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Marines' Families Discuss Haditha Deaths

But he added that it is critically important to make the point that if certain service members are responsible for an atrocity, they "have not performed their duty the way that 99.9 percent of their fellow Marines have."

Asked how such a thing could have happened, Pace replied, "Fortunately, it does not happen very frequently, so there's no way to say historically why something like this might have happened. We'll find out."

Briones' best friend, Lance Cpl. Miguel "T.J." Terrazas, had been killed the day of the attack by the roadside bomb, his mother said. He was still grieving when he was sent in to clean up the bodies of the Iraqi civilians.

One was a little girl who had been shot in the head, Susie Briones said.

"He had to carry that little girl's body," she said, "and her head was blown off and her brain splattered on his boots."

The Wrights declined to say whether their son witnessed the killings or what he thought of the allegations against other members of his unit.

He was under so much pressure because of the investigation that he had consulted with an attorney, they said. He has also experienced psychological trauma.

Wright and Briones are both recipients of the Purple Heart, given to soldiers wounded in battle.

Wright was injured during an assault on Fallujah in January 2005. He voluntarily rejoined his unit at Camp Pendleton the next month.

Briones was on his second tour of duty in Iraq. He received a Purple Heart during his first tour.

On Monday, both Marines were back at Camp Pendleton, near Oceanside, where base officials said several members of Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division were being confined during the investigations.

Lt. Lawton King, a Camp Pendleton spokesman, declined to comment Monday.

Marines were relaxing in the afternoon sun Monday at barracks for the regiment on the sprawling base between Los Angeles and San Diego.

Sgt. Ian Moore, whose tour from September to April included time in Haditha, said he and other Marines in the battalion were waiting to hear results from the investigations.

"A lot of these things are being played out in the court of public opinion, and it's unfair on the Marines," Moore said.


Associated Press writers Thomas Watkins in Camp Pendleton and Juliana Barbassa in Novato contributed to this report.

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