March 28 —
Some of the U.S. Marines reported missing by the Defense
Department. The Pentagon said the soldiers haven't been seen since a
battle Sunday near the southern Iraq town of Nasiriyah; seven are
stationed at Camp Lejeune, N.C. and one at nearby Cherry Point
Marine Corps Air Station:
Lance Cpl. Thomas A. Blair, 24, of Broken Arrow, Okla.
Blair followed his older brother into the Marines after high
school graduation in Broken Arrow, a sprawling Tulsa suburb with a
strong military commitment.
Of about 1,000 students in Blair's 1997 class at Broken Arrow
High School, about 30 are active in the military.
"This community is very patriotic, certainly pro-military, and
everyone is thinking about the soldiers, certainly those missing in
action," said Keith Isbell, a school spokesman.
Blair returned to the United States in October after a two-year
deployment in Okinawa, Japan. He left for the Persian Gulf on Jan.
His older brother, Alfred Blair, 29, is a Marine staff sergeant
who has not been deployed to Iraq.
"Our prayers go out for Thomas' safe return," Alfred Blair said
in an e-mail to the Tulsa World.
Pfc. Tamario D. Burkett, 21, of Buffalo, N.Y.
Burkett is the oldest of Raymond and Brenda Wilson's seven
children, and family members say he is a poet, an artist and a big
brother who asked his mother whether God would forgive him if he had
to kill someone in combat.
"You gotta be hopeful. That's all you can do is hope and pray and
know that everything's in God's hands," said his father, Raymond
Burkett's letters home have had a special note for each of his
six younger siblings, ages 1 to 18. Katrina, 15, should stay away
from boys and 18-year-old Raymond should focus on school, he
As he prepared for combat, Burkett didn't worry about his own
safety, said his mother, Brenda Wilson. "He said, 'Ma, God is going
to forgive me if I kill someone over there? I said, 'Yes, you're
doing what you have to do.'"
Brenda Wilson said her phone has been ringing nonstop with calls
of support, but no news on the whereabouts of her oldest child.
"I'm praying with each ring it could be someone saying, 'We have
your baby we found him. He's on his way home,'" she said.
Cpl. Kemaphoom A. Chanawongse, 22, Waterford, Conn.
Chanawongse enlisted shortly after graduating from Waterford High
School in 1999 over the objections of his mother, Tan Patchem.
"It's tough, but we know he loved to be in that uniform," she
said. "He loved being a Marine. I'm his mom. He's my baby. I felt
like, 'Can he do it?' I know the Marines are tough, but he
"I'm glad I didn't stop him," she added.
Chanawongse, who came to the United States from Thailand at age
9, played youth soccer and planned from a young age to join the
military. His grandfather is a veteran of the Thai air force.
He is known to members of his unit as "Chuckles" for his sense of
humor, and one friend said the avid snowboarder is talkative and
"I've always been kind of reserved around other people," said
Steve Cava, 22. "Him, he'll say, `She's cute. I'll be right back.'
When we're out, every time you turn around, he's gone talking to
His mother and stepfather, Paul Patchem, were celebrating the
arrival of a two-week-old letter from Chanawongse on Wednesday when
a Marine knocked on their door. They immediately thought the
"Actually, it was kind of relieving to know he's just missing,"
Paul Patchem said. "I have to think positive. His mother and I know
this is not happy news, but it's better than it could be."
Lance Cpl. Donald J. Cline Jr., 21, Sparks, Nev.
Two flags one American, the other yellow fly outside the Sun
Valley, Nev., home of Cline's 20-year-old wife, Tina.
She said three Marines and a chaplain told her Cline couldn't be
found, but she was encouraged because three of his squadron members
have been found alive.
"I never prayed so hard that my knuckles turned purple," she
The couple attended Reed High School in Sparks, and she gave him
a ride to the recruiting station when he enlisted two weeks after
graduation in 2000. They were married the next day at the American
Legion hall in Sun Valley, where Tina Cline's mother lives north of
Reno and where she has been living with their two small sons.
The family has been busy making buttons with Cline's photograph
on them and attaching them to yellow ribbons.
Tina Cline said she is trying to stay strong for Dakota, 2 1/2,
and Dylan, 7 months: "I just look at my kids and I have to have
Pvt. Jonathan L. Gifford Jr., 30, of Decatur, Ill.
Gifford disappeared following a battle in a sandstorm Sunday,
said his father, Jonathan Lee Gifford Sr. The vehicle he was
assigned to was found but its crew was gone news that was relayed to
the family Wednesday.
Relatives "believe in their son and expect that he will emerge
from this ordeal safe and sound," a representative of the American
Red Cross said.
Gifford enlisted last year and his duties dealt with ordinance,
according to his father. "He'd been talking about joining the
Marines for 10 years and decided that is what he wanted to do," his
Pvt. Nolen Ryan Hutchings, 19, of Boiling Springs, S.C.
Hutchings grew up wanting to be a Marine and left for active
service in January, said his father, Larry Hutchings.
Late Thursday, Larry Hutchings told his wife, Carolyn, he didn't
doubt that his son will be found safe.
"I put Carolyn to bed and told her they'll look for our son and
find him somewhere behind a sand dune," he said.
Lance Cpl. Patrick R. Nixon, 21, of Gallatin, Tenn.
Debra Nixon knows her youngest son, Patrick, is a grown man, but
he'll always be her baby. "I just want to hold him in my arms and
just never let go," she said through tears.
Patrick Nixon enlisted with two friends while he was still in
high school and went to basic training that summer.
"He joined the Marines to defend his country," his mother said.
"He didn't want to talk about getting married or settling down or
anything right now, that's what he wanted."
Military service is a tradition in Nixon's family. Relatives have
served in World War I, World War II and the Korean War. His father
is a Vietnam veteran and his two older brothers are veterans.
"He's a very strong and determined young man," said his father,
It has been several weeks since they heard from their son. Just
as his father was about to send some smokeless tobacco to Spain for
his son's stopover en route to the Middle East, the Marine called
and said not to bother.
"He said, 'Dad, we're well past Spain.' And I said 'Where are
you?' He said, 'Dad, I can't tell you.'"
Lance Cpl. Michael J. Williams, 31, of Phoenix
Williams gave up his flooring business to join the military after
the Sept. 11 attacks. "After 9/11, he just wanted to do something,
to be part of something" said Heather Strange, his fiancee.
Williams' mother, Sandy Watson, called the 6-foot-4, 240-pound
Williams a "big teddy bear."
"There's a lot of people praying for him," Watson said. "People
at church and at work. With all that prayer behind him, how could he
not be all right?"
At 31, Williams is a full 10 years older than the rest of his
unit. Strange said fellow Marines nicknamed him "Omar," short for
"Old Man River."
The jabs don't bother him though, Strange said.
"He's a very determined person. He's very committed. He does not
give up for anything, no matter what," she said. "He was very proud
to be able to do what he was doing."
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