There are #squadgoals, and then there are squad goals — and only one of them includes a potential future accompanied by autonomous murderbots.

Hot on the heels of the Marine Corps's head-to-toe overhaul of infantry rifle squads, a handful of grunts at the Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms, California recently conducted field testing alongside a handful of autonomous robots engineered by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA) Squad X Experimentation program.

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(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

CAMP PENDLETON — Susan and Michael McDowell attended a memorial in June for their son, 1st Lt. Conor McDowell. Kathleen Isabel Bourque, the love of Conor's life, joined them. None of them had anticipated what they would be going through.

Conor, the McDowells' only child, was killed during a vehicle rollover accident in the Las Pulgas area of Camp Pendleton during routine Marine training on May 9. He was 24.

Just weeks before that emotional ceremony, Alexandrina Braica, her husband and five children attended a similar memorial at the same military base, this to honor Staff Sgt. Joshua Braica, a member of the 1st Marine Raider Battalion who also was killed in a rollover accident, April 13, at age 29.

Braica, of Sacramento, was married and had a 4 1/2-month-old son.

"To see the love they had for Josh and to see the respect and appreciation was very emotional," Alexandrina Braica said of the battalion. "They spoke very highly of him and what a great leader he was. One of his commanders said, 'He was already the man he was because of the way he was raised.' As parents, we were given some credit."

While the tributes helped the McDowells and Braicas process their grief, the families remain unclear about what caused the training fatalities. They expected their sons eventually would deploy and put their lives at risk, but they didn't expect either would die while training on base.

"We're all still in denial, 'Did this really happen? Is he really gone?' Braica said. "When I got the phone call, Josh was not on my mind. That's why we were at peace. He was always in training and I never felt that it would happen at Camp Pendleton."

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There I found myself, in the jungle, in a situation I never thought I'd find myself in: Surrounded by signs of impending danger, sitting in control of a 17-ton tank and covered from head to toe in brown, gooey mud.

But it was by my own free will that I put myself in this situation at Tank America in Melbourne. Although it's not far from the family-friendly theme parks of Orlando, this experience appeals to a different kind of audience — you can probably leave the kids at home for this one.

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There's no one path to military service. For some, it's a lifelong goal, for others, it's a choice made in an instant.

For 27-year-old Marine Pvt. Atiqullah Assadi, who graduated from Marine Corps bootcamp on July 12, the decision to enlist was the culmination of a journey that began when he and his family were forced to flee their home in Afghanistan.

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(Associated Press/Michael Casey)

Patrios owner Robert Kraft surprised the Jarheads Motorcycle Club Saturday with a six-figure donation to help the families of the seven motorcyclists who were killed in a crash in New Hampshire last month.

Kraft, who attended the club's gathering in Gillette Stadium, announced the $100,000 donation to the club's GoFundMe campaign, according to reports from WBZ and NBC 10.

The crowdfunding campaign launched earlier this month raised $66,000 in less than a day. As of Saturday afternoon, the campaign has more than $560,000.

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(U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Dalton S. Swanbeck)

LAGUNA HILLS — A plan to create a permanent monument for Camp Pendleton's 3rd Battalion/5th Marines — a unit Laguna Hills adopted in 2008 — is moving forward.

The battalion, known as Darkhorse, is celebrated each year during the city's annual Memorial Day Half Marathon, which raises funds for Team Darkhorse, a community group that supports the battalion's Marines and their families. During the race, banners of the 25 Darkhorse Marines killed during a 2010 deployment to Afghanistan are displayed along the route, on city streets.

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