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In Memoriam

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SSgt. Jason Lehto, Jr.

(reprinted from the Detroit News, December 30, 2004)

Macomb mourns another Marine

A Warren father is the third man from the county to die in Iraq within a month.

WARREN — Another Macomb County Marine — the third in a month — has died in Iraq.

Marine Staff Sgt. Jason A. Lehto, 31, of Warren was killed Tuesday in a noncombat incident in Al Anbar Province, Iraq, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

Lehto, a Marine Corps reservist and explosives expert, was married and was the father of three sons ranging from 2 to 11 years old. He worked for SBC.

“He was an outstanding young man who loved his family,” Chuck Walsh, Lehto’s stepfather, said Wednesday. “He was gung-ho military and gung-ho American.”

Lehto was assigned to the Support Group 47, 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, out of Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison Township. He volunteered for active duty this past summer and had been in Iraq since August, according to family members and military officials.

According to military officials, Lehto’s job was to find and disarm explosives.

“He excelled in it,” Walsh said.

The Marine’s single-story ranch home was still adorned with Christmas decorations and American and Marine Corps flags were flying from the garage as friends and family gathered to mourn him Wednesday.

The exact circumstances of Lehto’s death remained under investigation, and details were not released by the Department of Defense.

Lehto joined the Marines after graduating from Clintondale High School in Clinton Township in 1992.

“He was a great guy,” said Staff Sgt. Leon Belden, who also serves in Marine Wing Support. “He was the kind of guy who would do anything for his friends.”

Marine Cpl. In C. Kim died in a noncombat accident Dec. 7 in Iraq’s Anbar province. Kim was with the 9th Communications Battalion, First Marine Expeditionary Force. Kim, a Korean immigrant, graduated from Warren Mott High School in 2001.

Marine Cpl. Gentian Marku, an Albanian immigrant and graduate of Warren Woods Tower High School, died Thanksgiving Day in Iraq as his unit fought in Fallujah.

Marku, 22, was assigned to 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force. Lehto is the 39th member of the U.S. armed forces with Michigan ties to die in military operations in Iraq, according to the Associated Press.