Special to the Planet
Victor Wayne Atwell last heard from his son Bradley on Friday morning. The 27-year-old Kokomo, Ind. native talked to his father from Camp Bastion, Afghanistan where he was stationed as a United States Marine.
“He told his dad things were tense,” David Atwell, Bradley Atwell’s uncle, said. “All of the stuff with Libya had just happened. He didn’t say he thought they were going to get attacked, he just said things were tense.”
Sgt. Bradley W. Atwell, an aeronautics electrician with the Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 12, died Friday in “indirect fire,” officials told the family.
Atwell came under fire on Friday night, when 15 insurgents disguised in U.S. army uniforms came onto the base, which also is where England’s Prince Harry is currently based. The attack killed Atwell and another Marine, wounded nine other people and destroyed six Harrier fighter jets, military officials said.
Atwell, a Taylor High School graduate, was one of three children born to Brookport-native Victor Atwell.
He was stationed, for the most part, in Yuma, Ariz. He just recently had gotten married, David Atwell said. This was Atwell’s second stint in the Marines — he reenlisted after his first tour — and his first trip to the Middle East. He had been stationed in Japan for some time.
“He loved being a Marine,” David Atwell said. “He absolutely loved it. His father said it best: ‘He was a Marine through and through.’”
David Atwell, a preacher at Waldo Baptist Church, made the trip to Dover Airforce Base in Delaware on Sunday. He expected his brother to arrive on Monday evening, and together they will wait for Bradley Atwell’s body to arrive back in the United States. The family will then work on funeral arrangements.
The U.S. is days away from completing the first stage of its own draw down, withdrawing 33,000 troops that were part of a military surge three years ago. The U.S. will remain with about 68,000 troops at the end of September. Atwell deployed in April and was scheduled to return in December.
Friday’s attack was just the beginning of a deadly weekend in Afghanistan. On Saturday, a gunman in the uniform of a government-backed militia force shot dead two British soldiers in Helmand province in the southwest. The next day, an Afghan police officer turned his gun on NATO troops at a remote checkpoint in the southern province of Zabul, killing four American service members, according to Afghan and international officials.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Monday that while he is very concerned about rogue Afghan troops and police turning their guns on U.S. and allied forces, he sees the insider attacks as the “last gasp” of a Taliban insurgency that has not been able to regain lost ground. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the escalating insider attacks a “very serious threat” to the Afghanistan campaign.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.