to die in overseas military operations this year.

Cpl. Bateman’s stepfather, Tony Allen, of Huntsville, Ark., said in a Facebook posting that, “He is a resident of Pahrump, NV. He attended school there and went through (junior) ROTC. … Our son died coming to the aid of another Marine. He was killed trying (to) save another life and sadly they both lost their lives.”

And so there’s another marker at the Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Boulder City.

Cpl. Bateman, an infantryman assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 4th Regiment, 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, and a recipient of the Combat Action ribbon and a Purple Heart, had been a Marine for four years. To the folks back home, he’s still on patrol.

Memorial Day is the day we set aside in tribute to those who have given their all to keep our nation safe. No one need wonder, any longer, whether Cpl. Bateman would do whatever was necessary to serve his country, would put his life on the line for a fellow Marine.

No one ever did need to wonder.

They were Marines.

The question, now, is whether we will do our part to preserve the freedoms Jon-Luke Bateman and thousands of others have selflessly given their lives to defend.

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