By: Lesley Messer
On Wednesday, Aug. 3, Marine Cpl. David Kreuter and 13 of his fellow Marines died when their amphibious assault vehicle ran over an improvised explosive device in Haditha, Iraq.
Of the 14 men killed, five had roots in the greater Cincinnati area.
Tasked with giving readers a deeper understanding of how the troops lived and what they stood for, reporters fanned out to interview family and friends of each Marine.
Some of the more poignant details, which were written up in the Enquirer’s profiles, included:
Lance Cpl. Timothy Michael Bell, Jr. called his father about once a week, the Enquirer reported. ?Every conversation I had with him ended with, ‘I love you, Dad’ and ‘I love you, Timmy,’? his dad told the paper. Lance Cpl. Michael J. Cifuentes, 25, proposed to his girlfriend last October and planned on becoming a teacher. Lance Cpl. William B. Wightman, 22, played with G.I. Joes as a child. Wightman’s aunt told the Enquirer that he always said, ?I’m going to grow up and be one of these guys.? Nineteen-year-old Lance Cpl. Christopher J. Dyer — who had not been reported as a casualty by the Department of Defense by the time the paper went to print — wrote his father that he wanted salmon, burgers, steaks, brats, and meats when he came home from Iraq in the fall.
Cliff Radel, a staff writer for the Enquirer, wrote a profile on Cpl. Kreuter after speaking with his bereaved mother. The story revealed striking details, like the fact that Kreuter had never gotten to hold his son, Christian. Radel also reported that in his last conversation with his mother, Kreuter had told her that he was planning to attend an Officer’s Training School upon his return home in the hopes of becoming a career Marine. But he also revealed that he was thinking of doing something safer, like working with secret codes.
?I would say it was the most difficult [interview] I’ve ever done,” Radel told E&P. “I’ve never done an interview with someone who lost a loved one in this horrible situation of war. You can’t categorize death in the loss of a loved one but for something this senseless, it was tough. She hadn’t had many hours or days to compose herself and so the emotion and her hurt were palpable. It was like you had just come to the place where the earth had been ripped apart seconds before.?
Based on his conversation with Kreuter’s mother, Radel wrote an insightful biography that illuminated the Marine far beyond just a name on a list.
?Every one of those names was a person who had loves and loved ones and they were special. I think that gets lost quite often,? Radel said. ?So maybe that was my mission when I went to that house with the three flags in the front yard. You want to find out, ‘Who was David Kreuter?’?
In addition to the profiles, the Enquirer published a list of memorial events in and around the city, photographs of the soldiers, and a link to an article written by Kreuter’s godfather in a Las Vegas newspaper. The paper also wrote an editorial about the tragedy.
?While every casualty is a loss, the impact of so many from one unit magnifies the pain,? it said. ?This war is being fought by communities, and the casualty lists include the names of our neighbors. We must use that closeness to comfort the families of those lost and to draw strength and resolve from one another.?