The first Marine death of the Iraq war has been avenged, 13 years later

The remains of slain Lance Cpl. Antonio Sledd are honored at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, on the way to Florida.

It took 13 years, but according to the Pentagon, the U.S. military has killed the man responsible for the murder of a Marine who’s considered the first American casualty of the Iraq war.

Lance Corporal Antonio “Tony” Sledd was 20-years-old when he died on Oct. 8, 2002, on an island 20 miles east of Kuwait City in the Persian Gulf.

He was one of about 150 Marines from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit on Faylaka Island, practicing urban warfare to prepare for the conflict, which was five months away.

Officials say Sledd was killed by a pair of Kuwaitis who had infiltrated a U.S. military training exercise in a truck and opened fire with their AK-47s, according to a Time Magazine article.

Lance Cpl. Antonio Sledd
Lance Cpl. Antonio Sledd

“The killers gunned down Sledd during a break in the training as he readied a makeshift baseball diamond, echoing the sport he played as a youngster in Florida,” the article said.

The U.S. military says 34-year-old Muhsin al-Fadhli, played a role in Sledd’s killing. And the Pentagon has confirmed that al-Fadhli was killed in a drone strike on July 8th, as he was traveling in northwestern Syria.

Al-Fadhli — the leader of a network of veteran al-Qaeda operatives — was “among the few” al Qaeda leaders who “received advance notification” of the 9/11 attacks before they happened, according to the Pentagon.

Antonio's memorial
Antonio Sledd’s Memorial

Sledd’s parents were upset that their son died amid armed Marines in an allied nation. “Security perimeters were not set up, and that is why he lost his life,” his mother said. “There’s no way civilians should have been in that area where Tony was,” Tom Sledd told the Orlando Sentinel shortly after his son’s death.

“Marines can be as tough as woodpecker lips, and I thought he was going to live,” his first sergeant said after seeing him just before the rescue chopper lifted off, bound for a military hospital.

Antonio Sledd & Mike Zerby
Antonio Sledd & Mike Zerby

“He squeezed my hand as hard as any healthy Marine could do.” Sledd died during surgery.



  • Michele graduated with a B.S. in Telecommunication from the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications. She has spent numerous years working in the news industry in south Florida, including many positions ranging from being a news writer at WSVN, the Fox affiliate in Miami to being an associate news producer at WPLG-TV, the ABC affiliate in Miami. Michele has also worked in Public Relations and Marketing.

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