Sgt Grit AmericanCourage Newsletter

Sgt. Grit,

I'm the proud mom of a US Marine. I first found out about your newsletters about a year and a half ago. I like to share a little about my Marine - Cpl. David A. Bass.
Similar to others, he was given a hard time for enlisting in the Marine Corps. After a while he got tired of listening to the remarks and his standard reply became "That's okay...It takes people like me who are willing to go fight so people like you can protest." That quote is now on his headstone. He died in Iraq on April 2, 2006. The infamous church protestors were at his funeral and David's words kept ringing in my ears. I'm so thankful for him and all of our other Marines - our lives in this country would be so much different if it weren't for all of you. Thanks for letting me share, Proud Marine Mom

Tammy Delle, M.A.

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This is absolutely hilarious! A former Marine goes undercover as a hippie reporter interviewing protestors in Berkeley (watch his facial expressions as he tries to control his raging desire to strangle these pukes). It really highlights the idiocy and ignorance of insignificant & cowardly anti-American groups of buffoons like code pink. Act your age grandma! These nasty, ridiculous looking middle-aged women look like escapees from the local funny farm. What a bunch of washed up, 1960's throwbacks that still live in an LSD-induced fantasy world and still haven't grown up--or showered yet. You'll love it!

Chris Pangalos

My husband was a US Marine (still is)...LOL...and my youngest son was a son and daughter-in-law came home last week to find the flag of the mailbox up...but they had not mailed anything....their 7 year old son told them he had mailed a postcard from a magazine, and had put the flag son investigated, and found, ready to be posted, if they hadn't found it first, a post card our grand son TJ had filled out to "join" the Marines.....complete with his name, address, and "last grade completed in school"....FIRST GRADE ! They got a real chuckle out of this...needless to say the chuckle if the Marine Recruiter had gotten it....LOL....Sandy Grubbs, Va (Marine wife and mother)

SSgt Dague and his wife As most of you know, my Marine recently re-upped, quite to a shocked mother's mind and heart. In a telephone call from my Marine, SSGT. currently serving his 4th tour in Iraq, he and I further discussed his choice. I am VERY PROUD to say that my son is a very wise man who had taken a good long look at the prices of things today, the current status of employment/or lack thereof, the benefits available to himself, his wife, and his one year old son. These things, discussed btn husband and wife, led to their decision.

I admit that I was so very hopeful that he was finally going to get out. I haven't seen him in 3 years, I've never met his wife, I've never seen my grandson. All in all, I'm sure we'll make some type of arrangements for me to get to see them all again once he returns stateside and gets settled once again.

SSGT Currently on his 4th tour of Iraq He will, most likely, after returning stateside, go to either 29 Palms or Yuma and become an instructor. His plans are for staying in the Corps for his 20 years in. Come Dec. this year he will have already served 9 of those years.

I am very proud of the man whom I call son! Any and all that know him should and would, say the same. He has the fortitude and strength and has answered this country's call for duty in several very wonderful ways. I commend him and respect, yes...even AGREE drat it, with his decision and that of his wife.

Daughter in the USN My daughter is still in the USN also. She was due to finish up this year also. As of yet I'm unsure if she'll walk in her brother's shoes or decide to leave the USN. I know that she has certainly enjoyed the traveling to numerous countries. If I'm the mother I think I am, she too, will re-up. She follows in her brother's shoe steps more than either one of them will ever admit!

Yes, and "poor mom" is RIGHT! Shame on my off-spring for giving me these gray hairs! lolol

Note from Sgt Grit:
Ever notice how Marines have outstanding wives and girlfriends.
Just a simple observation after years of doing this newsletter.
Semper Fi
Sgt Grit

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"The public cannot be too curious concerning the characters of public men."
Samuel Adams

Dear Sgt Grit:
As the daughter, daughter-in-law, wife, and mother, as well as sister-in-law of Marines I can't say enough for your newsletter.

As you can tell I am VERY proud of All of my men. Daddy was a China Marine then on Corregidor when it was captured, in the Batan Death March, and in Japan for 3 1/2 years as a POW. He also served in Korea among other places in his 20 years service. My Father-in-law served in Haiti among other places in his 6 years of service. My Brother-in-law served in the Pacific on Float and was in for 4 years.

My DH (Dear Hubby) served stateside at Pendleton and Mare Island in his 4 years of service (I am just as proud of him just because he is still in his heart a MARINE ( at 72 and going). My son was in quite a few places in the Pacific on Float as well as Camp Pendleton and Camp Lejeune NC. in his 8 1/2 years in the Marines. I have always felt privileged to be a Marine Brat, and my service related background. Thank you for the wonderful newsletter and keeping me in the loop.

