JOE RAEDLE / GETTY
Marines take cover during a firefight in Mian Poshteh.
His war was almost over. Or so Marina Buckley thought when her son Lance Cpl. Gregory T. Buckley Jr. told her that he would be returning from southern Afghanistan to his Marine Corps base in Hawaii in late August, three months early.
Instead, Lance Corporal Buckley became the 1,990th American service member to die in the war when, on Aug. 10, he and two other Marines were shot inside their base in Helmand Province by a man who appears to have been a member of the Afghan forces they were training.
A week later, with the death of Specialist James A. Justice of the Army at a military hospital in Germany, the United States military reached 2,000 dead in the nearly 11-year-old conflict, based on an analysis by The New York Times of Department of Defense records. The calculation by The Times includes deaths not only in Afghanistan but also in Pakistan and other nations where American forces are directly involved in aiding the war.
Nearly nine years passed before American forces reached their first 1,000 dead in the war. The second 1,000 came just 27 months later, a testament to the intensity of fighting prompted by President Obama’s decision to send 33,000 additional troops to Afghanistan in 2010, a policy known as the surge.
In more ways than his family might have imagined, Lance Corporal Buckley, who had just turned 21 when he died, typified the troops in that second wave of 1,000. According to the Times analysis, three out of four were white, 9 out of 10 were enlisted service members, and one out of two died in either Kandahar Province or Helmand Province in Taliban-dominated southern Afghanistan. Their average age was 26.
The dead were also disproportionately Marines like Lance Corporal Buckley. Though the Army over all has suffered more dead in the war, the Marine Corps, with fewer troops, has had a higher casualty rate: At the height of fighting in late 2010, 2 out of every 1,000 Marines in Afghanistan were dying, twice the rate of the Army. Marine units accounted for three of the five units hardest hit during the surge.
Suffering the most casualties was the Third Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment out of Camp Pendleton, Calif. Twenty-five of its Marines died and more than 180 were wounded, many with multiple amputations, during a bloody seven-month deployment in Helmand that began in fall 2010.
The analysis also shows that Army casualties during the surge fell heaviest on two bases with frequently deployed units: Fort Campbell in Kentucky, home to the 101st Airborne Division, which recorded the most Army deaths in the surge, and Fort Drum in New York, home to the 10th Mountain Division.