The earthly remains of Staff Sgt. Louis F. Cardin, USMC, returned home to California. As reported by KABC-TV of Los Angeles on Mar. 28, 2016, the fallen Leatherneck will nonetheless receive a hero’s welcome in the Southern California town of Temecula, albeit a sad one.
The small town on the edge of California’s High Desert region will honor their hometown hero with a public viewing this Friday in the Temecula City Hall Town Square. Mayor Mike Naggar in a statement, “Temecula is deeply saddened to learn that one of our hometown high school graduates, who grew up to be the bravest of warriors, died protecting our Nation’s freedoms. Cardin is forever a hero to Temecula and to our Nation.”
Assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, the 27-year-old field artilleryman was KIA (killed in action) at Fire Base Bell in Iraq on March 19. As the Military.com news portal cited on Mar. 20, 2016, SSgt Cardin’s unit came under a rocket attack from ISIS Islamic jihadists, with three other Marines WIA (wounded in action).
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According to Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook, SSgt Cardin’s artillery Marines were “‘providing force protection fire support at a recently established coalition fire base near Makhmour’ and had come under fire from ISIS rockets.” In a separate Military.com article published Mar. 26, 2016, SSgt Cardin’s last moments on Earth were spent insuring the safety of his men.
Speaking at a Marine Corps Association awards dinner near Washington, D.C. Thursday night, the Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert Neller stated “The loss of a Marine is sad, but I thought about it: He was leading his Marines in combat. They were in indirect fire and he made sure everybody got in the bunker, and he just didn’t make it in time. Is that sad? That’s sad. But if you’re going to go, you want to go in the fight.”
Despite one Marine KIA and three other WIA, just about everyone in Washington, DC is doubling down on stating the Marines aren’t actually “in combat.” Curiously, the top man saying the Marines aren’t serving in combat would be none other than a Marine himself, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, USMC.
While speaking on the circumstances of SSgt Cardin’s death, Gen. Dunford was adamant that his Marine’s death doesn’t change the nature of the operation or indicate an increase in the Marines’ ground combat role. “This is not a fundamental shift in our approach to support the Iraqi forces,” he said. “This happens to be what was the most appropriate tool that the commander assessed needed to be in that particular location.”
The Associated Press reports that a senior US official speaking on the grounds of anonymity has disclosed that the Marines at Fire Base Bell “fired illumination rounds to help the Iraqi forces locate IS fighters, and also fired artillery rounds in support of the operation, as Iraqi troops took control of several villages on the outskirts of Makhmour, southeast of Mosul.” However, that directly contradicts what the government has already told the public.
As reported by the AP, “Earlier this week, U.S. military officials confirmed the creation of the Marine outpost, dubbed Fire Base Bell. It’s the first such base established by the U.S. since it returned forces to Iraq in 2014. But they insisted that the nearly 200 Marines were only there to provide security for Iraqi forces and U.S. advisers at the nearby Iraqi base in Makhmour.”
Also published, “A second U.S. official on Thursday said the Marines provided the artillery fire in response to a request from the Iraqi government and that U.S. leaders don’t believe this to be an expanded combat mission. The official, who was not authorized to discuss the operation publicly so spoke on condition of anonymity, said it was considered expanded support for the Iraqis.”