Marine, 2 guardsmen from Valley react with relief, concern




Written by

Shantal Parris Riley


       Local soldiers expressed relief and concern at the news of the death of Osama bin Laden.

"I can't believe they finally caught him," said U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. John Curtin. "I'd almost given up on finding him."

Curtin, who spoke from his room at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, said Monday that he was "relieved" at hearing the news on Sunday.

Curtin, 20, was patrolling with the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines, Echo Company, when he stepped on an improvised explosive device in Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan in February. He lost both of his legs at the knee in the blast.

Curtin, who was awarded the Purple Heart by President Barack Obama in late February, said the news was certain to raise the morale of the soldiers and Marines still stationed in Afghanistan.

The loss of bin Laden had the potential to profoundly affect al-Qaida and the Taliban, he said.

"It could demoralize them," he said. "It could also cause them to retaliate."

Curtin said he expected terrorist cells were plotting revenge for the killing.

The Dover native has been undergoing physical and occupational therapy in recent months.

Anthony LaRocca III, a 27-year-old City of Poughkeepsie resident who returned from a tour in Afghanistan in December, said he wasn't surprised that bin Laden had been found.

"I didn't think it was going to happen as soon as it did," LaRocca said. "But I knew it was eventually going to happen."

LaRocca, a sergeant with the Vermont Army National Guard's 172nd Mountain Infantry, was stationed in Paktia Province. The province is on the northeastern border of Pakistan, not far away from the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where bin Laden was found in the City of Abbottabad on Sunday.

LaRocca said he was glad of the outcome of the "kill mission" carried out by special forces. "They're geared specifically for surgical strikes," he said of the Navy SEALS that swooped down on bin Laden's heavily fortified compound in Blackhawk helicopters. "They got the job done."

LaRocca said the locals, mainly ethnic Pashtuns, whom he spoke to while on tour in Afghanistan did not hold bin Laden in very high esteem.

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"They said he wasn't a true Muslim because he did things like use children as suicide bombers," he said.

LaRocca said it was too early to say how or if bin Laden's death would change the course of the war.

He said he plans to redeploy to Afghanistan by the end of the year.

Sean Marshall, a Saugerties resident who returned from Iraq in April, said his immediate thought when he found out bin Laden's death Monday morning was, "Who will replace him?"

"I'm relieved and worried because whoever takes his place could be worse," he said.

Marshall, 24, a sergeant with the New York Army National Guard's 442nd Military Police Company, said al-Qaida would seek to avenge the loss.

Marshall, who witnessed the process of troop withdrawal in Iraq, said he supported the drawdown in Afghanistan, to begin in July.

"That will keep the fight overseas instead of bringing it home," he said.

Marshall, who came home to his wife and 1-year-old son after spending 12 months in Al Anbar Province in Iraq, said he would not be part of drawdown.

"I'm going to try my best to stay out of the Middle East for good," he said.