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Washington Family Mourns Marine's Death

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Family and friends will bury a US Marine today in Snohomish, Washington. Corporal Jeffrey Starr was killed in combat in Iraq on Memorial Day. He was 22 years old. He was scheduled to come home in just a few weeks. Phyllis Fletcher of member station KUOW in Seattle visited Starr's family.

PHYLLIS FLETCHER reporting:

The Starrs' grief is on display in their living room. Among the cards and flowers are letters from children who looked up to Jeff. Jeff's sister Hillary reads a letter from 12-year-old Philip Minton(ph).

Ms. HILLARY STARR (Sister): `I knew Jeff Starr since I was three. He was my baby-sitter. One time he let me have a cookie and some pop. At three years old, that sounds like heaven. My mom and I went to his parents' house tonight. I cried for him. I wanted to say how great of a friend he was to me and how I miss him. Also thank you, Jeff Starr, for putting your body on the line for me.'

FLETCHER: Jeff joined the Marines right before he graduated high school. He wanted to be a cop. Jeff's mom, Shellie, says a police officer told him the best preparation for law enforcement is to train in the military first.

Mrs. SHELLIE STARR (Mother): And so Jeff decided, `OK. I'll join the Marines 'cause the Marines are the best, and I want to be the best cop.'

FLETCHER: That was in March 2001. That summer, Jeff went to boot camp. Three weeks after that was 9/11.

Mrs. STARR: The world changed for us that morning because Jeff was no longer just going to a training camp. He was going to go to war.

FLETCHER: Jeff was deployed to Iraq three times. His father Brian says last year he fought in Fallujah. One day Jeff was one of 20 Marines caught behind enemy lines.

Mr. BRIAN STARR (Father): They were taking fire from the north, the east and the west, and that left the south to egress and they took cover in this house and literally fought off several hundred insurgents for several hours before the rescue came. And Jeff said that was the happiest moment of his life when he saw his sergeant coming in through the door and he knew that they were safe.

FLETCHER: Shellie says Jeff believed in what he was doing in Iraq.

Mrs. STARR: He believed in the action that we were taking. He believed that in the long run, getting democracy in that country was the right thing to do, and I fully support that Jeffrey believed in the action. That's where I have to be right now.

FLETCHER: Jeff was due to come home this month. He had already signed up for classes at a local community college. But on Memorial Day, Brian and Shellie came home to a white van in the driveway. Two Marines came around the side. They told the Starrs their son had been killed in combat that day near Ar Ramadi.

Today, Brian looks over flowers, letters and certificates laid out in his living room. He picks up a snapshot from last year. Father and son are dressed like twins.

Mr. STARR: Jeff got me a red shirt for Christmas and he had a red shirt. We would put on our red shirts and go out.

FLETCHER: In the photo, Brian and Jeff grin with their arms around each other. Brian remembers the son he raised and the man he got to know.

Mr. STARR: And I lost a son and I lost a friend.

FLETCHER: Marine Corporal Jeffrey Starr leaves his parents, Shellie and Brian and his sisters, Hillary and Emily. For NPR News, I'm Phyllis Fletcher in Snohomish, Washington.

INSKEEP: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Phyllis Fletcher