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The 13th annual St. Patrick’s Day parade in Cutchogue kicks off at 2 p.m. Saturday. George Sullivan of Southold, who has served as the town’s receiver of taxes for more than two decades, will be this year’s grand marshal. (more…)

10/11/12 8:00am
10/11/2012 8:00 AM

Staff Sgt. Edward W. Deptola faces a court-martial for urinating on a dead Taliban soldier, which has created a wide-ranging mix of emotions from people in the community.

I stand proudly behind service members. I am a former U.S. Marine and my husband is a Marine, just returned home from Afghanistan, which was his third deployment in support of the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I am also a Southold High School alumna who from childhood has known Marine Staff Sgt. Edward Deptola, the local Marine currently awaiting disciplinary action for urinating on the remains of a dead Taliban soldier. He has had a successful Marine Corps career with numerous deployments and, until this episode, could have been considered a hometown hero. One mistake should not define a man, but he needs to take responsibility and be held accountable for his actions.

Marines are held to a higher standard than this, by the Marine Corps, their country and society. Not only is it against the rules of warfare to desecrate human remains, it’s against all morality as well.

I understand being angry at the enemy. It’s expected, frankly, and it’s hard not to be.  What I do not, and cannot, understand is urinating on someone’s body, whether they are a “terrorist” or not. Remember, colonial Americans could have been classified as “terrorists” during the American Revolution.

I know the Marine Corps is not supporting the actions of these Marines, and especially this staff sergeant, which is a senior rank for Marines and represents someone who is supposed to be guiding and training upstanding Marines and citizens. The Marine Corps goes by a code of conduct preaching “honor, courage and commitment.” I see none of those in an act like this.

Service members are held to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the laws that govern all branches and ranks of the U.S. armed forces. Article 133 of the UCMJ states that any service member “convicted of conduct unbecoming of an officer and a gentleman shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.” Marines, regardless of their rank, officer or enlisted, are held to these standards, and urinating on a dead body is not the action of an officer or a gentleman.

Article 16, second paragraph, of the 1949 Geneva Convention IV provides: “As far as military considerations allow, each party to the conflict shall facilitate the steps taken … to protect [the killed] against … ill-treatment.” Breaking those rules can be classified as either war crimes or crimes against humanity.

Although the enemy may not follow the Geneva Convention, the United States accepts it, and its service members are required to abide by it. While it may be infuriating to see the desecration of American citizens on live television, American troops are expected to rise above emotional reactions and follow the laws and regulations set forth by the UCMJ and the Geneva Convention.

Those Marines, especially a staff sergeant, knew what they were doing was wrong, and they knew what laws, codes of conduct and regulations they were breaking.

I cannot throw my support behind or condone their actions and I can’t even pretend to feel sorry for whatever punishment they receive. This is an embarrassment for the Marine Corps, for our country and for Southold.

For those rallying behind Staff Sgt. Deptola, I respect your decision to stand behind our troops. They are selflessly serving our country and protecting us from the threats of terrorism. I implore you to spend your money, time and effort instead supporting service members and organizations that deserve your support.

A few ideas include sponsoring organizations like the Wounded Warrior Project (woundedwarriorproject.org) or the USO (uso.org), or sending care packages to deployed troops. If you don’t know anyone, you can send items from thecarepackageproject.com.

There are dozens of valuable organizations and thousands of worthy troops who deserve your support.

The author is a 2004 graduate of Southold High School currently living in Jacksonville, N.C.

09/29/12 5:37pm
09/29/2012 5:37 PM

TIM KELLY FILE PHOTO | Staff Sgt. Edward W. Deptola at a welcome home party at McDonald’s in Mattituck last October.

A defense fund was created to help two U.S. Marines, one of whom is from Southold, who are being court-martialed for allegedly urinating on dead Taliban fighters in Afghanistan in late July 2011, and posing for pictures with the bodies.

The 3/2 Scout Sniper Defense Fund has started a Facebook site with a link to a PayPal account where contributions can be made, according to Laura Pace of Mattituck. Her brother, Staff Sgt. Edward Deptola of Southold, 27, faces charges along with another Marine, Staff. Sgt. Joseph Chambin, for the urinating incident, which was captured in a video that appeared on YouTube in January.

Ms. Pace said other Marines started the site, which just went up this week.

“I think that a court martial is extreme,” Ms. Pace said. “Facing jail time is a little extreme. I can’t say if he did it or didn’t, but he’s innocent until proven guilty. As a civilian, I don’t want to know what’s going on over there. All I know is I sleep better at night knowing that the service men and women are over there defending us.”

The Facebook site says it’s dedicated to help the 3/2 Scout Snipers with legal fees and the possible loss of their careers.