June Edwards
Marine Family member for 68 years

Marine Sgt from World War II Brothers Rockenstire Dear Sgt. Grit,
This is the second letter to you. I wrote about my two sons serving in the Marine Corps at the same time this past summer. Well one is out and my youngest is at Camp Lejeune. We were able to visit with him in January but it was a bittersweet visit. His grandfather, my father, passed away on January 25, the same morning my son, Johnny returned from his MEU. He was on the USS Gunston Hall. His brother Jerry contacted the Red Cross and they were able to get the message to the proper authority. He was allowed a ten day emergency leave. My father was a Sgt. in the Marine Corps during WWII. I miss my dad very much, but I do know he was so proud that his grandsons became Marines and I am too. They were both in uniform at his funeral and I couldn't have been more proud.

All you young Marines out there, be very proud of the service you do for this great country of ours. There will always be people who look down on you but nothing can take away your pride. I am so proud to be the daughter of a Marine and a mom of two Marines. Semper Fi all of you and God bless you.

Jean in Schenectady, NY
Mom of LCpl Johnny T. Rockenstire and his veteran brother Cpl Jerry J. Rockenstire

Dear Sgt. Grit:

My favorite George Bernard Shaw quote states: "Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve."

With that preface, I should like to issue a call to action to all my fellow Leathernecks, Jarheads, Devil Dogs, Ground Pounders, Wing Wipers, Remington Raiders, and Cannon Cockers. Get out and vote.

Make it count, Marines. Your patriotism is beyond reproach, and you have proved you love our country beyond all doubt: whether you believe "United States" is singular or plural. Maybe your great-grand-daddy wore blue, or wore gray. Maybe your family just got off the boat a couple of years ago, or maybe they got off the boat in 1620. Maybe they were on the beach watching the Mayflower drop anchor. You are all Americans and your votes are needed; they are based on deep conviction. Your convictions, moreover, are not just a passing fancy foisted through the media by the "Cause of the Month Club."

We're all familiar by now with Leonidas and his three hundred Spartans. We've watched movies about the Pass of Thermopylae, we've read about their warrior society, and their brotherhood of arms. We might have missed, however, the story of their bicameral legislature, their Constitution, and their history of Democracy: which some claim predates the Athenian model by at least a century. Marines: there lies our political grandfather. For us, like the Spartans, it's not just a right to vote, it's our sacred duty. The Spartans were a warrior society too, and their citizens ran their government. You Marines of the feminine gender take note: their women were cast in the Marine mold as well. They went to school, participated in sports, owned property, spoke their mind, and could kick butt with the best of their men. It is tantalizing to imagine a hundred-thousand of you ladies squaring away a country which denies women their basic rights and freedoms. (I digress.)

I'd be the last to say that a Marine who fails to exercise this right has forfeited his right to gripe. However, I'd feel distinctly silly myself complaining about the results of an election in which I failed to participate. Now some critics might ask me: "So how do you think I aught to vote?" My answer is always: "That's for you and your conscience to decide." Just remember, we're all sworn to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies: foreign and domestic. Keep that foremost in your decision-making process.

To conclude: get to the polls, bring your neighbors and co- workers with you, and instill this fervor toward Democracy in your children and grand children.

K. Brown

"In reality there is perhaps no one of our natural Passions so hard to subdue as Pride. Disguise it, struggle with it, beat it down, stifle it, mortify it as much as one pleases, it is still alive, and will now and then peek out and show itself."
Benjamin Franklin

On Saturday 01-March-08 at 11:00 35 plus of the most wonderful group of men and women assembled to send SSGT David H. Godair WW-II veteran and Ex-POW to his final resting place.

The day was a beautiful late winter morning with a high Bluebird sky, the ride Captain Bill Hunt met with my wife and me and explained what was going to take place and thanked us for the honor to escort her father to his final resting place.

After a ride meeting we formed up for the 30 minute ride, as we pulled out of the parking lot construction workers on the building across the street stopped working and came to the edge of the roof, removed their hard hats and paid their respects to a true American hero.

At the cemetery we were met by two uniformed USAF Base Honor Guards standing tall and saluting our car that carried the ashes for SSGT Godair, they stood tall and proud never faltering from their positions until his ashes were handed off to the funeral director and at that time they returned their salute made an about face and escorted his ashes to the grave site where they stood guard at attention on either side of the grave.

