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Nevada Town Mourns Loss of Marine

NPR's Howard Berkes visits Tonopah, Nevada, the hometown of 2nd Lt. Fred Pokorney.

Lt. Pokorney was killed along with eight other Marines on Sunday in Iraq. He leaves behind a wife and 2-year-old daughter, and friends and neighbors who remember him as an exemplary person and outstanding member of the Marine Corps.

"He died a hero and he's a hero for this nation," says his widow, Chelle. "He loved his family and he loved his Marines."

Berkes reports that Pokorney is remembered as a survivor and a warrior. Pokorney, a star athlete in high school, decided to enlist in the Marines after graduation. "The Marines sent Pokorney to college and then to officer's school -- a rare and rapid rise for an enlisted man," Berkes says.

For many in the town of Tonopah, the sacrifice of war has become very real. "This has to be done for us to keep our freedoms -- and there will be other Fred Pokorneys across the nation," says Steve Carpenter, a former Marine who first encouraged Pokorney to join the Corps.

But Wade Lieseke, the Vietnam veteran who took Pokorney in as a teenager and raised him as his own son, was bitter about Pokorney's death.

"A lot of people are gonna die," Lieseke says. "I hope President Bush sleeps good at night and can justify all this and say we had to do this. I’m not convinced. I don’t think anybody can convince me, especially now..."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Howard Berkes is a correspondent for the NPR Investigations Unit.