I have had the great opportunity to meet some of the most noble and patriotic Americans in my life time. My nearly eight years in the Marine Corps have brought me face to face with real heroes.
Part of what I’d like to do is tell you some real stories either witnessed first hand, or when having permission from others, tell their stories. I want you to hear the stories so you all realize what the cost of liberty is.
This story will take us back to this date in 2005 (October 2nd). This is a firsthand account from my squad MAP (Mobile Assault Platoon) 3 Bravo, Weapons Company, Second Battalion, Seventh Marine Regiment. This is my account of the day, and is accurate to the best of my recollection and journals kept.
October was the first time I remember ever needing anything more than a poncho liner when I slept outside the wire. Had to finally upgrade to my green add sleeping bag. The air was crisp and clean, a slight amount of frost collecting in the shadows.
We’d been off base patrolling now for about four days, moving to various sites to establish patrol bases in and around the city of Fallujah. Like every morming, we wake up just before dawn as the sky starts to lighten.
I shave the stubble that has accumulated overnight, splashing my face with the ice cold water. It wakes me up and I shiver slightly as a breeze kicks up and gently brushes my faces.
Chow is simple, grab a plastic brown bag from the cardboard box, and pray it’s not Country Captain Chicken. I’m lucky this morning, I pulled Chili Mac.
There is not much time to eat this morning, as I can tell by Sergeant Frank’s irritation. Based on his demeanor, we just got frag orders to move to a new location ASAP.
I quickly eat, and take my position on,the Browning M2 50 caliber machine gun atop my Humvee. I get the morning report from Felt as we switch out.
I buckle my helmet and wait for the news.
Sergeant Frank gives me the news that a body has been called in, and we happen to be the closest squad. As the squad’s navigator, I take down the grid coordinates, and plug them into my GPS, after wrapping that up, I pull the map to plot: bad news. We’re heading into cowboy country.
The grid given me puts us near Ameriya, just outside one of the small rural hamlets on the outskirts. The road we’d have to take, Route Iron, is notoriously littered with roadside bombs, and the specific town (I cannot recall the name), is not a terribly coalition friendly neighborhood.
Sergeant Frank briefs the rest of the guys, and we mount up and roll out. It only takes us twenty minutes to get to the right location (you don’t go slowly on Iron).
Sure enough, as reported, we find the lifeless body of a young Iraqi male. Couldn’t have been much older than me at the time, 19 or 20 I suppose. With his hi-top sneakers, and blue jeand, we find a note. Unfortunately whoever wrote it chose not to use English, but since this was the fourth body our squad recovered, we had a good idea what the note said.
We load the young man onto our Humvee in a body bag, an I radio into battalion for HET’s (Human Exploitation Team) location. We’re advised to make our way to FOB (Forward Operating Base) Black. HET was with Fox Company today.
We make it all the way back to the edge of Fallujah without meeting resistance, my supposition being that the insurgents are sleeping in today.
The note, once translated by HET, confirms our suspicion: the young man was executed by Al Queada for assisting American forces. Such a shame.
We take his body to the morgue at Fallujah General Hospital, and fill out everything we are able with the staff to help them identify the young man’s family. Luckily this time he had an identification card, so it would make it much easier.
My heart breaks slightly for the family to this young man I’d never met. He was only trying to do the right thing, and was brutally murdered for it; shot execution style.
I help the orderlies get the body into the cooler of the morgue, and am again saddened by what I see: dozens of bodies, some without body bags, on tables and storage racks, many with shrapnel wounds (likely from a string of suicide bombings earlier that week).
I give what bags I have in my truck to the orderlies and they give me a “shoe kran” (thank you) and get to work bagging.
Back on patrol I can get my mind off that morgue. The evil that was done to women, children, and old folk just buying groceries at the market. The irritability lasts throughout the day.
The events of finding that young man, and visiting that morgue still have a way of haunting me. The cruelty perpetrated by the insurgent factions in our area were utterly horrific.
I am proud to have served with such wonderful people, and met many amazing Iraqis as well. There were many in our area willing to help, and many who felt America was good for being there to help them rebuild many things destroyed by the regime of Saddam Hussein.
It was the foreign Jihadists we were usually fighting. I cannot even begin to remember ever nationality discovered on Intel searches of passports and ID cards after a fight.
I wish I could have done more to help those people. I know with all My heart we were there for a good reason. I pray I helped show that there is goodness an strength in America. Where even though we were at war, we still showed compassion, respect, and understanding.
War is Hell, but I’d go there again to secure liberty for Americans, and help show what freedom is to those who may have never tasted its sweet bounty.