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Friday, December 31, 2004
10 WHO MADE A DIFFERENCE:
The heaviest toll this year has been among the ranks of Marines from Kaneohe Bay -- 15 in Iraq during the house-to-house, street-by-street battles in Fallujah in late November.
As of today, 50 uniformed military people and one civilian with ties to Hawaii have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their ranks include Kaneohe-based Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta, who was from San Diego.
On Nov. 15, Peralta was mortally wounded after storming a house in Fallujah. He saved the lives of his fire team by using his body to smother the blast of a grenade, according to accounts of his death. "He saved half my fire team," said Cpl. Brannon Dyer, 27, of Blairsville, Ga.
His actions could result in the award of the Navy Cross or the Medal of Honor, the country's highest award for valor.
The Army at Schofield Barracks has the biggest contingent overseas with more than 5,000 members of the 25th Infantry Division, led by the 2nd Brigade Combat Team in Iraq, and another 5,500 soldiers -- majority of them members of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team -- in Afghanistan.
The 2nd Brigade Combat Team, led by Col. Lloyd Miles, recently learned that it would be extended beyond its expected return to Honolulu by two months into March because of the impending national elections in Iraq.
Also extended until March are nearly 1,000 Marines from Kaneohe belonging to the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment. They left Kaneohe in July on what was supposed to be a routine seven-month deployment to Okinawa with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. However, in August their orders were changed, and they arrived in Iraq in October as part of the beefed-up security force brought about by the Iraqi elections. The Kaneohe Marines also have been extended until March.
There are 150,000 American troops in Iraq now, up from the 138,000 serving there when President Bush declared the end of hostilities last year.
There also are another 900 Kaneohe Marines from America's Battalion -- 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment -- which was sent to Afghanistan in November.
Nearly, 2,200 soldiers of the Hawaii Army National Guard's 29th Infantry Brigade are preparing for a year in Iraq beginning in February.