The PGR had formed a flag line that lined by this time around the tent and down the path to the grave site. Pastor Ron Beaver gave the eulogy, in the distance a bagpiper played, he was not a part of our service but began playing at the right moment, it was VERY moving. When the pipes ended the three Marines from the Marine Corps League fired a nine gun salute followed by Taps. After the Honor Guard folded and presented my wife with the flag, Bill Hunt came over and knelt down in front of her and presented her with a plaque and PGR pins for both of us, these pins will ALWAYS be worn with pride and gratitude for the PGR, those present and all PGR members no matter where they live and ride.

I'm not ashamed to say that this old hard hearted Marine had tears in eyes at the site of perfect strangers rallying to be with the family during a hard time and letting them know, your loved one will not be disgraced, no one will dishonor them or the country they loved and defended, not on our watch.

I wish I could get the names of all the riders there to thank them in person but to my Great Friend and Brother Mark Pappalardo, Mark words can not do justice but I know you know what our friendship means to me and Betty, Bill Hunt, what can I say you sir will also have a special place in our hearts.

To our friends that attended our heartfelt thanks goes out to each of you for being there to support the family during this difficult time it meant a lot to us having you there.

Dave your watch here is over, now rest with knowing that the freedom you fought for is in good hands and that the Brave men and women of the PGR will stand watch over their homecoming.

Thank you all no matter where you call home you my friends are hero's to the family of SSGT David H. Godair,

L/Cpl Michael C. Lange
USMC 1971-1973 RVN 1972

"He who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and a third time, till at length it becomes habitual; he tells lies without attending to it, and truths without the world's believing him."
Thomas Jefferson

The other day in the supermarket, I was wearing a Marine Corps t-shirt when young lady stopped me and thanked me for my service. I thought she had confused me with the fresh produce guy stocking out apples. I continued shopping and thinking why did she thank me? Then I realized it was for my military service. So I found her and told her of my confusion and thanked her for recognizing my service. Her boyfriend is a former Ranger and always thanks other vets, since she was alone she decided to do the same. My service was long ago in the peace of the late '70's, and it is obvious I am too your for Viet Nam and too old to be serving lately. But other than other Marines, no one has ever thanked me for my service. That really made my day.


I am the proud mother of an active duty Marine and also a part of a great organization here in Ohio - Marine Corps Family Support Community. It is due to something that came to our attention at MCFSC that I am writing. It seems that some of our Marines are now receiving photographs of their family homes - many times with the family present in the photo - marked with Arabic words. This apparently is the newest form of terrorism against our military, and most of it is coming from terrorist "hackers" getting the Marine's personal info and that of his family from things innocently put on the Internet.

Our group formerly had photos of our Marines in an honor gallery. Most of these photos had info about the Marine and his/her family. We have now deleted this information from our site, but I wonder how many others there might be out there. I thought that your newsletter might be a good way to inform a vast number of Marines and their families. I would even go so far as to advise that any Marine or his/her family member consider changing their e-mail addresses if their address includes an "identifying" factor within the address. (ie: last names, city of origin, etc.) Many of the families within our group have already considered this threat to some extent and are very careful to not include last names, stations, etc in their e-mails to or about their Marine; but many of these same families had not considered the fact that their last name is very evident within their e-mail address!

It is unfortunate that we PROUD families have to consider these things and must to some extent "curb our enthusiasm" for our Marine, but their safety is (as it should be) our first priority! If our Marines are distracted by their concern for their families, this could mean the difference between life and death for them. I believe there was a quote from a Marine Wife recently in one of your newsletters about "loose lips sinking ships", well we as the extended family of a Marine must make this our mantra too!

Marines regardless of their "security" potential, should consider deleting any and all specific identification information on web sites such as MySpace or Facebook, etc. The info that MCFSC received indicated that these type of sites are where these terrorists are getting a lot of their information.

Again, use this letter only if you feel it appropriate. You can sign me,

A Concerned Marine Mom


"A general dissolution of principles and manners will more surely overthrow the liberties of America than the whole force of the common enemy. While the people are virtuous they cannot be subdued; but when once they lose their virtue then will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader."
Samuel Adams

I read the post from HN Kiser stating that the recruits are in good hands while training at Parris Island. My daughter left for Parris Island in August '07. She had a preexisting ankle injury, which continues to give her trouble. She spent as much time in FRP as she did with her platoon(s). She was determined NOT to come home until she was a Marine. She graduated from Parris Island on February 29, 2008 as a Private First Class. She was on crutches from yet another injury from the final hike on the crucible and therefore, not allowed to march at graduation. I am so proud of her! I want to thank the Navy Corpsman at Parris Island. She is not 100% yet, but continues to follow the advice given while in FRP.

