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Two Gold Star Mothers who lost sons in separate IED attacks are coming out in support of the scout snipers who urinated on the corpses of insurgents whom they believed were responsible for killing their friends.
Carolyn Jones Hibberd and Sherry Bradley had sons assigned to 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, during the unit’s 2011 deployment to Afghanistan. On April 27, Cpl. Adam Jones was killed after stepping on an improvised explosive device. About five weeks later, Sgt. Mark Bradleyspotted what appeared to be an insurgent burying an IED. When he moved in to investigate, another explosion was triggered and he suffered severe lower-body injuries from an IED. He died June 16 at Bethesda Naval Medical Center in Maryland.
With their fellow Marines still on their minds, a team of scout snipers with 3/2 set out to conduct a counterinsurgency operation on July 27. Four of them, including Staff Sgts. Edward Deptola and Joseph Chamblin and Sgt. Robert Richards, filmed themselves urinating on the corpses of three enemy fighters they killed that day. All told, seven Marines faced punishment after the video surfaced online in January 2012. Deptola and Chamblin were busted down in rank to sergeant following separate courts-martial. It has been recommended that Richards’ case also go to court-martial.
When asked why they did it, Deptola — who testified during Richards’ Article 32 hearing at Camp Lejeune, N.C., in April — said killing them just wasn’t enough.
Bradley’s mom, Sherry, said knowing the scout snipers have referenced her son’s death when they discuss what happened proves they were grieving and emotional, which caused a temporary lapse in judgment.
“I mentally can’t function, and I didn’t see legs blown off, I didn’t have to kill people at 20-something years old,” she said. “Can you imagine walking anywhere and wondering, ‘Is this my last step?’ Because that’s the way they live over there.”
It’s wearisome for Marines fighting a war by the rules when the enemy doesn’t, she said. Mark and his brother, Steven, a corporal who also deployed in 2011 with 3/2 as a sniper, told about a female enemy sniper who hid her weapon under her robe, knowing the male Marines couldn’t search her.
“It’s very frustrating to fight against enemies who have no morals and no rules to follow,” she said. “Our boys are punished, but there’s all this frustration with Marines even having to live the way they do.”
Little can compare to the pain a mother experiences when she loses a child, said Jones Hibberd, who runs a non-profit in her son’s memory called Adam’s Hope, dedicated to getting troops the supplies they need. But the pain Marines feel when they see their brothers murdered and mutilated is a close second, she said, because of the intense bond they form.
“They are brothers,” she said. “I ... know it to be true. You cannot control what this pain does to your heart and mind.”
When the video first surfaced, it was necessary for Marine leaders to condemn it, Bradley said. But now that nearly two years have passed, she wishes the Marine Corps would just move on.
“I think the way they’ve handled this is more to satisfy the general public,” she said.
By continuing to draw attention to the issue, the Corps runs the risk of having more people who don’t understand the military lifestyle develop a negative view of Marines, Bradley said.
“This [video] was made huge, and then people like me have to work with people who don’t respect the military because of [it] and things they hear,” she said. “But they’ve never been around the military, have never had family in the military.”
Instead, Bradley said she’s proud of the Marines and wants the scout snipers involved in the incident to know that she thinks they are outstanding men who met the call most civilians aren’t courageous enough to answer. She said she thanks them for her freedom and for loving her son.
“Some of these guys were top-notch Marines who didn’t have a blemish on their record,” she said, ... [punishing them] is ridiculous.”
Jones Hibberd agrees, and said she prays the Marine Corps can look past the act to see the pain, sorrow, blood and loss.
“I love and support those Marines with all my heart,” she said.