- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 30, 2006

HANFORD, Calif. (AP) — The families of two Marines say their sons were ordered to photograph and clean up corpses of unarmed Iraqi civilians that members of their unit are suspected of killing and they have been traumatized ever since.

In separate interviews with the Associated Press on Monday, the parents of Lance Cpl. Andrew Wright, 20, and Lance Cpl. Roel Ryan Briones, 21, said their sons told them that the events of November remain seared in their memories.

Cpl. Wright and Cpl. Briones were members of a Marine unit based at Camp Pendleton, Calif., that was sent into the western Iraqi city of Haditha to help remove the bodies of as many as two dozen Iraqis, including women and children, who had been shot.

While there, the two were ordered to photograph the scene with personal cameras that they happened to be carrying the day of the attack, the families said. Cpl. Briones’ mother, Susie, said her son told her that he saw the bodies of 23 Iraqis that day.

“It was horrific. It was a terrible scene,” Mrs. Briones said.

Navy investigators confiscated Cpl. Briones’ camera, his mother said. Cpl. Wright’s parents, Patty and Frederick Wright, declined to comment on what might have happened to the photos that their son took but that he turned over all of his information to the Navy.

“He is the Forrest Gump of the military,” Mr. Wright said. “He ended up in the spotlight through no fault of his own.”

Cpl. Briones told the Los Angeles Times that Navy investigators had interrogated him twice in Iraq and that they wanted to know whether bodies had been tampered with. He turned over his digital camera but did not know what happened to it after that.

Mrs. Briones called the Nov. 19 incident a “massacre” and said the military had done little to help her son deal with his post-traumatic stress disorder.

“I know Ryan is going through some major trauma right now,” she said. “It was very traumatic for all of the soldiers involved with this thing.”

The details of what happened in Haditha are still murky. What is known is that a bomb rocked a military convoy and left one Marine dead. Marines then fatally shot unarmed civilians in a taxi at the scene and went into two homes and shot other people, said Rep. John P. Murtha, a Pennsylvania Democrat who has been briefed by military officials.

The incident has led to two investigations — one into the deadly encounter and another into whether it was the subject of a cover-up. The Marine Corps initially attributed 15 civilian deaths to the car bombing and a firefight with insurgents.

Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Monday on CBS’s “The Early Show” that “it would be premature for me to judge” the situation.

On Monday, Cpl. Briones and Cpl. Wright were back at Camp Pendleton, where base officials said several members of Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division were being confined during the investigations.

2nd Lt. Lawton King, a Camp Pendleton spokesman, declined to comment Monday.

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