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Marine Gunnery Sgt. Herman J. Murkerson Jr.

Died October 1, 2007 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom

35, of Adger, Ala.; assigned to Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron 2, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C.; died Oct. 1 while conducting combat operations in Baghdad, Iraq.

Ala. Marine killed in combat during third trip to Iraq

By Jay Reeves

The Associated Press

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The war years have run together for Brenda Murkerson, mother of Marine Gunnery Sgt. Jerome Murkerson.

Was it 2003 when her son first went to Iraq, or 2004? And what was the date he returned in 2005 for his second combat tour?

She remembers Aug. 23, 2007, the date he left for his third trip to Iraq. And she will never forget Oct. 1, the day he died in combat near Baghdad.

“He had a wife and three children, and he wanted to protect that wife and those three children, as well as the rest of us,” Brenda Murkerson said through tears Oct. 2. “That was his job, and he did it well and we are proud of him.”

The Pentagon said Murkerson, 35, of Adger was killed during combat operations Oct. 1 in Anbar province, near Baghdad. The military didn’t release additional details, and Murkerson said the Pentagon hasn’t told relatives anything more.

Many U.S. troops are like Murkerson and have served multiple tours of duty since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. Of the 227,454 troops currently serving, Defense Department statistics show that 24,844 are in their third deployment, and thousands have been overseas even more.

“It’s not unusual at all,” said Lt. Col. Jonathan Withington, a Pentagon spokesman.

Murkerson remembers her son as a huge Alabama fan who went to Tuscaloosa every time he could get a football ticket, dreamed of his 15-year-old son playing football for the Crimson Tide and phoned home from Iraq to make sure Auburn really lost to South Florida last month.

“He said, ‘I wanted to make sure I saw it on the Internet right,’ ” she said.

Murkerson met his wife Windi on the bus going to and from Oak Grove High School, where he graduated in 1990. He’d swipe roses for her off his mother’s bush.

“I’d say, ‘Who’d you give it to?’ and he’d just grin,” she said.

Murkerson joined the Marines right out of high school and made a career of the Corps. He went to his daughter’s dance recitals and watched his two sons play sports when he was home, but he had been in Iraq for months on end since the U.S. invasion in March 2003.

Murkerson last spoke with his family Sept. 30 using Web cameras and an Internet connection, his mother said. His wife is struggling with his death.

“I’m just thankful she got to see him,” she said.

Murkerson was based at Cherry Point, N.C., assigned to Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron 2, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, of the II Marine Expeditionary Force. His wife and children live in Jacksonville, N.C.

Murkerson’s legal name was Herman J. Murkerson Jr., but his mother said everyone knew him as Jerome.

Ala. Marine killed in combat honored at alma mater

The Associated Press

OAK GROVE, Ala. — The children of a Marine killed by enemy fire during his third deployment in Iraq have placed a memorial on a wall in the front office of his alma mater, Oak Grove High School.

They placed it at the school on Thursday in remembrance of their father, 35-year-old Gunnery Sgt. Jerome Murkerson, who graduated in 1990 and was killed in Iraq on Sept. 30, 2007.

His 16-year-old son Stephen hung a picture of his father, while 13-year-old Daniel put a picture of the Bronze Star on the wall beside it and 9-year-old Kristina placed the words that describe her father’s act of bravery below the award.

“I’m proud of him,” Daniel said.

Principal Alan Pruden said their hope is that students and teachers arrive each day and see “what being an American is all about.” Murkerson was killed after leaving his covered position to help stave off enemy gunfire, which allowed an interpreter and four U.S. and Iraqi soldiers to escape.

“I just want everyone to see he was a hero and he died a hero because he saved a lot of lives that day,” said his wife, Windy, who has spoken with the Marines and the interpreter her husband helped save.

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