Thank you,
Proud Marine Mom of PFC K N Smith

Dear Sgt Grit...

Today our 12 year old daughter took a day trip to Berkeley, CA as part of a class trip. They were given a tour of the campus by a student, at the end of the tour, their guide asked if there were any questions. Our daughter asked if the students at UC Berkley supported the town in their vote to remove the US Marine Recruiting Office. The student replied, "We don't support war here at Berkley". Our daughter, in front of all her teachers and fellow students of her 7th grade class, replied "I was just curious, because my dad is an officer in the United States Marine Corps and is currently fighting in Iraq for your freedom"! Her father was reinstated back into the Marines after an 18 years break in service and holds the record for the longest break in service for an officer and was brought back in at his old rank of Captain. He is currently the oldest Captain in the United States Marine Corps at the young age of 48! I as his wife, and our four children support him and his fellow Marines in their fight in this global war on terror.

Proud of my daughter and proud of her daddy!

Semper Fi,

Kim Slatic
wife of
Quinn Slatic, age 12
and Capt Terrence Slatic
1/10 4th LAR C Co
Camp Fallujah, Iraq

"I own myself the friend to a very free system of commerce, and hold it as a truth, that commercial shackles are generally unjust, oppressive and impolitic - it is also a truth, that if industry and labour are left to take their own course, they will generally be directed to those objects which are the most productive, and this in a more certain and direct manner than the wisdom of the most enlightened legislature could point out."
James Madison

Hello, I'd like to respond to Marine Mom to Be from your last newsletter regarding college kids and Marines. My son is both and I have to object to the caricature she paints of college students. My son is a LCPL in the Marine Reserves facing an upcoming deployment. He went through MCRD Parris Island last summer, missed the Fall semester and will miss 2 or three upcoming ones due to his deployment, graduating years later then if he did not join the Marines. He is an Civil Engineering Honor Society member and has a future in that career full of a great deal of promise. He joined the Marines because "I have to be ready if my country needs me".
Does he party? He sure as h&ll does! Show me a Marine who doesn't!

I realize that your son had a bad experience defending his choice but many college kids respect that choice. Please don't disparage all college students dismissing them as party fools not making the most out of themselves. I couldn't be more proud of my son. For all his accomplishments he has chosen to put his career on hold and serve his country. He and all other military men and women do have the back of us all, God bless them. But, guess what, college students have their place in this world too. And those that do both, well, thank God there are some who do.

I understand your pride, Marine Mom to Be, and your belief that your son is heads above those selfish college kids. Just please give that opinion a second thought. My son will fight side by side with yours and then go back to college and serve his country in a different but very important way.

God Bless your son for his choice to serve.

Very Proud Marine Mom

I am a former Marine Drill Instructor 57 through 59, Sea School Instructor 59 through 60, State Police Officer, and Member of an Arizona Congressional Staff in the 70's, and most recently, a member of the Attorney Generals Civil Rights Division in Northern Arizona. I served in 3/5 in Korea in 1953.

My wife is Navajo, and we received an invitation from a member of the Flagstaff Union High School to attend a School Board Meeting! I wondered "why"? We went, and sat respectfully listening to the various speakers. A woman professor from Northern Arizona University spoke about Marine Recruiters coming to the Campus, and protested it, attesting to the fact that "her family were settlers" in Arizona. I sat, patiently, with the blood boiling in my 73 year old body!

I asked to speak, and told the story of young men of my era, who welcomed the Marines, because we knew of their proud history during the battles in the South Pacific, (in my time), I looked at my wife and spoke of the Navajo Code Talkers, and that many of the Navajo served proudly, only to return to the United States, following that war, "not to be able to vote until 1947" (two years after that war), and that we served "so that the professor might protest", and then I closed saying....."In regards to your family being settlers here", (I pointed to my wonderful wife) and said, "they too thought they were settlers".

As I walked out the door, my wife and I received the gratitude of the High School Principal and Superintendent of Public Schools who invited us.

Semper Fi-
Former Marine Sgt.(E-5) Richard A. Stauffer-Flagstaff, Arizona

"What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure."
Thomas Jefferson

Hi Sgt Grit

I was browsing and came across your site. It seems to be a great place to connect with other Marine families. My Brother Henry was Killed 03-22-2007 in Fallujah Iraq. It was his second deployment to Iraq and I never dreamed he wouldn't come back to us. It's going to be a year this month and it seems as painful as it was the morning we got the visit from his fellow Marines. Everyday I wonder who is getting that visit today?. My brother was a good guy who loved to race and enjoyed life to the fullest. We didn't have an easy time of it growing up and the Marines gave him the brotherhood I think he had craved all his life. He was proud to be a Marine and now we have to be proud for him. He laid down the ultimate sacrifice.. His Life... I want to extend a thank you to all of our troops and their families who live with this fear everyday for your dedication and service. For all of the Families out there who have already lost your loved one(s) I am so sorry. Give them the Honor they deserve and never FORGET. Freedom Isn't Free my brother always said and I have to realize that this is what he meant.

