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I'd just like to thank Sgt Grit and everyone who's been contributing to this newsletter. I'm a Lance Corporal in the reserves (a real Marine all the same, though I think I could be a much better one) and was deployed to Kuwait for OIF Feb-July 03. I've recently been getting over some personal gripes and this newsletter is one of the things that truly brought me around.
I'll be honest. As time dragged on out there I became more and more pessimistic. I'm the homesick type and all, and I gathered a growing list of complaints in my fat head. Now no disrespect to those on the front lines then or now, as I knew all along that it could have been a lot worse; I wasn't serving the hardest duty of all back there in the rear at Camp Commando, nabbing pogie-bait and playing with comm gear. But like I said, I'm being honest: I had some issues with the way the unit was run (Lance Corporals being the authority on that and all), as well as just a general desire to get it all over with and move on to better things. In the past several months I've been home I've grappled with my frustrations and felt rather... un-Marine.
I hate feeling that way but my anger, too, was strong. Nonetheless I gave my all to my duties and I've come to put a lot of those issues to bed now, knowing in my heart that most of it was much more temporary emotions and personal issues than legitimate reasons to gripe about the Corps. I'm officially and gladly putting my "Eat the Apple" stint to rest and I have a few good Marines to thank. I needed the simultaneous swell of pride and flash of shame I got from reading all the arguing over moms and Marines griping about their personal wants over the needs of Country and Corps. And I needed tales from Marines of all walks of life to remind me why I love this family so much. I also owe my life and gratitude to the ones who made it count out there (shameless plug for Sgt Cottrill, GySgt Harris and LCpl's Camacho and Filosa) and at home (Amanda, Mom, and the future in-laws!).
I guess my whole point is that, though I probably just opened myself up to another chewing-out regarding Marines who complain too much, I hit a pothole that I think is natural to some degree for many young Marines, and the important part is the recovery of faith in our brother- (and sister-) hood. Thanks to the encouragement of Marines like those that write in to this letter all the time, we are reminded that though we are young in this Corps the flame has been going since 1775 and will continue forever. None of you knew me before I wrote in, but you were all there for me to bring me back into the fold when I was letting my personal demons get the best of me and my dawning life as a Marine. Semper Fi to you all!
I'm looking forward now to getting back on the fast track and possibly trying to go active as a (don't laugh) Combat Illustrator on my next enlistment so I can combine two loves of my life, the Corps and my scribbling. If there are any who served in that capacity, or who are simply Marines who've got a thing for pencil and paper, I'd love to hear from you about it so I can learn more - my e-mail is email@example.com
All of you take care and keep the faith - I know I will.
TO SGT GRIT,
JUST LIKE ANY OTHER GOOD MARINE, I FEEL IT IS MY DUTY TO SOUND OFF ON ANY SUBJECT THAT UPSETS OR EXCITES ME, SO PLEASE BEAR WITH ME WHILE I RUN THE OBSTACLE COURSE ON THIS ONE. FIRST TO THE "CONCERNED MOM",BEFORE YOU GO PUTTING YOUR SON ON A PEDESTAL ABOVE ALL OTHERS MAYBE YOU SHOULD MAKE A PHONE CALL - TO MY MOM, OR GRANDMOTHER OR PERHAPS THE THOUSANDS OF OTHER MOTHERS WHO'S CHILD HAS JOINED OUR GREAT MARINE CORPS, IM SURE THEY ALL WISHED THAT THEIR CHILDREN COULD BE HOME OR OUT OF HARMS WAY, BUT THEY ALSO KNOW THAT THERE HAS TO BE SOMEONE OUT THERE DEFENDING THIS GREAT NATION.MY PARENTS WAITED 5 YEARS FOR ME TO COME HOME FROM THE MARINE CORPS.ONLY FOR MY MOTHER TO SEE ME AT THE AIRPORT UPON MY RETURN ON A SET OF CRUTCHES, BUT MY PARENTS DIDN'T CURSE THE CORPS. OR SEEK SOME TYPE OF REFORM, ALL THEY SAID WAS THANK YOU AND THAT THEY WERE PROUD OF ME, AND THEY WORRIED ABOUT WHAT WOULD BECOME OF ME WITH NO EDUCATION , BUT WITH A LOT OF HARD WORK AND THE DETERMINATION THE MARINE CORPS TAUGHT ME 8 YEARS LATER I HAVE 2 DEGREES AND I AM A SECURITY CONSULTANT FOR A MAJOR CHEMICAL COMPANY. BUT YOU KNOW WHAT IM PROUDEST OF IN MY LIFE? ITS A FRAMED COPY OF MY HONORABLE DISCHARGE THAT HANGS ABOVE MY TELEVISION, THERE WILL NEVER BE ANYTHING OTHER THAN MY OWN CHILD THAT WILL MEAN MORE IN MY LIFE, AND IF ONE DAY MY SON COMES TO ME AND TELLS ME HE WANTS TO BE A MARINE ILL HAVE JUST ONE THING TO SAY " THANK YOU, AND GOOD LUCK MY BOY ".
