On Nov. 3, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Brian A. Medina talked by phone from Iraq to his father, Gregory, in Virginia, telling him that up to then, his platoon had suffered no casualties.
But on Friday, Gregory Medina said, he had a bad feeling, and just before he went to sleep that night came the knock on the door at his home in the Woodbridge area.
Cpl. Medina, 20, who had been in Iraq since September, had been killed that day in Al Anbar province. He was the second Marine from the Washington region to die there that day. Also killed, according to the Pentagon, was Lance Cpl. David M. Branning, 21, who listed Cockeysville, Md., as his home of record.
Both were in the 1st Battalion of the 3rd Marine Regiment, which is part of the 3rd Marine Division. The division is in the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force, which is stationed at the Marine Corps Base in Hawaii.
Al Anbar province includes Fallujah, where Marines and Army troops launched a major assault a week ago aimed at driving out insurgents who have made a stronghold there.
At least 38 members of the U.S. military and six Iraqi soldiers have died since the assault began. Three of the Americans were noncombat fatalities. The number of wounded Americans was reported yesterday at 275.
Gregory Medina, who retired after a career as a Navy Seabee, said he believed that his son, a graduate of Gar-Field Senior High School, joined the Marines in 2001 "because of 9/11," the terror attacks launched by Osama bin Laden's network.
But many members of his family either have served or are serving in the military, and Gregory Medina suspected that his oldest son always wanted to join up.
"He adapted very well to the Marine Corps," Gregory Medina said. "They taught him a lot, and he grew up a lot." There was a good chance, he said, that his son would have made it a career.
Brian Medina's mother, Lolita Converse, lives in Newport News, Va., with one of Brian's two sisters. He also had two brothers.
"We all support the Marines," the father said. "We are praying for the men."
In his calls home, Brian Medina said the Marines "belong there. There's nobody there who wants to go home," Gregory Medina told the Potomac News.
Relatives of Branning's described him as a graduate of Baltimore County's Dulaney High School who loved cooking and drawing and was led to join the Marines at least in part by his curiosity, according to the Associated Press.
"He wanted to see things, to find out about the world beyond Baltimore," according to his stepmother, Tia Steele, the Associated Press said.
"We're very sad," Megan Branning, a cousin of Branning's, told the Associated Press yesterday. "The war in Iraq has hit close to home in our family."
David L. Branning of Annapolis, Branning's second cousin, told the Associated Press that he spoke to the Marine's father, Daniel Branning, this weekend. Two Marines had visited him at his home in Albuquerque to give him the news.
"When you lose your 21-year-old son, your only son, I don't think he expected that to happen," David L. Branning said. "So when I talked to him, he was pretty devastated."
The family hopes to hold a memorial for Branning in Maryland early next month, he said.