Thank you
Jackie B.

" imperfect plan implemented immediately and violently will always succeed better than a perfect plan."
General George S. Patton

Just writing to let you know about something that happened this weekend that the djs were talking about on the radio this morning as I was coming into work. Country singer Jason Michael Carroll performed the national anthem at the NASCAR race this weekend here in Atlanta. They always try to time the song with the jets that fly overhead. The producer of the event told him to just watch him and he would tell him if he needed to speed up or slow down. Jason Carroll told him that if that was the case then he needed to stand at the back of the stage rather than the front because as an ex Marine he would be FACING the FLAG (and not the crowd) with his hand over his heart as he sang. Don't you wish everyone did that now a days.
Have a good day

"In the supposed state of nature, all men are equally bound by the laws of nature, or to speak more properly, the laws of the Creator."
Samuel Adams

My son is going on his first deployment on the day before Easter. He will be in Iraq and I would appreciate your prayers. To all the veterans out there- THANK YOU!
I understand what a sacrifice you made to keep America free and to deliver other countries from oppression. I know that my son, who is a Marine, joined the Corps because he knows that freedom is not free. Again, thank you, veterans. Semper Fi! Proud Maine Mom in South Carolina.

I was in the Marines from 1972-1976, mostly at Camp Lejeune. My MOS, not that it matters, was 3051 General Warehouseman. After being at Lejeune for 6 months, the Co. Gunny asked me if I wanted to be his new Co. driver. I said sure and off I went to get my govt. license. I enjoyed what I did in the Corps. No thought to MOS or anything else. "I WAS A MARINE!" And I still feel that way.

Now some 30+ years later, I am serving the USAF as a Jet Engine Repairer. Supporting the war fighter by repairing and building Jet Engines at Tinker AFB. I take tremendous PRIDE in being a MARINE and in doing my job for the military as a civilian now.

We are ALL Marines, No matter WHAT MOS!

"Stability in government is essential to national character and to the advantages annexed to it, as well as to that repose and confidence in the minds of the people, which are among the chief blessings of civil society."
James Madison

SGT Grit,

I served in the Marine Reserves from 1981 to 1987 and again in 1990 to 1991 when my son was just a year old.

Although I am very proud of my service and the Corps for the life-long changes in me, my desire for my son would be to enter college after high school. Well, my son was not the academic in high school (similar to his dad) and in his senior year he decided that we would enter into the delayed enlistment program for the United States Marine Corps (also similar to his dad).

My family had the honor of driving to MCRD in San Diego to witness his becoming a Marine and graduating from boot camp the day before his eighteenth birthday.

I brought the ribbon car magnet with me that said "Proud Parent of a Marine" and put it on my car the day he received his Eagle, Globe, and Anchor. Dad was beaming with pride!

My son traveled back with us in the car for his 10 days of leave. He helped me wash the bugs off the car when I noticed that the "Proud Parent of a Marine" magnet was replaced with the "Marines" version. When I asked my son about it he said, "Dad you and I are Marines!"

While I still desire that my son would someday graduate from college (similar to his dad), him and I share this common bond and I couldn't be more proud.

Proud Marine and Parent of a Marine!

Sgt DuBord

The Ultimate Gift

As I approach my 68th birthday I realize what the ultimate gift is that we have been given by The Corps.

After leaving the Reserves as a Staff Sergeant I settled into my life and my Marine experience slipped back to a good memory.

Then came 9/11. I immediately got on the web to see what the Corps needed. Basically nothing from a 61 year old. But since I was in Boston when that happened and couldn't fly back to DC that weekend, I was on one of the first flights out after air traffic started up again.

I was seated on an aisle seat, forward in the aircraft, and although 61, I also was also 6'3" and weighed 240 pounds. As I thought that any hijacking jerks would have to come through me I remembered that I was still a Marine.

That was when I realized what 'once a Marine always a Marine meant'.

So what's the gift?

As I approach retirement and hear about how so many lose their identity anchor because they no longer have their work, I feel blessed because I know who I am.

I am a Marine. I will be one until the day that I die. I will live the values. I will live with honor. I will live with the pride of being a Marine.

And I can share that with my brothers and sisters in the Marine Corps League.

