Slain Marine longed
to make a difference

Lance Cpl. Phillip George joined the Marines on the first anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, yearning to see the world and aching to make a difference.


Lance Cpl. Phillip George: He was killed 16 days shy of his 23rd birthday

The toll

183 U.S. service members have been killed since the start of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

"He thought that was the best way for him to get a compass on life," said the Kaneohe Marine's brother, Aaron. "He knew why he was there and he served with a purpose."

On Thursday, just 16 days shy of his 23rd birthday, George was killed in eastern Afghanistan, where he had been stationed since June. The U.S. military has released few details of the firefight near Asadabad that left him and an Afghan government soldier dead.

But officials did say the clash was part of an apparent attempt among Taliban supporters to foil the nation's key legislative elections, slated for Sept. 18.

Lt. Col. James E. Donnellan, commanding officer for some 900 Kaneohe Marines in the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, told the Associated Press late last week that the losses "will only strengthen our resolve to complete our mission."

Phillip George grew up in Texas and graduated from Houston's Clear Lake Christian School in 2000.

Two years later, he joined the Marines -- carrying on a family tradition of military service that started with his grandfather. His father, Carson, served in the Vietnam War.

"It wasn't anything political for our family," said his brother, who is two years older than Phillip. "We were just proud that he was serving. His memory will be honored."

The family was notified late Thursday of the death, but given little information on how it happened.

Last night, a Kaneohe Marine Base Hawaii spokeswoman could only confirm that a Hawaii-based Marine had been killed in Afghanistan. She said more information would likely be released today.

George is the fifth Kaneohe Marine to die in Afghanistan since the start of Operation Enduring Freedom more than four years ago.

Aaron George said he last saw his brother in April, when the Marine was given leave before his tour of duty in Afghanistan was to begin. During the short visit, the George family tried to spend as much time as possible together, going out to eat and having backyard barbecues.

"We tried to avoid talking too much about what he was going to do," Aaron George said. "We told him that we loved him ... and kept emphasizing that he needed to stay safe.

"You just always expect that there's going to be tomorrow."

Phillip George was stationed at Kaneohe Marine Base Hawaii shortly after completing boot camp in California. He often tried to persuade his family members to visit the islands -- something they were never able to do. While stationed in Hawaii, the Marine also visited Thailand and Okinawa.

Wherever he went, he made sure to snap photos and send them off to family members with brief letters or e-mails assuring them he was OK and enjoying himself.

"'I'm having fun. I'm taking care,'" his brother remembered from one of the e-mails.

The tone of his correspondence didn't change once he got to Afghanistan. "He loved being a Marine," Aaron George said. "He loved the people that he worked with."

And they were fond of him. Since word of the Marine's death got out, many of his friends have called the family home in Houston to offer their condolences.

"They're quite upset," Aaron George said. "He was very, very close to everyone who he worked with."

Phillip George was scheduled to get out of the Marines next year.

He had talked of becoming a firefighter or joining his father, who works in Iraq with private security firm KBR-Halliburton.

Aaron George said his father would accompany the body back to Texas. Carson George is expected to be home as early as today.

Besides Aaron and Carson, the Marine is survived by his mother, Penny, and sister Sara. Services have not been planned.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment
Marine Corps Base Hawaii

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