One Marine's Gesture of Love in Iraq's Chaos

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When Marine Lance Cpl. David Battle learned he'd either have to sacrifice his ring finger or the wedding band he wore, he told doctors at a field hospital in Iraq to cut off the finger.

The 19-year-old suffered a mangled left hand and serious wounds to his legs in a Nov. 13 fire fight in Fallujah. Battle came under attack as he and fellow Marines entered a building. Eleven other Marines were wounded.

Doctors were preparing to cut off Battle's ring to save as much of his finger as they could.

"But that would mean destroying my wedding ring," he said. "My wife is the strongest woman I know. She's basically running two people's lives since I've been gone. I don't think I could ever repay her or show her how grateful ... how much I love my wife, my soul mate."

With his approval, doctors severed his finger, but somehow in the chaos that followed, they lost his ring.

Although Battle was disappointed, his wife, Devon, said she was honored.

"I can't believe he did that," she said. "At first I was mad when he told me, but then I realized how lucky I am to have him in my life."

The couple, who met in the eighth grade, were married in June, just two weeks before Battle left for Iraq. He hopes to eventually return to the Marines, and to replace his wedding ring, but that will have to wait until he recovers at his parents' home in Victorville, Calif.

In Iraq today, a U.S. Marine was killed in the volatile Anbar province and another soldier died in a roadside bombing, while suicide car bombers hit American military vehicles west and north of the capital, killing three attackers but causing no coalition casualties.

Insurgents fired mortars and rocket-propelled grenades at Iraqi National Guardsmen in downtown Baghdad as part of a campaign to derail next month's nationwide elections and target Iraqi forces who collaborate with U.S.-led troops. There were no casualties reported. A day earlier insurgent attacks left three senior Iraqi police officers dead.

The U.S. military said in a statement that a Marine assigned to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force was killed in action Sunday "while conducting security and stabilization operations" in Anbar province, a vast region comprising the battleground cities of Fallujah and Ramadi west of Baghdad. The Marine was the second to die in combat in two days in Anbar.

Meanwhile, a roadside bomb killed a Taskforce Baghdad soldier in the capital's northern suburbs and wounded three other troops Saturday, the military said. Fourteen troops were wounded in separate attacks in northern Iraq, including a car bomb ambush in the northern city of Mosul that wounded eight.

At least 1,289 U.S. military service members have died since the Iraq war began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

Four decapitated bodies in civilian clothes were found south of Baghdad and their identities were unclear, police said. The victims, believed to be Iraqis, were found in Haswa, about 25 miles south of the capital.

Two insurgents killed themselves after detonating their blue explosives-packed car alongside an American M1 Abrams battle tank in Tikrit, 80 miles north of Baghdad, military spokesman Staff Sgt. Robert Powell said. No soldiers were wounded and the tank sustained negligible damage.

Another suicide car bomber attacked a U.S. convoy early Sunday on the road between Haditha and Rawah, about 150 miles northwest of Baghdad. There were no U.S. casualties, the military said.

Elsewhere, Iraqi Red Crescent Society workers returned to Fallujah to restart operations after withdrawing Dec. 5 because of security concerns.

Red Crescent, the sister organization of the International Committee of the Red Cross, is the only humanitarian aid group operating in Fallujah, which was badly damaged by last month's U.S.-led offensive against insurgents.

Red Crescent ambulances brought food, water and medical workers to the city to provide for the few residents who remained in the city during the fighting. Most of its 300,000 people fled the fighting to camps on the city's outskirts.

In northern Iraq, Patriotic Union of Kurdistan militiamen said they had detained an Australian man of Lebanese origin. Ahmed Jalal, 22, was recently arrested in Sulaimaniyah, 160 miles northeast of Baghdad, a PUK official said on condition of anonymity.

Julie McDonald, a spokeswoman for the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs, confirmed PUK forces had detained a Sydney man and that "authorities ... are looking into (the) possible terrorist connections of the detained 22-year-old." She did not elaborate.

Also Sunday, guerrillas killed a security guard of the Iraqi Northern Oil Company near one of its Kirkuk oilfields, officials said. No further details were immediately available.

The guerrillas regard the Jan. 30 elections as an effort to legitimize a puppet government that will serve U.S. interests.

Shiites, who comprise 60 percent of the country's 26 million people and are expected to perform strongly in the elections. Their determination to take part in the poll is compelling some Sunni Arabs, who enjoyed greater privileges under the rule of Saddam Hussein to decide whether to keep up calls for a postponement or jump into the campaign.

Iraq's government says the vote will proceed as scheduled on Jan. 30, despite Sunni objections. Election officials have said candidates from 70 political parties and coalitions have filed so far. The filing deadline is Dec. 15.

In a sign that Sunni interest may be strengthening, two moderate Sunni movements announced Sunday they would participate in the polls.

The Constitutional Monarchy Movement, a group seeking the restoration of a constitutional monarchy, announced a list of 275 election candidates. The slate is headed by Sharif Ali, a cousin of Iraq's last king who was killed in a 1958 military coup, and includes mainly Sunnis as well as Kurds and members of the Shiite Muslim community.

A former Governing Council member, Naseer al-Chadarchi, also announced that his Patriotic and Democratic Party would field at least 40 candidates, including Shiites from southern Iraq, according to aide Omar al-Ma'arouf.

"Despite the party's insistence on postponing the elections, it will participate with a separate list" of candidates, al-Ma'arouf said.

U.S. soldiers and Iraqi police detained more than 50 Iraqis in raids north of Baghdad, the military said Sunday. Soldiers seized a range of firearms and other weapons in the two raids Saturday in Hib Hib, a town about 40 miles northeast of Baghdad.