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Afghan war claims life of Marine from Queens

A Queens Marine was killed earlier this week in Afghanistan as the fledgling democracy prepared to hold its annual elections, the U.S. Marine Corps. said.

Lance Cpl. Leopold F. Damas, 26, of Floral Park, died Monday during a combat operation in the Helmand province of Afghanistan, according to the Marines.

“It shocked me,” said Master Sgt. Darin Bell, who helped recruit Damas at the Marine’s recruiting station on Jamaica Avenue.

Damas, a Jamaica native, was on his first tour of duty in that country and served as a rifleman Company G, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 3, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, according to the Marines. The Marine, who joined the corps in January 2006, had previously served two tours in Iraq, from March 2007 to September 2007 and July 2008 to February 2009, the Marines said.

He had been in Afghanistan since May, according to the Marines.

Violence from insurgent forces has been on the rise in the last few weeks in the run-up to Thursday’s national elections in Afghanistan.

Bell, who did not serve with Damas, said that he was very enthusiastic about his life as a member of the armed services and always wanted to be a Marine.

“He wanted to get out of New York and do something different,” Bell said.

The sergeant said that Damas would keep in contact with him via his Facebook and MySpace pages, which were filled with photos of his time overseas.

“He hit me up on Facebook and I saw the photos of him in uniform and I was like, ‘Man, he finally made it,’” Bell said.

Bell said that Damas lived with his mother in Jamaica until he enlisted.

Dan Andrews, a spokesman for Borough President Helen Marshall, said that Damas was an alumnus of Newtown High School in Elmhurst.

“On behalf of the people of Queens, I extend condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Lance Cpl. Leopold Damas, who was killed while serving his country in Afghanistan,” Marshall said in a statement.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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