SGT. WOTRING FOX 2/5 3RD HERD
P.S. I LOVED THE QUOTE FROM THE GENERAL DURING THE CANADIAN INTERVIEW-"THE MARINES CAME, THE REST IS JUST DETAILS" , IM GONNA GET THAT FRAMED.
"The real story of this last year is not Saddam, but something deeper, symbolized by the bizarre persistence of the 'antiwar' movement even after the war was over. For a significant chunk of the British establishment and for most of the governing class on the Continent, if it's a choice between an America-led West or no West at all they'll take the latter. That's the trend to watch in the year ahead."
Wow that last newsletter was rough. What was she thinking writing to Sgt. Grits newsletter and complaining about the Marines. Any way, my husband got back late October from the sand pit, he is in the active reserves without contract due to the fact he did four active. I was ready to say good bye to the Corp, and I thought he was too, he put in the papers to go back inactive, then two weeks later he put papers in to go back active reserves. I was mad, I felt like I had sacrificed enough....he was choosing the Marines over me and our son...yadda yadda..you know how a Marine wife can be when she gets going. But he told me in few words because he is a man of few words. "I don't choose the Marines over you and my son, I choose to serve because of you and my son...." Well that sunk in and I felt my self losing the argument then he said "I think there are two types of people in America today, the protectors and the protected, and I don't know how to just be protected." So that was that, I had two choices leave him or love him and support him. I logged onto Sgt. Grit's web site and bought him a 2004 training diary and left it under the tree as a peace offering/Christmas present. And they all lived happily ever after....until the next deployment!!!!!!!!!ha ha. Amie H.
SEMPER FI SGT. GRIT
I WAS JUST SITTING HERE SUPERVISING SOME INMATES ON A PAINT DETAIL...KIND OF REMINDS ME OF SOME THOSE OTHER DUTIES ALL OF US MARINES HAD....KP..WEEDS AND SEEDS...PAINTING ROCKS,CURBS.... WELL ANOTHER YEAR HAS COME AND GONE....AND I HOPE FOR THE SAFE RETURN OF ALL OUR BROTHERS.....EVEN THE ARMY/NAVY AND AIR FORCE.... SHOOT...MOVE....AND COMMUNICATE.....KEEP YOUR REAR DOWN AND COME HOME SAFE.... I'LL BUY THE FIRST ROUND..
SEMPER FI MAC
V.M. SWOPE III FORMER CPL OF MARINES 01/90-03/94
Marines are not bloodthirsty killers, they are extremely patriotic. Not just to the United States but to all countries. Not only are we ready to die for our country, but we are extremely anxious to help the enemy prove their patriotism.
To mom concerned about Christmas and son,
All of your feelings are understandable. What it boils down to is you love your son and want to be with him during the holidays. What you have to remember is there will be other holidays, and in my experience, they will be better. I spent 6 years in the Corps and I spent 3 out of 6 Christmas's away from home. I have always been taught, by my parents, about what the holidays were about. It is about being with each other. Gifts are fine, but now I could care less if I didn't receive a single Christmas present. I am thankful just to be with my family. I think that if I had not spent a few holidays away from home the holidays would not be as Special as they are now. In the future, you will remember these times and the holidays will be a lot more special. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New years. All of these and every single day will be a lot more special. The hardship will change your outlook.
While your wording sounded selfish, I urge you to consider all of the other moms out there who are in the same or worse circumstances. Also, let you son know you support him and that there will be other times. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Send him a big care package. During Desert Storm my mother sent me five canned hams. My buds and me had 2 for Thanksgiving and I saved 3 for Christmas. It wasn't home but it helped.
God bless the Marine Corps, God bless America and God bless our Veterans,
J. Bolin "Bo", Cpl. 1986-1992 Wpns 1/5, 81's,
Sgt Grit I have been an avid reader for quite some time. I feel the civilian population have forgotten September 11. I think all media should play the National Anthem every day and in the back ground show the twin towers fall, and then play the song have you forgotten.
