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Local battalion honors fallen Marines

TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - It was an emotional day in Twentynine Palms Friday, as a Marine battalion just back from their tour in Afghanistan, said goodbye to those who didn't make it home.
Lt. Col. David Bradney, the commanding officer of the 1st Battalion 7th Marine Regiment says, "It is a solemn day.  We all have sorrow in our hearts for the loss of our Marines."

In front of family and friends, the Marines honored six of their own for their bravery and courage in serving their country.

"This ceremony is part of our healing process.  We all feel great sorrow and anger, but we are not meant to stay wounded," said Bradney.
The 1st Battalion 7th Marine Regiment stood at attention as a battle cross was erected in honor of each fallen Marine.

"Its purpose is to show respect for and honor the fallen at the battle site," the announcer said.

A gun, helmet, boots and dog tags stood as a painful reminder of the honorable life taken too soon.

"Each of these men were sons, brothers, fathers, friends and husbands, but their mark of distinction was that they were Marines," said Bradney.

Gina Duarte is mourning her son,Lance Cpl. Curtis Duarte.

 "Curtis loved what he did, he loved the Corps," explained Durate.

After serving seven months in Afghanistan their brothers in arms are back home safe thanks to these brave men.

"About a month before he was killed, I said, 'Curtis take care of you.'  He said, 'No mom, take care of them,' and as a mom I said, 'What?'  He said, 'I'm going to make sure that my brothers all come home safe to their families' and that is what he did," said Duarte.

Lance Cpl. Curtis Duarte grew up in West Covina.

"Before he left for Afghanistan, he told me, 'Mom, I might not be coming back,' he said. 'But just stay strong and know that I love you,'" said Duarte.

He served along-side Lance Cpl. Eugene Mills III, Cpl. Taylor Baune, Lance Cpl. Hunter Dalton Hogan, Lance Cpl. Niall Coti-Sears and Lance Cpl. Steven Stevens II.
"Each of these marines demonstrated great courage and an unwavering resolve when they were tested," said Bradney.  "They each provided value to our humanity and represent the very best of our citizenry."
For many of the family members, this was the first time they heard about their sons and their actions from the people who served with them.

"We are obligated to tell their story to speak of their exploits and their heroics," Bradney told the crowd.  
"The honor that the Marines show towards the fallen is just phenomenal.  They really make sure that they are honored in the way that they should be," said Duarte. "I am going to miss him, I love him with all my heart, I'm proud of him, I'm very proud of him."

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