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Laguna Hills Continues Plan for Permanent Monument To Camp Pendleton’s Darkhorse Battalion

LAGUNA HILLS — A plan to build a permanent monument for Camp Pendleton’s 3rd Battalion/5th Marines moves forward.

The battalion, known as Darkhorse, is a unit Laguna Hills adopted in 2008. It is celebrated each year during the city’s annual Memorial Day Half Marathon. This event aims to raise funds for Team Darkhorse. It is a community group that aids the battalion’s Marines and their families.

Banners of the 25 Darkhorse Marines who laid their lives during a 2010 deployment to Afghanistan are raised along the route during the race.

The Laguna Hills City Council decided unanimously to start the process of making the monument on Tuesday, July 9. From researching the design, fabrication, and installation of the memorial, everything has a go signal. City officials are waiting for feedback on how the memorial will be constructed and its final look.

The memorial will sit at a prominent spot near City Hall.

“We’ve been supportive of the 3/5 for so long,” said Councilman Dore Gilbert. His son served in the Marine Corps. “We thought we would like a permanent memorial. We thought it would be the right thing to do,” he added.

According to Councilman Gilbert, the cost of the monument is still unclear.

The city first expressed its support to the battalion at $10,000. This amount helped Team Darkhorse start as a nonprofit. Since then, the community group receives $3 for every registered runner during the Memorial Day race. The amount reaches about $10,000 annually.

Not long after the city adopted the battalion, the force endured one of its notably devastating deployments.

The 3/5 deployed to Sangin on Sept. 27, 2010. This area was a hotbed for drug traffickers and Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. The Marines were there to clear out the Taliban in that region.

As the battalion deployment was on its seventh-month, the unit under the command of Lt. Col. Jason Morris then, suffered the highest casualty rate out of all Marine units in Afghanistan. By the end of their deployment, 25 marines laid down their lives. Almost 200 were injured, and about three dozens lost a limb.

Since the Vietnam War, it was the costliest deployment of Marine combat.

One of the founders of Team Darkhorse in 2010, Mike Bland, said he was happy to learn about the council’s intention.

Bland expressed in an email that “seeing all the support that has grown over the years, it warms my heart to see you are considering this memorial.” The email was read during public comments held during the City Council meeting.

The chairwoman of the community support group, Karen Robbins, was also pleased.

“Southern California communities are relatively young and do not have a history of erecting memorials to servicemen or women like may be seen in other states,” Robbins said Thursday, July 11.

She also noted that a memorial which honors the heroics of the 3rd Battalion/5th Marines will be a historical reminder to all people in the city about the dedication and sacrifice of the Marines.

According to Robbins, the said a memorial would have two benefits. First, it would serve as a permanent reminder of the city’s support for the Marines and their families. Second, it would be an opportunity to continue building bonds.

“We would all love to see a permanent memorial to the battalion that will endure well into the future,” Robbins said.

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