Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense
IMMEDIATE RELEASE No. 412-11
May 16, 2011
DOD Identifies Marine Casualties
The Department of Defense announced today the
deaths of two Marines who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
Sergeant Kevin B. Balduf,
27, of Nashville, Tennessee, and Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin
J. Palmer, 43, of Modesto, California, died May 12, 2011 while supporting
combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.
This incident is currently under investigation.
Sergeant Balduf was assigned to 8th Communications
Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C. For
additional background information on this Marine, news media representatives
may contact the II Marine Expeditionary Force public affairs office at
Lieutenant Colonel Palmer was assigned to Marine
Wing Headquarters Squadron 2, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, II Marine Expeditionary
Force, Cherry Point, North Caroloina. For additional background information
on this Marine, news media representatives may contact the II Marine Aircraft
Wing public affairs office at 252-466-4241.
A Marine lieutenant colonel and sergeant have died
in Afghanistan in what appears to be a shooting by an Afghan policeman.
Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Palmer, 43, and
Sergeant Kevin Balduf, 27, died Thursday in Helmand province, Pentagon
officials said Monday. No additional details about their des were initially
available, but U.S. military officials in Kabul announced Friday that two
service members were killed that day in southwestern Helmand after a member
of the Afghan National Civil Order Police, or ANCOP, shot them in a police
“While this is a serious incident, the actions
of this individual do not reflect the overall actions of our Afghan partners,”
said Marine Major General James Laster, the International Security Assistance
Force’s deputy chief of staff for joint operations. “We remain committed
to our partners and to our mission here.”
Palmer was assigned to Marine Wing Headquarters
Squadron 2, out of Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina.
Balduf was assigned to 8th Communications Battalion, out of Camp Lejeune,
North Carolina. Balduf’s remains arrived Saturday at Dover Air Force
Base, Delaware., Air Force officials said.
Additional details about the Marines’ duties
were not immediately available. Palmer served last year in Afghanistan
as the commander of 2nd Low Altitude Defense Battalion, out of MCAS Cherry
Point, North Carolina. He was replaced in a ceremony at Cherry Point in
December after the unit’s deployment ended, according to a Marine news
release. The battalion served downrange as a provisional infantry security
Thousands protect Marine's funeral from Westboro
Baptist Church protest
Bikers revved their engines. Thousands
of protesters waved American flags.
On one side of the street, the signs
read: "Nashville: No place for hate" and "God loves Sergeant Kevin Balduf."
On the other side, they read: "Thank God for
dead soldiers" and "God is your enemy."
But beyond all that, inside the protective
walls of a quiet church, lay a young man in Marine dress blues.
On May 12, Nashville native and Marine Sergeant
Kevin Balduf, 27, was killed in combat in Afghanistan. Much closer to his
home, Christian fundamentalists in Topeka, Kansas, planned their trip to
protest his funeral.
News of Westboro Baptist Church's plans lit
up social media sites, resulting in a counter-protest of about 2,000 people
Monday outside Woodmont Hills Family of God church on Franklin Pike. In
less than 10 minutes, two hours before the funeral's start, the three Westboro
protesters took their leave.
Earlier Monday, the three protested outside
Gordon Jewish Community Center in Bellevue and the Islamic Center of Nashville
on 12th Avenue South. During their short protest of the Islamic center,
someone slashed the tires on their rented SUV. Metro Police took a report,
but no one has been charged.
Since a March Supreme Court ruling in favor
of Westboro Baptist, counter-protesters have stepped up their efforts to
shout the group down at soldiers' funerals. America must allow "even hurtful
speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate,"
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in his opinion for the court.
All but one justice sided with the church,
which has stirred outrage with raucous demonstrations contending that God
is punishing the military for the nation's tolerance of homosexuality.
The church was started in 1955 and regularly protests the funerals of soldiers
The Topeka church didn't respond to calls
and emails requesting comment Monday, and the protesters left the funeral
area without speaking to media.
Six hours before the afternoon funeral service,
people filled the expansive church lawn and lined Franklin Pike to the
Thompson Lane intersection.
The majority came by motorcycle. Others parked
at the fairgrounds and nearby parking lots, shuttled to the church lawn
by Rural/Metro Ambulances, a service donated by the private company. Others
arrived on donated party buses.
Their mission was for Balduf's family and
friends coming to mourn to see only American flags, only patriotism, only
a showing of gratitude for Balduf's sacrifice.
