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Utahns Mourn First Loss
In the first 11 days of war with Iraq, families in 23 states learned their husbands, fathers, brothers or sons had died in combat. On Sunday, the 12th day of fighting, the first Utah family confirmed that it, too, was part of the growing list of grieving loved ones.
Platoon Sgt. James Cawley, a 41-year-old reservist with Company F of 2nd Battalion 23rd Regiment Marines, and a detective for the Salt Lake City Police Department, was killed in combat in Iraq on Saturday.
The Layton man leaves behind a wife, Miyuki, and two children, Cecil, 8, and Keiko, 6.
According to a family statement Sunday, Cawley, a father, husband, Marine and member of the LDS church, died "defending the freedom that he so cherished. Jim was a loyal American and believed strongly in the cause for which he fought."
Marine Staff Sgt. Peter Zamora, spokesman on duty for Company F based at Fort Douglas, confirmed Cawley had died in a firefight, but he said no further details about the circumstances of his death were available.
Family members, police colleagues and fellow Marines planned to hold a news conference today.
Police officers who worked with Cawley visited the family at home over the weekend to offer condolences. "They're having a rough time," said Sgt. Dave Hoffman, who supervised Cawley in the department's gang unit and SWAT team.
Cawley served in the Corps for 12 years before becoming a reservist. He had been called back to active duty shortly before the start of the 2002 Winter Olympics and was stationed at Camp Pendleton, Calif., as part of a beefed up security force there.
After a year of service, Cawley's company -- 170 Marines known as the Saints and the Sinners because half were Mormons from Utah and the other half were self-described smoking, poker-playing, beer-drinking Nevadans -- was packing up to come home when the Marine Corps froze all assignments.
Cawley's company then was activated for another year and rolled into the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. On Feb. 20, the company was sent to Kuwait and became one of the front-line fighting forces in Iraq.
Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, recalled Sunday that he had visited Cawley's Company F while it was stationed at Camp Pendleton.
"These men were living in Spartan conditions with absolutely no complaints,'' Matheson said. "I was impressed by their commitment and the sacrifice they had made for a long time.
"In this job I've met a lot of people, but this was a group that I remember very well,'' the congressman said. "I am saddened that one of these men has made the ultimate sacrifice."
Last July, in an interview at Camp Pendleton, Cawley told The Salt Lake Tribune he was concerned about how his wife, a native of Japan, would get along during his absence as she was not comfortable with English. However, he noted, she had never opposed his serving as a Marine reservist.
"This has been hard on her. She's had to sacrifice more than most," said Cawley, who also lamented leaving his children.
"When I was a little boy, age 6, my dad, your Grandpa Cawley, was sent to Vietnam during the war there," the man nicknamed "Jimbo" wrote in a letter to his son. "I remember how much I missed him. But being a child, I didn't realize how hard it must have been on him, too."
Cawley's father, Cecil M. Cawley, is a veteran of World War II, Korea and Vietnam, and wrote in the family statement that he "will miss the son that wanted to follow in his father's footsteps."
The younger Cawley traveled the world in 12 years as a Marine and met his wife while stationed in Okinawa. He was an expert marksman and athlete with a strong sense of humor and a love of movies.
"We wish the world could have know him as we did," the family statement said. "He was tough and kind, funny and smart, well read and [had] a keen intellect. He was one of America's finest and brightest."
Cawley also was fiercely devoted to the Marine Corps, friends said.
"The men -- the entire company -- were close. I can't even imagine what they are going through right now," said Teresa Lopez, whose husband, 1st Sgt. Nick Lopez, is a Salt Lake City firefighter, a longtime friend of Cawley's and also a member of the Company F.
Back home, wives have not heard from their husbands since the company was ordered to the Persian Gulf. Teresa Lopez said she received a single e-mail from her husband dated March 23 that asked why he had not received any letters.
Details were not available Sunday on where in Iraq the company was when Cawley was killed.
Cawley became a Salt Lake City police officer in 1997, after graduating from police academy with top honors. In 1998, Cawley joined the department's gang unit and SWAT team, Hoffman said.
"He was a guy you could count on," Hoffman said. "We can't find someone to fill the shoes he left."
Added another colleague, Detective Jay Rhodes: "He was an excellent police officer and excellent military officer. He was one of the good guys."
The good guy role made Cawley's family proud.
"He had a very strong sense of right and wrong,'' the family said. "He wanted to protect people from 'the bad guys' and make the world a safer place."