So for all of us, we know who we are and we derive our identity not from what we do to earn a living, but from what we became when we earned the EGA.

That's The Corp's gift to us.

Semper Fi to all my brothers and sisters

Stirling Rasmussen
SSgt, USMCR, 1963 - 1969

"We should never despair, our Situation before has been unpromising and has changed for the better, so I trust, it will again. If new difficulties arise, we must only put forth new Exertions and proportion our Efforts to the exigency of the times."
George Washington

My son, Sgt Richard J Hernandez is coming home from Iraq. This was his third deployment. I am so proud of his commitment to our country. He will be returning to San Diego early May. My daughter-in-law, Jennifer, his daughter, Serenity and I will there to welcome him. May God bless all our Marines and soldiers for their service to our country.


Thank you for writing your letter about your encounter with a Marine in the Meijer parking lot! It was VERY moving! I'm a Proud Marine Mama, and I too "salute" you for your continued support of all our military! Unlike you, I do not have American Flags on my car any longer - some "you know what" stole my 12" flag magnets off my car sometime in 03 (they'd been on my car since shortly after 9/11.) Since then I've not been able to afford to replace them. I DO proudly display MANY Marine Corps decals and stickers on our vehicles, and I can't tell you how exciting it is for me to see others with similar displays. In fact, my husband thinks I've lost my mind when I "race" up to a car that displays a USMC sign of some form or another, just to wave and give a thumbs up! Most of the folks receiving this "salute" probably think I've lost it too, but to me it's a simple way to say, "Thanks, hang in there, Semper Fi!" My Marine son says I need an anti-moto pill immediately! LOL! I have a friend that actually "stalked" a lady in the Wal-Mart parking lot simply to say hello and introduce herself, because she'd seen the woman's sticker stating she was a proud Marine Mom! LOL!

To those who display their pride in our military (all branches) I say THANK YOU! Many of our troops need to know that we still support them! I don't know enough about web sites, computers, etc, to do it myself, but I'd just LOVE to see someone come up with a site that people could upload photos of support that our troops could access! (Being careful to avoid license plates, and other personal info, of course!) I know from the Marine Corps sites that I visit many of our troops need to be reminded that despite the intel they might hear, MOST OF AMERICA still supports them!

Thanks Pam for your continued support and thank you to all others like Pam!

Lora W.
Proud Marine Mom

"There is no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never care for anything else thereafter..."
Ernest Hemingway

Sent: Tuesday, March 11, 2008 8:51 AM
Subject: Letter From Al Anbar 8 Feb 08 1640Hrs

USMC Letter From IRAQ

Well we've all arrived safe and sound, and have all but taken responsibility for our little piece of the Global war on Terrorism. The Economics and Governance (BG Wiley Post), Wing (BG Tex Alles), MLG (BG Bob Ruark), and GCE (BG Rich Mills) have already taken over, and I will complete the set and take the reins from my good friend MajGen Walt Gaskin tomorrow in a ceremony that will be attended by all the local gentry to include Generals Petraeus and Odnierno. There will also be sheiks from every tribe in the province, and the local civic leadership as well. If you count every soldier, sailor airmen and Marine in I MEF (Forward), or Multi-National Force - Iraq (MNF-I) as we will be known tomorrow, we are 33,000 strong, 25,000 or whom are Marines. Throw in the two Iraqi Army divisions and the police, and, well you get the point.

For most this is the first deployment to Iraq, but luckily we have a pretty good percentage that are second and even third time offenders to show the new folks how to settle in, find a rack and the mess hall, and deal with the desert. Nothing illustrates this better - the vets helping the "boots" - than last night when we had a series of resounding "booms" in the camp. The new guys sat bolt upright with eyes wide indicating their concern until the "old timers," most in their late teens or early 20s, of course, confidently settled the issue by declaring "out going," and everything went back to normal. The very good news is we will seldom hear booms of any kind as the province is a vastly different place than it was even a year ago. Dangerous still, but nothing like it was when any of us were here last. By the way the food is great, plenty of hot water even for the grunts when can convince them to come in from patrol and ambush duties, and the temperatures are wonderfully cold something we will all look back on nostalgically in May.

On a personal note I am privileged to be here, even if it is for the third lengthy tour, and I say this for a number of different reasons, not the least of which is the opportunity again to serve with young Americans, the best of their generation, in combat. A second reason is there is no greater honor for any man or woman than to protect one's country in time of grave danger, while wearing the nation's cloth.

