Paige Akin
Staff Writer: Times-Dispatch, Richmond, Va.

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With pacifist parents and no family members in the military, Karl Linn was an unlikely Marine. But the events of 9/11 changed him.

“I think he wanted payback, as well as some discipline,” Richard Linn said of his oldest son. “I’m the Peace Corps type, but I didn’t object.”

So after he graduated from James River High School in 2002, Karl Linn earned the blessings of his family and joined the Marines. Lance Cpl. Linn and his unit — the 2nd Platoon, Company C, 4th Engineering Battalion out of Lynchburg — shipped out to Iraq in the fall.

Now, the unthinkable has happened.

Linn and three others from his unit were killed Wednesday in Iraq’s Anbar province during an ambush on their convoy. Linn, 20, was from Midlothian. The other victims were identified as Sgt. Jesse Strong, 24, of Orleans, Vt., a graduate of Liberty University in Lynchburg; Cpl. Jonathan Bowling, 23, of Patrick County; and Cpl. Christopher Weaver, 24, of Spotsylvania County.

Linn’s interest in engineering was evident from an early age. In 1998, he and five classmates from St. Michael’s Episcopal School in Bon Air designed a winning entry in the Junior Solar Sprint — a miniature solar-powered car. Later, Linn founded James River’s robotics team.

“He was not so much of a tinkerer as an observer,” Richard Linn said. “He was a very quiet person, very smart, very off-the-wall. They used to call him ‘Crazy Karl’ in high school because they never knew what he would do next.”

After James River, Linn joined the Marine Corps Reserve but chose a delayed-entry program so he could start college. He enrolled in the mechanical-engineering program at Virginia Commonwealth University and participated in “weekend warrior” basic training while attending classes, specializing in combat engineering.

Then, last year, Linn’s unit was activated. They were sent into combat in November.

Between missions, Linn was keeping himself busy e-mailing his family, playing with his Canon PowerShot A60 digital camera and updating his new Web site, www.karl.linn.net. He posted photos of himself, grinning widely, posing with his machine gun and Humvee.

“Other than being tired recently because of 12-hour days patrolling, he’d say the food was lousy and it was chilly,” Richard Linn said yesterday. “He was more concerned about when we were sending him more socks and gummy bears, which were apparently in short supply.”

Even though he was able to call home only once, at Christmas, his family could see his adventures online. They knew he was safe.

On Wednesday morning, Richard Linn was 40 miles north of Richmond on a business trip when he got a call from his mother. The Marines wanted to talk to him at home.

“You’re never prepared. My wife just didn’t even want to think about it. She was always scared, from the time he was in boot camp, but she hoped and prayed and tried
not to dwell on it. I knew this could happen. I felt the odds were good that it wouldn’t, but I’ve never been a gambling man.”

Linn is survived by his father and mother, Malisa, and brother, Tan, who is 15 and a sophomore at James River.


Staff Writer: News & Advance, Lynchburg, Va.

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The skies were clear and a full moon shown down on Company C of the 4th Combat Engineer Battalion as the Lynchburg-based unit drove, lights off, toward a tiny village in western Iraq.

Heavy sand created a red haze; the chilly air smelled of mud from recent rain. It was just after 3 a.m. when the Marine reservists arrived at the town.

The troops were on a mission to capture insurgents believed to be in a building in Hoklinea, said Jim Dolan, a reporter with WABC-TV in New York who is embedded with the unit.

“The Marines pulled up to the building, searched it and it was empty. So they got back in their vehicles in the convoy” to leave, Dolan said by telephone yesterday
from Haditha, Iraq.

That’s when shots rang out.

The four men who were killed were riding a highback, a form of a Humvee with a flatbed. Its sides are 3 feet high and armor-plated.

At first, it was just a few shots, Dolan said. “Then a barrage of shots [came] from what sounded like machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. [The Marines] were returning fire, and it escalated. For several minutes, there was a fierce and
deafening firefight.”

The shots seemed to come from at least two or three locations, one of which was a
mosque, Dolan said.

One of the grenades hit the highback and killed two of the four men instantly. The other two died on their way to get medical attention, Dolan said.

Four others from the Lynchburg-based unit, including a man from Lynchburg and one from Bedford, were injured in the attack. Lance Cpl. Mark W. Miller, 20, of Bedford received gunshot wounds, while Cpl. Timothy Franklin, 24, of Lynchburg, received
minor shrapnel injuries, said Capt. Jamie Wagner, an inspector-instructor with the unit.

The company held a memorial service yesterday to remember the fallen: Liberty University graduate Sgt. Jesse Strong, 24, of Orleans, Vt.; Cpl. Jonathan Bowling, 23, of Patrick County; Cpl. Christopher Weaver, 24, of Spotsylvania County; and Lance
Cpl. Karl Linn, 20, of Chesterfield County.

Troops set up a traditional memorial for each: the Marine’s M-16 rifle, bayonet down and stuck in the dirt, with his helmet and dog tags on the butt of the gun and his boots in front, Dolan said. Marines from Company C walked up to each of the four memorials, knelt, touched the boots, and observed a moment of silence. Then the rest of the battalion walked by the memorials and gave a single crisp salute.

Dolan said several men spoke during the service about how the men would be missed, how honored they felt to have known them and how they would honor the Marines’ memory by carrying on their mission.

“Obviously, it was very hard,” he said. “It’s like losing your best friend right in front of your eyes. It was very said. [These] grown, strongest, bravest men
in the world cried. It was very hard to watch.”

Dolan, 46, and a photographer have been embedded with the company since Jan. 17.


Karl took these photos while he was in Iraq. He died in a firefight on January 27, 2005 in Haditha, Iraq.