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Alabama Marine killed during 3rd tour in Iraq

By Jay Reeves
Associated Press Writer

BIRMINGHAM — 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 Tuesday. "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 Monday in the Al 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 9/11 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 Sunday 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.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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