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Marine Raider killed in Iraq; special operations force member

SSgt Samuel Lecce (U.S. Marine Corps photo/Released)
December 22, 2022

A U.S. Marine assigned to Marine Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC) was killed Monday in Iraq, the U.S. Department of Defense announced on Thursday.

The Marine, identified as Staff Sgt. Samuel D. Lecce, 32, of Jefferson, Tenn., died in an unspecified non-combat related incident. Lecce was deployed in Iraq at the time as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S. military mission to counter the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria.

Lecce was assigned to the 3rd Marine Raider Battalion, Marine Forces Special Operations Command, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

The cause of Lecce’s death remains under investigation at this time.

“Marine Forces Special Operations Command offers our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Staff Sgt. Samuel D. Lecce, as our Marine Raider family mourns his loss,” said Maj. Matthew Finnerty, a MARSOC spokesman.

Marine Raiders have been involved in combat operations throughout Operation Inherent Resolve. Gunnery Sgt. Diego D. Pongo and Capt. Moises A. Navas — Marine Raiders assigned to the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion — were killed while on a mission to clear out an ISIS stronghold in the mountains of central Iraq in March of 2020.

Staff Sgt. Nicholas Jones, who was also assigned to the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion received the Navy Cross for his actions while fighting through the ISIS cave complex in Iraq in March of 2020.

Last year, the U.S. formally ended its combat mission in Iraq, but about 2,500 U.S. troops remain in the country to “advise, assist and enable” Iraqi partner forces that continue to fight ISIS.

U.S. forces assigned to Operation Inherent Resolve continue to carry out some raids targeting specific ISIS leaders. The U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) announced multiple raids in Syria in recent days.

Lecce is one of two members of the U.S. special operations community who is known to have died on Monday, Dec. 19.

On Wednesday, the Naval Special Warfare Command (WARCOM) announced Navy SEAL Team 1, Cmdr. Robert Ramirez III, was found deceased inside his home in San Diego, California. Foul play is not suspected in Ramirez’s death, which is still being investigated by San Diego police, WARCOM told American Military News.