CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Clarke R. Lethin was awarded the Legion of Merit medal, one of the U.S. Navy's highest decorations, June 5 for his actions in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.

Lethin, a native of Salem, served in Afghanistan from Nov. 30 to Feb. 6 as the operations officer for Task Force 58. There he led the planning and execution of landing U.S. Marines in Afghanistan, establishment of a forward operations base at Camp Rhino and the capture of Khandahar Airport.

"Lt. Col. Lethin's superb leadership, dedication to the accomplishment of our mission and tough character directly contributed to the destruction of the Taliban regime," said Brig. Gen. James N. Mattis, commanding general of Task Force 58. "Clarke's a great team player and key member of my staff," Mattis said.

Lethin, son of Ronald and Beverly Lethin of Astoria, graduated from South Salem High School in 1976 and earned a business degree from Oregon State University in 1980. He serves at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton where he lives with his wife and three children.