Sparks Marine confirmed dead in Iraq
RENO — A Nevada Marine who was among the first reported missing in the war in Iraq three weeks ago has been confirmed killed in combat, military officials said on Sunday.
They said DNA tests had confirmed the identity of Lance Cpl. Donald John Cline, 21, of Sparks.
His wife, Tina Cline, attended a brief memorial for him on Sunday before Palm Sunday services at First Baptist Church Sparks in Spanish Springs. She had no comment other than to confirm her husband’s death.
Marine 1st Sgt. Jason Ruff, a casualty assurance officer, said he was told Friday afternoon that DNA tests had confirmed Cline’s identity. He and another Marine were joined by Pastor Earl Morley from the church Mrs. Cline had begun attending to deliver the news. Morely himself is a former Marine.
“All along, she had hoped for the best, as we all did, but it turned out to be not that good of news,” he said. “We showed up to kind of support her, not that that takes any of the sting away.”
She was joined at church by several family members, including her mother, her brother, her father and her stepfather.
“She’s got all the family support she needs,” Ruff said.
Cline had not been seen since March 23 when he and eight other Marines were reported missing in fighting on the outskirts of Nasiriyah. He leaves behind two sons, Dakota, 2, and Dillon, 7 months.
Cline was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade based at Camp Lejeune, N.C. His remains, along with those of four others, were flown to Dover, Del., where the tests were performed, Ruff said.
He said it’s believed the Marines were headed toward the site where the 507th Maintenance Company convoy was ambushed in the attack that saw Pfc. Jessica Lynch wounded and taken captive.
John and Tina Cline met while attending Reed High School in Sparks and married at the American Legion Hall in Sun Valley on Oct. 21, 2000 — the day after he graduated from Marine boot camp.
“He always said he wanted to be a Marine. His whole senior year he was already signed up and ready,” Tina Cline told The Associated Press earlier this month.
The family had been living together at Camp Lejeune, N.C., until Cline got his orders to ship out just after Christmas. Tina Cline and the boys have been living with her mother in Sun Valley just north of Reno.
The last time she talked to Cline was on March 13 when a news reporter gave Cline a cell phone to call home.
“He said a CNN reporter gave him his cell phone to call and he just wanted to call and see if everything was OK and how the boys were doing.”
On March 27, she received a letter postmarked March 14 that included a hand-carved, 4-inch long wooden truck with the word, “Dakota” on the side.
“He sent a letter to Dakota saying he couldn’t get to Kuwait City yet — he felt guilty because he wanted to get something for his sons,” she said earlier this month.
“So he and his friend took some Kuwaiti wood and carved this little Dodge Dakota truck because his name is Dakota and my son loves trucks.”