"The counter-protest is a great example of
freedom at work and America at its best," said Charles Haynes, a senior
scholar at Nashville's First Amendment Center. "Instead of shutting them
down or censoring them using the government, we have people who are willing
to stand up and drown them out.
"It's a really great illustration of how freedom
of expression can work in the United States."
Rachel Wilson, a 36-year-old professor of
entrepreneurship at Middle Tennessee State University, brought her 6-year-old
daughter, Emily, to the counter-protest as a lesson in freedom of speech
and empathy for a grieving family.
"After seeing this, she told me, 'Mom, God
doesn't hate anyone. He loves dead soldiers and alive soldiers. And he
loves their families. He even loves the protesters,' " Rachel Wilson said.
During the protest at the Islamic center,
about 20 Muslims in the mosque for noontime prayers decided to answer with
"We prayed for them," said Imam Mohammed Ahmed,
after the prayers were done. "We decided to ignore them."
At Westboro's next stop, the three stood exactly
500 feet from the church lawn. Tennessee law requires a 500-foot buffer
zone for funeral protesters, and a Metro officer pointed out where that
A new state law that takes effect July 1 increases
the fine for crossing that line to $500. The sponsor of the bill, Sen.
Eric Stewart, a Democrat from Franklin County, said he received no opposition
to the bill.
"We've seen throughout the country, and now
today in Tennessee, that Westboro will try to protest these funerals and
disrespect our troops," Stewart said. "Quite frankly, what Westboro stands
for does not represent my faith, and I don't think it represents the faith
of any of the people in my district."
The three sign-wielding protesters stood on
one side of Franklin Pike, blocked by three mounted police officers.
On the other side of the street, throngs of
patriotic counterprotesters chanted "USA! USA!" while others sang "America,
the Beautiful." They, too, were blocked by mounted police.
Adam Gordon, a 27-year-old retired Army soldier
who was injured in combat in Iraq, came from Murfreesboro to show his support
for Balduf and his family.
"It's just the right thing to do," he said.
"It's a military funeral, so we should all be here showing our thanks,
Before the funeral, Balduf's grandfather Charlie
Newsom shuffled from counterprotester to counterprotester, thanking them
for their support.
Inside, Balduf got the peace and respect that
the counterprotesters wished for him. A standing-room-only crowd of mourners
laughed and cried over stories of their beloved Kevin, a twin who died
as a husband and a father.
They remembered his humility and his work
ethic and his immense pride in his country.
His former David Lipscomb High School football
coach, Scott Tillman, knew exactly how Kevin would react to the day's massive
He'd display his signature goofy grin and,
with his deep voice, he'd say:
"What's all the fuss about? I was just doing
Military officials are investigating the deaths
of two North Carolina-based Marines, one from Nashville, who were killed
last week in Afghanistan.
The Department of Defense reported Monday
that 27-year-old Sergeant Kevin B. Balduf of Nashville, and 43-year-old
Lt. Col. Benjamin J. Palmer, of Modesto, California, died May 12 in Helmand
No additional details were provided.
Balduf was assigned to 8th Communications
Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Lejeune.
The Nashvillian graduated from David Lipscomb
High School in 2002 and played on the school's football team.
Balduf's twin brother Kyle told Nashville's
News 2 his younger brother by one minute wanted to be a Marine practically
his whole life.
"Kevin wanted me to be in the Marine Corps
with him and I knew it wasn't my thing. He did, but I didn't want
to be a part of it. I think about that," Kyle Balduf said.
Despite not joining the Marine's with his brother,
Kyle said he knew his brother's fellow Marines looked after his Kevin when
"He had brothers in the Marine Corps who would
guard him in my absence and that was neat. It's been neat to hear
from them over the past few days and recognize their names and remember
him talking about them," Balduf said.
Kyle said that he last spoke with his brother
via email just days before he was killed. In the email, he got to tell
his younger brother that he loved him for what would be the final time.
"He let me know what things were going on there
and he said, ‘I love you too,'" Balduf said, adding, "If he hadn't taken
the time to do that, I wouldn't have had those precious last words with
Sergeant Balduf is survived by his wife and
two daughters. He is scheduled to be buried in the Arlington National Cemetery
in Washington D.C. on June 15.
SGT US MARINE CORPS
DATE OF BIRTH: 07/14/1983
DATE OF DEATH: 05/12/2011
BURIED AT: SECTION 60 SITE 9620
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
13 September 2011