Finally, I do not think there can be anything more gratifying on this earth for an American than to participate in the freeing of a people from the grip of a tyrant, then helping that same people realize the benefits of democracy. Actually to exercise the God given rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

I have been away for three years. What I have found in the week I have been back can only be described as shocking. When I was here last dozens of IEDs detonated everyday in Al Anbar. Fire fights were as common as IEDs, and mortar and rocket attacks a nightly routine. The emirs of al Qaeda and other equally murderous groups predicted our imminent defeat as they pursued a sick form of extremism no rational man or woman here, or anyplace else, could fathom. Many in our own country for any number of reasons began to lose faith, but the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who fought our enemy to a standstill never doubted or wavered in their determination to win.

Several days ago I walked through the market section of Fallujah. It was bustling with Iraqis of all ages buying and selling products of every description. Adults waved, pressed forward to shake hands, and many like good businessmen everywhere tried to make a sale. Kids swarmed around the Marines trying out the few English words they have learned in schools that are all now open. Parents no longer fear to send their boys and girls to learn, a practice that under the extremists was often a death sentence.

When I last visited that city it was the most dangerous place on earth.

It was a gunfight going in, and a gunfight coming out everyday. The majority of the city's population lived in stark terror from the most evil men on the planet. It was the same then in Ramadi, Haditha, and all the way along the Euphrates River Valley to the Syrian border, but no longer. Like Fallujah the schools are open, markets thrive, and post-war recovery gains momentum across al Anbar. This war is not won, but is being won and today primarily by the Iraqis themselves. Al Qaeda is not defeated, but it is on the ropes. Its membership knows that if they are foolish enough to come out of the holes they hide in, they will not only meet tough young Americans standing firm and unafraid, but also Iraqi police and soldiers in vastly increased numbers and effectiveness.

Iraq is still a dangerous place, but nothing like it was only a short time ago. We should see this thing through because it's the right thing to do, the American thing to do, and we have the new "Greatest Generation" in just enough numbers willing to give up the comfort of their homes and defend us all while spreading freedom to a people who have never know it.

In closing, one of the things that strike me most at times of turnover like we are executing right now with II MEF (Forward) is the power of the Marine Corps. With one boot camp experience for every enlisted Marine regardless of gender or MOS making them all riflemen first, and one officer training experience at TBS making every second lieutenant an infantry platoon leader, again, first and regardless of eventual MOS, we are one huge family. The Iraqis say tribe, and that is how they view us. It doesn't matter what MEF or duty assignment we come from, we all speak the same language, hold the same views about service to country, and have the finest and most dedicated NCOs, SNCOs, and officers in the United States Armed Forces. We have families that support this craziness year after year, a sacrifice few Americans outside the Corps can even imagine. We also have a secret weapon upon which all else rests. Our weapon, the secret of who your loved ones are, is a spirit and an esprit that arms Marines of all ages with a willingness-no an enthusiasm-to go out into the dark and dangerous night and drive convoys to distant locations, fly aircraft through hostile skies, or patrol the streets bravely hunting the nation's enemies. We never worry about our backs, because other Marines and our precious Navy Docs are covering.

We don't worry if we will be left behind and forgotten, because we all know Marines don't do that. It doesn't matter what foolishness we might hear in the newspapers or on TV about those who doubt the mission, we don't. So please stay together, stay engaged, and do not worry as we will watch out for each other here in Iraq, as you should support each other home in the States. Also, do not forget the legions of retired and former Marines who want to help in the worst way. We who serve today stand on their shoulders, and they will do anything for you. We thank you all for what you do, for your patience, and for your love.

Semper Fi

Major General John F. Kelly
Commanding General, Multi National Force - West __,_._,___

"I have only two men out of my company and 20 out of some other company. We need support, but it is almost suicide to try to get it here as we are swept by machine gun fire and a constant barrage is on us. I have no one on my left and only a few on my right. I will hold."

--1st. Lt. Clifton B. Cates, MOH, (later Commandant), USMC, July 19, 1918 commanding 96 Company, 6th Marines, near the French town of Soissons.

A Table in the Presence COMMENT : An awesome book. It's so unbelievable that I almost believe it's a fictional book but he has the pictures to prove it! I've given it to a mother in our Marine Mom's group to read so that she can get "a feel" for the "esprit de corps" that the Marines have for one another. I tried to tell her, being a former woman Marine myself, but I feel this book does a much better job. I also am thankful that our prayers were answered in a mighty way by our Mighty God. The author does a great job taking us through the lives of the "grunt" Marines and making them our Marines.

