Donald Lamar, Sergeant
JULY 4, 1986-MAY 12, 2010
Musa Qala District, Northern Helmand Province, Afghanistan
The small farming community of several thousand is the site of some of the fiercest fighting since the 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment took over responsibility for Musa Qala District from British Forces in March. Within days of their arrival, the Marines moved to take the village from the Taliban, some of whom waited in entrenched fighting positions. The Americans successfully cleared Karamanda in a 36-hour gunfight, rooting out several squads of dug-in insurgents with an infantry assault from two directions and the aid of fixed wing aircraft and helicopter gunships. After their arrival, some of the civilians thanked the Marines. According to Americans, the villagers had weathered heavy-handed governance by the Taliban for years, and were receptive to the idea of foreign aid and reconstruction.
“After (the battle) was done, the locals came out and thanked us, offered us chai and chow,” said Lance Corporal Kursten French, who witnessed the battle and the local engagement in its aftermath as the Battalion Commander’s radio operator. “They thanked us over and over again, for getting rid of the Taliban, pushing them away from their villages. [The Taliban] controlled their lives.”
Americans established two patrol bases flanking Karamanda, denying the Taliban any opportunity to significantly reinfiltrate the village and overtly intimidate or impede reconstruction. One of the patrol bases, PB Griffin, was named for Lance Corporal Tyler Griffin of Third Platoon, who was killed the day before Karamanda was taken. Led by First Lieutenant Scott Cook, the Marines of 4th platoon out of PB Griffin made quick improvements to the village. They fixed wells, hired a local contractor to install a generator and wire the village with electricity for the first time, and began a series of mosque refurbishment projects utilizing discretionary funds available to infantry commanders.
The insurgents mostly fled the area for a narrow section of small villages and compounds to the north, routinely attacking American patrols with small arms fire when they move up the valley. The Taliban altered their tactics a month after their retreat from the village, however. They now tend to avoid sustained attacks in favor of reinfiltrating the area in small teams to shadow American patrols, intimidate locals with threatening night letters, and plant ubiquitous IEDs around the village and along the main roads transiting the district.
On May 7, Lance Corporal Joshua Davis was killed by machine gun fire.
On the night of May 11, members of Charlie Company 4th platoon, including Sgt. Donald Lamar a sniper attached to the platoon were getting ready to go on patrol. Navy Corpsman Brenton Lane read the following passage from Shakespeare's Henry V:
“Whoever does not have the stomach for this fight, let him depart. Give him money to speed his departure, since we wish not to die in that mans company. Whoever lives past today and comes home safely will rouse himself every year on this day, show his neighbor his scars, and tell embellished stories of all their great feats of battle. The stories will teach are children and from this day until the end of the world we shall be remembered. We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; for whoever has shed his blood with me shall be my brother. And those men afraid to go will think themselves lesser men as they hear of how we fought and died together.”
In the spirit of Shakespeare, it has been reported that ½ intercepted a radio transmission from a Taliban commander after the Marines took Karamanda which translated as follows: “The British were chickens, but these new men. . .These American Marines. . . They fight like animals, like they’re not even human.”
On May 12, 4th Platoon was on a foot patrol and took a “halt”. A remote-controlled IED was detonated, mortally wounding Lamar and knocking Cpl Alan McAlister unconscious for “five or ten seconds”.
Later in the day on June 26, another Taliban bomb made its lethal mark on the opposite side of the valley. After 1/2's deployment Sgt. McAlister recalled the blast at the ceremony where he was awarded a Purple Heart with Gold Star in lieu of second award, “Lance Cpl. Richards. It was a night patrol, and he was about five meters behind me. He stepped on the pressure plate and lost his life. The IED blew me forward about five meters and I lost consciousness." The blast also injured Lieutenant Cook – the “folk hero” of Karamanda – was injured with secondary shrapnel (debris) and burns to his face and eyes. Quickly medevac’ed, Cook was expected to recover and keep his eyesight, but officers with Charlie Company doubted he would return to his platoon.
After awakening from the second blast, McAlister was transported for follow-on medical care.
"After the second one I was evacuated to Kandahar for the follow on treatment for after-effects of TBI, where they cleared me and I came back out operating for the rest of the deployment after that," said McAlister.
Being awarded one Purple Heart is an honor but being awarded two; they are medals he gratefully but very humbly accepts, he said.
"Two Marines lost their lives on these foot patrols... [and] You see all the warriors with missing limbs or other visual signs, TBIs and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are touchy subjects these days in the Marine Corps, and I like to think I don’t have any of it," said McAlister. "I was one of the lucky ones. I’m glad to be awarded it, but there are guys out there who got a lot worse than me. They both left behind daughters and held on to life as long as they could, with the injuries that they had they should have died immediately but held on for hours."
But anyone that knew Sgt. Donald Lamar would know he was a fighter.
"The thing that impressed me about Donald was that he was always willing to do what you asked him to do. You knew he was going to go all out," said Roger Pierce, his football coach at Stafford High School. Lamar was a wrestler and played outside linebacker and in the 2002 State title game, Lamar's Stafford High (Fredericksburg, Virginia) had just cut the lead of defending champion Phoebus High to 19-7. On the ensuing kickoff, Phoebus fumbled and Lamar recovered the ball. Lamar ended up 2nd best in the game with a score of 39-13, but not for lack of effort from Donald Lamar.
Lamar graduated from Stafford High in 2004. He attended Longwood University where he picked up rugby. Sadly, Lamar was not the only Longwood Rugby player to lose his life serving in OIF/OEF. Captain Shane Adcock, U.S.A. Class of '03 was killed by a grenade attack on his humvee in Hawijah, Iraq on October 11, 2006.
After joining the Marines in January 2006, Lamar would often make the 300 mile drive from Camp Lejuene to help coach wrestling at his alma mater. Lamar served two tours in Iraq (March to September 2007 and July 2008 to February 2009). On Memorial Day, 2008 and Prior to his 2nd Deployment, he got engaged to his wife, Stephanie. Lamar returned from his second deployment on February 17, 2009 and they were married the next day. He was promoted to Sergeant and deployed to Afghanistan in March of 2010.
Lamar was survived by his wife, Stephanie, and daughter, Madison; his parents, Don and Coleen Lamar; and two younger brothers, Stephen and Joseph. He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star for his actions in Afghanistan.