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A Marine bows his head at Camp Pendleton in front of the rifle, boots, helmet and dog tags of one of 17 troops from the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment who recently were killed in combat while serving in Afghanistan’s volatile Sangin region, a Taliban stronghold. Hundreds of Marines and family members attended an hourlong service to pay tribute to the fallen Marines.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

Adan Gonzales, left, and his wife, Yolanda, kneeling at left, mourn their son, Sgt. Adan Gonzales Jr., 28, of Bakersfield, who was shot and killed in a firefight Aug. 7 in southern Afghanistan's Helmand province, on the Pakistani border. With them is their daughter Nicole Chavez and her sons Jeryy, 7, in red, and Brandon, 5, right.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

Amid rainy and windy weather, Pfc. William White tries to control a large American flag suspended between two lifts before the start of the memorial ceremony at the sprawling Camp Pendleton base.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

Lance Cpl. Cody Elliott, 21, of Pismo Beach, south of San Luis Obispo, right, who was maimed in the explosion of a roadside bomb June 12, pays tribute to those who did not come back alive from their deployment to Afghanistan. Troops from the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment returned home in October, with 17 dead and 191 wounded, many grievously.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

Marines and family members of the slain troops pay their respects at the close of the remembrance ceremony at Camp Pendleton. During the hourlong service, Marines talked of the dangers of patrolling in a region of Afghanistan laden with buried bombs and where enemy snipers fire from “murder holes” in mud dwellings.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

A Marine pays his respects to a lost comrade. Marines and family members of those who were killed sat through a somber memorial service on a mostly rainy morning that at one point gave way to a rainbow before turning dark again.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

Members of the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment stand in formation during a tearful morning of remembrance and mourning. Marines who will forever carry the physical and emotional scars of war were in attendance. So were family members of the dead, some weeping, some wearing buttons with the names of their lost sons and husbands.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

Family members of the slain Marines listen to comments by troops who came back alive and told of the shared dangers of the fight for the Sangin district of southern Afghanistan, long a Taliban stronghold.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

Family members of Marines who died during their recent deployment to Afghanistan listen to taps being played at the service. Of the 17 killed, nine were lance corporals, three were corporals, four were sergeants and one was a gunnery sergeant. The youngest was 20; the two oldest were 29.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

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Camp Pendleton honors Marines killed in Afghanistan

Late last year, as more and more Marines were killed in Afghanistan in the fight for the longtime Taliban stronghold of Sangin, then-Defense Secy. Robert Gates offered to allow the Marines to withdraw. “Absolutely not,” Commandant Gen. James Amos told Gates. Instead, the Marines ordered more reinforcements and equipment to Sangin and vowed not to quit until the Taliban is vanquished. In April, the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment returned to Camp Pendleton from Sangin, its deployment finished, with 25 dead and 184 wounded, including 34 who lost one or more limbs to traumatic amputation. In October, the 3-5’s replacement in Sangin, the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, returned with 17 dead and 191 wounded, many grievously. The fight for Sangin is now largely the responsibility of a battalion of Marines from Twentynine Palms, northeast of Palm Springs. On Friday, in a tear-filled memorial service on a parade deck on the sprawling Camp Pendleton base, Marines from the 1-5 remembered their fallen comrades. Marines who will forever carry the physical and emotional scars of Sangin attended. So did family members of the dead, some weeping, some wearing buttons and T-shirts with pictures of the sons they lost to roadside bombs and snipers.

Read Tony Perry’s full story

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