ST. LOUIS COUNTY — A Marine who died in an accident in Afghanistan over the weekend had requested assignment there and had just arrived in the country in April, his grandmother says.
Cpl. Donald M. Marler had served in Washington and at Camp David in Maryland. But when he was moved to Camp Pendleton in California, he sought assignment to Afghanistan so he could use his training, said his grandmother, Vallie Marler.
"He was afraid he wasn't going to get to go," she said. "He was over there doing what he wanted to do."
Marler, 22, was among three Marines who died Sunday in what a Marine spokesman described as a 'single vehicle accident" during combat operations in Helmand province in southwestern Afghanistan. The spokesman, 1st Lt. Ken Kunze, said the accident was under investigation.
Donald Marler was a 2006 graduate of Oakville High School, and he enjoyed sports including football, basketball, swimming and track, his grandmother said.
Somewhere, he got the idea he wanted to be a Marine, she said. Some in the family worried for his safety, and others suggested other branches.
"No one could talk him out of it," Marler said. "I think he figured that was the most honorable (branch of the military). He was Marine gung-ho."
Marler's brother later followed him into the Marines and recruited some of his high school friends to join up, his grandmother said.
Marler, who was awarded a number of commendations and medals, was a natural leader, she said. She said she often watched a gaggle of grandkids when they were little, and "he was a little leader of the group. He had a very good, bright mind."
Some family members are on the East Coast to bring Marler's body back for burial. Services have not been scheduled.
Marler's large extended family members are trying to deal with his death as well as they can.
"We're extremely proud of him," Vallie Marler said. "It's just a shame. We're just so broken up."