Dear Marines,

I worked nights as a waitress, paying my way through college, in Honolulu during the early 80s. Between work and school, I didn't have much time to meet other people, and my family was thousands of miles away. Several Marines frequented the bar, and one GySgt. of a Marine sniper platoon, Larry Hatfield, sensed my shyness and invited me to participate in a lot of Marine recreational events. We became close friends, but I could never understand how a person could look through a scope and willingly kill another human being. As a Quaker, the very concept of a sniper troubled me. I was raised that killing is always wrong - period. I often told him, and the other guys in the sniper platoon, my opinion on this. They usually remained silent on the subject.

As time went by, I lost contact with the Marines I knew from that sniper platoon, but I was privileged, later on, to be invited to produce tours as a volunteer (USO/AFE) for Marines on various bases overseas. Those of you who have met USO/AFE entertainers know that we are nowhere near the combat zones, and are in fact well-insulated from the horrors of war. We have fun entertaining you; we love eating with you at the mess halls or sitting out in the dirt and hearing your crazy jokes; we do our handshake tours of hospitals and PR tents and feel good and then are lucky enough to go home while you stay behind.

But Iraq was different. For the first time I found myself weeping at night after I came back from doing handshake tours. I couldn't adopt the USO maxim of looking the Marines in the eyes and shaking hands on the hospital tours, because there were teenage Marines with no hands and no eyes. A bomb at a well while I was there on my last tour left 200 women and children dead or injured at the hands of their own countrymen. The image of a Marine, badly wounded, struggling to carry a small 3 yr old girl to safety is forever seared in my mind.

I wondered - a lot - about the kind of sacrifice that it takes for a person to volunteer in the Corps and experience this kind of tragedy on a regular basis.

Iraqi women refugees would tell me, through translators, about how the Kurdish women would throw their infants from trucks on their way to being executed by Saddam Hussein in the hope that strangers would raise the soon-to-be-orphaned children, and how often it was only the U.S. Marines and military units who would help them get medical care if they did survive the terrors inflicted upon them.

This is what I have learned about war and the Marines: that I have never seen a U.S. senator cry while telling me about holding a dying friend in his arms, and there's precious few senators who come home from work missing a leg or two.

That I have never heard a U.S. congressman tell me what it's like to pass out soccer balls and writing paper to children who have been denied an education since birth.

That I have never heard any politician or corporate leader describe to me, as one Marine did after a show, that she wanted a better life for her child back home but wanted better lives for the children of Iraq, too.

Marines are living - and sometimes dying - for democracy, not just talking about it for the CNN cameras. They do their jobs, and come home, quietly, to go back to farming in Iowa or driving trucks in Kentucky, and, for the most part, don't talk about it. And God knows we civilians don't get an accurate picture back home of what is going on.

I still think killing is wrong, but I have come to understand that sometimes it is necessary and that lack of intervention, especially in humanitarian missions in oppressed nations, is tantamount to pulling the trigger on innocent civilians who only want what we want: a safe home for their children and food on the table and the right to be who they are.

I'm not naive enough to think that most of our political leaders go to war for compassion (I think most of them want to protect corporate interests), but I do believe, from knowing the Marines I have been lucky enough to know, that Marines act from compassion, decency, and with hearts bigger than most people will ever experience.

I understand now that a sniper - or any Marine, in any job supporting the ideals of the Corps - does what he or she does because the Constitution of the United States is not some remote piece of paper; the idea of freedom is real to a Marine.

As one young lance corporal told me, as he guarded us during a show set-up in a particularly volatile area (after our show had been cancelled the day before because terrorists had blown up another 27 children nearby), "Don't worry - we got your back."

It shames me to think that I had to leave my country on these tours in order to understand what precious gifts I have as an American, that every day, somewhere in the world, a Marine is watching my back. I never considered that a sniper, or any Marine, may be asked to kill in order to save innocent lives but now I understand.

So to all of you Marines out there, please accept this heartfelt thanks for what you do. To the guys from the sniper platoon in Kaneohe - this is a late apology for questioning you, and a thank you for what you have taught me, but I hope some of you read this. In our American culture, we don't talk much about being noble, decent, loyal and honorable. I have yet to meet a Marine who did not possess all of those qualities. You are the big kids in high school who didn't let the bullies hurt the little kids. If you are reading this from Afghanistan or Iraq or Camp Lejeune; if you are reading this from a V.A. facility; if you are reading this from your home, know this: that what you do is important. When you are feeling weary and discouraged, remember that there are people in the world living in freedom because of you. Not only the refugees from war - but me, too.

Laura Minor

"Casualties: many, Percentage of dead: not known, Combat efficiency: we are winning."
--Colonel David M. Shoup, USMC, MOH, (later Commandant) Tarawa, 21 November 1943.

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Semper fi
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