Military not saying if missing Broken Arrow marine is among those found dead

Friday, March 28th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

The U.S military has not said if a Broken Arrow man is among the bodies found buried in shallow graves near the Iraqi city of Nasiriyah.

Investigators are searching for any evidence that war crimes might have played a role in the deaths of the four Americans.

Army Major General Stanley McChrystal was asked about the incident at a Pentagon briefing but he had few details. He says the remains have not yet been identified, and their branch of service hasn't been revealed.

It's possible the four were attached to the Army's 507th Maintenance Company, which was ambushed by Iraqi forces last Sunday.

Eight are listed as missing, two as killed in action and five others as prisoners of war.

A search and rescue mission has been under way to find Lance Cpl. Thomas A. Blair, 24, and seven other Marines who disappeared during fighting on the outskirts of An Nasiriyah, Iraq, on Sunday, the U.S. Department of Defense said.

Blair is assigned to the 2nd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion, Marine Air Control Group 28, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing in Cherry Point, N.C., the agency said Thursday.

The other missing Marines are members of the 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade of Camp Lejeune, N.C., officials said.

Blair joined the Marine Corps in 1997, the same year he graduated from Broken Arrow High School.

He returned to the United States in October after a two-year deployment in Okinawa, Japan. Blair left for the Persian Gulf on Jan. 10.

His mother, Nancy Blair, lives in Broken Arrow.

His older brother, Alfred Blair, 29, is a Marine staff sergeant who has not been deployed to Iraq.

He wrote an e-mail to the Tulsa World saying the family didn't want to discuss his brother's situation.

``Our prayers go out for Thomas' safe return,'' he said.

Keith Isbell, spokesman for Broken Arrow public schools, said a retired school teacher who did not want to be identified, remembered the missing Marine and was ``not surprised at all that he would be serving his country, because he is that type of young man.''

His graduating class had more than 1,000 students, and school officials say there have been about 30 graduates active in the military over the last several years.

``This community is very patriotic, certainly pro-military, and everyone is thinking about the soldiers, certainly those missing in action,'' Isbell said.

A Marine killed Sunday near An Nasiriyah, Iraq, also had ties to Oklahoma.

2nd Lt. Frederick Eben Pokorney, 31, lived in North Carolina and was born in California, but he lived from 1981 to 1987 in Wynnewood, Okla. He was killed by Iraqi soldiers in civilian clothes who were pretending to surrender.

``He really loved Oklahoma,'' his grandmother, Mary Huggans of Wynnewood, said Thursday.

She said the Marine Corps seemed to suit him.

``It really fit him,'' Huggans said. ``He had a lot of self-confidence, he knew where he was going.''