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Friends and family remember Iowa Marine who died in Afghanistan

Jun. 24, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Lance Cpl. Adam Wolff, 25, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, died Friday while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.
Lance Cpl. Adam Wolff, 25, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, died Friday while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. (Special to the Register)
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An Ottumwa native known as a hard worker who was always kind to his classmates was one of three Marines killed in a Taliban attack as the United States draws down its military forces in Afghanistan.

Lance Cpl. Adam F. Wolff, 25, died while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, the U.S. Department of Defense said Monday.

The other fallen Marines were identified as Staff Sgt. David H. Stewart, 34, of Stafford, Va., and Lance Cpl. Brandon J. Garabrant, 19, of Peterborough, N.H.

They were attacked Friday with an improvised explosive device in the volatile Nad Ali district in southern Afghanistan, according to news reports. A military service dog that accompanied the Marines also died. The Taliban claimed responsibility in a text message sent to the media.

“The bomb was carried on a motorbike and detonated close to an ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) patrol,” provincial governor’s spokesman Omar Zawak told reporters. The U.S. Marines are serving in Afghanistan as part of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force.

Wolff is the 95th Iowan or person with ties to Iowa to die in Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere from combat, illness or accident since the U.S. began its global war on terrorism after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the East Coast.

The Taliban was removed from power in 2001, but military analysts say Afghanistan remains under attack from insurgents. During a recent visit to Afghanistan, President Obama said that while many of the 32,800 U.S. troops there will leave in the coming months, a continued military presence could help protect gains made during nearly 13 years of fighting.

The Marine Corps on Monday reported Wolff’s home of record as Cedar Rapids. However, Wolff’s family resides at an Ottumwa address that is between Ottumwa and Eldon. He had enlisted in the Marines in December 2012 after moving to Cedar Rapids to join his brother, Nathan Baughan, who is a Cedar Rapids police officer.

Wolff was a 2006 graduate of the Cardinal Community School District in Eldon, school officials confirmed. He has four siblings.

“He was a very nice kid, very kind,” said Sheila Fetter, a math teacher for the past 28 years at Cardinal schools. His mother raised goats and cows, and he would always go home and help her, Fetter said. He also had worked at a Hy-Vee grocery store and a McDonald’s restaurant in Ottumwa, according to family members.

Wolff’s death is difficult for everyone to accept, Fetter said. Her daughter, Chelsea, grew up with Adam Wolff and his twin brother, Aaron Wolff, from kindergarten through 12th grade.

When the Wolff twins were in eighth grade, they were part of a school trip to Washington, D.C., Fetter recalled. “We did fundraisers and stuff. I don’t know how many candy bars they sold, but their mom took those boys all over selling candy bars, and they worked their way onto the trip.”

Aaron Wolff made a Facebook post acknowledging his brother’s death and thanking everyone for praying for his family. He said Adam will be remembered as a cousin, a son, a grandson and his best friend.

The Ottumwa Courier reported Monday that Wolff’s mother, Deb Hall, was traveling to the U.S. Air Force Base at Dover, Del., to meet a military aircraft carrying the bodies of the three fallen Marines.

“He was a wonderful young man,” said Dawn Harward of Ottumwa, who is Wolff’s aunt. “He died for our country,” she told the Courier.

The three fallen Marines were all assigned to 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

A Marine spokesman said Wolff was a combat engineer who was deployed to Afghanistan in March 2014. His awards include the National Defense Service Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Waterloo, who represents the Cedar Rapids area, issued a statement upon learning of Wolff’s death.

“I know all Iowans join me today in honoring Lance Cpl. Wolff’s service and sacrifice on behalf of the United States. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and loved ones,” Braley said.

Garabrant, the fallen Marine from New Hampshire who died with Wolff, drew national headlines last year when ConVal Regional High School in Peterborough refused his request to wear his Marine uniform at graduation, according to NBC News.

The school cited a policy that forbids uniforms and requires graduates to wear caps and gowns. Garabrant withdrew the request out of respect for the school and the Marines.

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