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WNY MARINE LOSES ARM, LEG IN IRAQ ATTACK

A Marine from East Aurora was seriously wounded Monday in Iraq when his vehicle was hit by a rocket.

Cpl. Mark P. O'Brien, 21, lost his right arm and right leg when the rocket crashed into the right side of his military vehicle.

O'Brien and other troops were on patrol in the Iraqi city of Ramadi at the time of the attack, said O'Brien's mother, Gale O'Brien.

Ramadi is the capital of Anbar Province in the heart of the Sunni Triangle, where resistance to the American military presence in Iraq has been most fierce.

"He was sitting in the right hand side of the vehicle, and he was the only person hit," said Mrs. O'Brien, who heard about her son's injuries from Marine Corps officials calling from Iraq.

O'Brien was being transported Wednesday to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. His parents and other family members planned to meet him there.

O'Brien played football at Iroquois Central High School and was named to the all-Erie County Interscholastic Conference's second team in lacrosse in 2000.

"He just really loved sports, football and lacrosse," his mother said.

After graduating from high school in 2001, O'Brien studied criminal justice at Erie Community College for a semester. He then joined the Marines in January 2002, partly in response to the Sept. 11 attacks, his mother said.

"One of his best friends had joined, and he really wanted to do it himself," his mother said. "Obviously, we think he's wonderful . . . we think he's a hero."

O'Brien's father, David M., and brother, Paul, are both Erie County sheriff's deputies.

Twelve soldiers from Western New York, including eight from the Buffalo metro area, have been killed in Iraq since the war began in March 2003.

The military does not release detailed information about wounded soldiers. But the Pentagon said earlier this week that 8,458 troops have been wounded in Iraq, including 4,526 who have been unable to return to duty. More than 1,100 U.S. troops have been killed in the conflict.

News Staff Reporter Sharon Linstedt contributed to his article.

e-mail: jzremski@buffnews.com

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