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Marine Lance Cpl. Joshua H. Birchfield

Died February 19, 2010 Serving During Operation Enduring Freedom

24, of Westville, Ind.; assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Twentynine Palms, Calif.; died Feb. 19 while supporting combat operations in Farah province, Afghanistan.

3/4 Marine’s death in Afghanistan investigated

By Dan Lamothe

Staff writer

The death of a lance corporal in Afghanistan is under investigation, and it may have been caused by a rogue Afghan security guard hired by the U.S. government to fend off the Taliban.

Lance Cpl. Joshua Birchfield, 24, was killed by small-arms fire Feb. 19 in Farah province, Marine officials said. A native of Westville, Ind., Birchfield was with 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, out of the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms, Calif.

Citing an e-mail from a service member who was at the scene of Birchfield’s death, a Chicago television station reported March 2 that Birchfield may have been killed by private guards hired by the military to protect a road paving project. The guards had been using opium, and the shooter “was found to have copious amounts of wet opium on him shortly after the shooting,” according to the e-mail cited by WLS-TV, an ABC affiliate in Chicago.

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell told WLS-TV that seven contracted security guards were detained after Birchfield’s death, and that investigators confiscated opium, machine guns, rocket propelled grenade equipment and ammunition from them. Morrell has declined to speak about the investigation since, referring all comment to the Corps.

The Corps has concluded a preliminary investigation into Birchfield’s death, said Maj. Carl Redding, a spokesman at Marine Corps headquarters. He declined to address the specifics of the incident, but said the results will be used by his commanders in Afghanistan to decide if a more formal investigation is necessary. Marine officials in Afghanistan could not be reached.

More than 1,000 people attended Birchfield’s funeral in Westville on Feb. 27, according to local media reports. Rep. Joseph Donnelly, D-Ind., who attended the funeral, declined to comment on the Corps’ investigation.

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