“What most people don’t know is the story behind the five U.S. Marines currently involved in the legal investigation,” the Facebook site says. “Since February these Marines with their families by their sides have been engaged in a extremely stressful legal battle incurring over $30,000.00 of legal bills between them and the tab is still running.”

The site claims that money raised will go to legal costs for the soldiers, and that when they reach their goal, they will stop collecting money and the account will be closed.

The Department of Defense brought the court-martial action against Staff Sergeants Deptola and Chamblin on Sept. 21, and announced it in a Sept 24 press release.

The two Marines also were charged for other misconduct that allegedly took place during the same operation, including being derelict in their duties by failing to properly supervise junior Marines, failing to require junior Marines to wear their personal protective equipment, failing to stop and report the misconduct of junior Marines, failing to report the negligent discharge of a grenade launcher, and failing to stop the indiscriminate firing of weapons, the Department of Defense stated.

Staff Sgt. Deptola also is charged with failing to stop the unnecessary damaging of Afghan compounds and wrongfully and indiscriminately firing a recovered enemy machine gun.

The other three Marines, who were not identified, received nonjudicial punishment for misconduct that came to light during several investigations into the urinating incident, and disciplinary actions against them will be announced at a later date, officials said.

According to the Facebook site, the five Marines facing charges “have a combined total of 15 tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, going as far back as 2003, multiple Navy Commendation medals with Combat “V” for Valor, and 3 Purple Hearts.”

One of them was wounded in 2010 when he was hit by a home-made claymore mine, and another is now an amputee after in improvised explosive device (IED) he was disarming detonated, causing him to lose his left leg.

“These funds will go to help pay legal fees as they fight for their VA [U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs] benefits to include medical coverage for those that were wounded in combat, VA disability for the more critically wounded, educational benefits such as the GI Bill, and other VA benefits,” the site states.

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09/25/12 9:02pm
09/25/2012 9:02 PM

TIM KELLY FILE PHOTO | Staff Sgt. Edward W. Deptola at a welcome home party at McDonald’s in Mattituck last October.

One of the two U.S. Marines who will be court martialed for urinating on dead Taliban fighters and posing for photographs with the corpses in Afghanistan last year is from Southold.

Staff Sgt. Edward W. Deptola, 27, a 2003 graduate of Southold High School, was charged in the incident, which occurred in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, on or about July 27, 2011, according to a press release from the Department of Defense. Staff Sgt. Joseph W. Chamblin, 35, whose address has not been released, was also charged in the incident Monday, officials said.

The incident allegedly took place during a counterinsurgency operation near Sandala in the Musa Qala district of Helmand province. The incident came to light after a video popped up on YouTube in January, prompting military officials to launch several investigations, the DOD said.

Staff Sgt. Deptola, the father of two children, was the subject of a Suffolk Times story last October, when he returned from Afghanistan less than three months after the date of the alleged incident.

“The war over there is pretty much a sniper war,” he told us. “We’re getting shot at on a daily basis and we put ourselves in harm’s way on purpose.”

During his seven-month tour, one member of his platoon was killed and six were injured, we reported.

“We’d go out in the middle of the night and begin observing as soon as the sun went up,” he told us. “The enemy would be shooting from 1,000 yards away from a 12-inch hole in a wall.”

His seven months there seemed a lot longer, he told us, “But when you get home it seems so quick and everything is just a blur.”

He was to remain stateside, deployed at Camp Lejeune, until November 2013, we reported. He said he hoped to return to Afghanistan.

Staff Sgt. Edward W. Deptola

Staff Sgts. Deptola and Chamblin were also charged for other misconduct that took place during the same July 2011 operation, including being derelict in their duties by failing to properly supervise junior Marines, failing to require junior Marines to wear their personal protective equipment, failing to stop and report the misconduct of junior Marines, failing to report the negligent discharge of a grenade launcher and failing to stop the indiscriminate firing of weapons, officials said.

Additionally, Staff Sgt. Deptola, who is assigned to 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, at Camp Lejeune, N.C.,  is charged with failing to stop the unnecessary damaging of Afghan compounds and wrongfully and indiscriminately firing a recovered enemy machine gun, officials said.

The DOD release did not feature a date for the trial to begin. Attempts to reach Staff Sgt. Deptola’s family members were unsuccessful Tuesday.

Last month, three other Marines received nonjudicial punishment for misconduct that came to light during several investigations into the incident. Disciplinary actions regarding other Marines will be announced at a later date, officials said.

“There are other pending cases related to this incident,” the command said in a written statement, published in the Department of Defense press release. “In order to preserve the integrity of the investigations and to ensure fair and impartial legal proceedings in the future, we will not discuss evidence or specific findings of the investigations. “We will be as forthright as possible while preserving the rights of the accused and the fairness and integrity of the military justice process.”

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