Sgt John Griffith 2184211
Have been reading a lot about the "concerned mommy". Don't want to beat a dead horse, but I just have to put in my two cents worth, as a 1st. Sgt. should and give her some worth while advise. First and fore most there are,"no boys" in my beloved Marine Corps. There are only, "MEN". She must realize her son, ( if some day really accepted ) will be trained by MEN to do a MANS job. He will work with other MEN to learn, Marine Corps ,Training, Discipline and "LEADERSHIP", something I am sure he did not find at home.
All of the above will come to pass in due time and I am sure when the occasion arises, he will enjoy him self as a MAN will and if he has to, when the time comes, he will die like a MAN........In the mean time he had best get his A55 in gear and savy up to the job at hand.........Is he not aware of the words........"GUNG HO" ?
1st. Sgt. B. J. ( Pete ) Petrisky
U.S.M.C. ( Ret) ' 52 ' 72
This is a war on terror, it was not a war against Saddam. TELL US YOUR PLANS is the cry of many politicians. When the campaign started, I happened to be watching the news. Senator Carl Levin (D) Michigan, Senior ranking member of the Senate Armed Services and prior head of the Senate Armed Forces Committee was on camera.
He was peering over his granny glasses and trying to look as wise as a tree full of owls. "American troops are now in Afghanistan," was the words that he uttered. This resulted in CIC limiting the members of Congress who could receive intelligence briefings. When a senior Senator does this, TELL US YOUR PLANS is dangerous.
Do a map drill. Look at the tactical situation, not on a country basis, but from the present tactical situation. Iraq is a rather large beachhead. Think the powers that be have done a brilliant job of G-2ing the situation.
Every politician and newsie, and yes, the American people do not want to know the PLAN if it would endanger the war on terror.
I personally think it is a brilliant plan.
Lt.Col., USMC (Ret.)
Can't leave us hanging like that. Gotta hear the whole story of the flying college professor.
SGT USMC 78-82
To the mother of the recruit leaving for boot camp who is worried about her son being a Marine...All I have to say is it is not about the Branch of the Service that he has chosen which will keep him safe, it is the training he receives.
Also, I went to Parris Island in 1986, with a mother that reacted much like you have, she was also a military wife. During my tenure as an active duty Marine, my mother often times would react with disgust at what I was doing in the Corps. Later, after leaving the brotherhood, she would refer to the difference in my persona as due to my training in the Marine Corps in a most sarcastic way. All of these things I took with a grain of salt due to my training as a Marine. This ultimately strained my relationship towards her in later years. She succumbed to emphysema on November 5th of this year. Ironically, I was the only one who could muster the discipline and bearing to make her last arrangements and help my father through this period. He was in the Army for 21 years.
Please do not make the same mistake that my mother made, it will not hurt your son, it will only embitter you and possibly strain your relationship. As for making it in the civilian world.... Due to my training and discipline, I am the President of my own company which handles bar codes for companies in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Western Europe. It is not the end of his life, it is the beginning.
TG Warehouse & Asset, Inc.
In case we find ourselves starting to believe all the anti-American sentiment and negativity about our government and its policies, we should remember Tony Blair's words to his own people.
During a recent interview Prime Minister Tony Blair of Great Britain was quoted giving the following answer to one his parliament members as to why he believes so much in America and its President. And does he think they're on the right track?
Blair's reply -- "A simple way to take measure of a country is to look at.....how many want in.......and how many want to get out."
May I use your newsletter to add one last story to the lady who's son made the immature decision to join the Corps. I was a college freshman when I enlisted. My mother came home that afternoon and asked why I was home from school. I told her that I had joined the service. Being from an all Navy family she asked when my ship would leave. I told her that I didn't think my ship would ever leave because I had joined the Corps. She fell apart.......what had I done. She cried and wailed and so on. After boot camp and ITR I returned home. She noticed the difference. Telltale signs started to appear. Decals started to show up on the cars......"my Son Is A Marine". I went to Viet Nam. I returned home. Was I a hero?...by no way, shape or form. I met friends in '69and'70' that are still my closest friends. When the phone rings and I hear "hey bud!" I remember good times. when I get a letter or post card that is signed Semper Fi I get a smile on my face. When the National Anthem is played I proudly stand. When the Marine Corps Hymn is played.....I stand taller. In November, a complete stranger will say happy birthday to me. At the Gym , some young men refer to me as Staff Sergeant. When I am down, help is a phone call away. In short, I missed a Christmas or two, a few Easters, and a few birthdays too. Did I make the wrong decision? NO. It has been the greatest decision of my life and has paid dividends for over 30 years. My son, my wife, my mom - god rest her soul , all know that a Marine Is not a bad decision, but it is a lifestyle to be proud of. I am a Marine. And one last question for you Ma'am.....whose son would you have take your sons place on the line......Just a thought.
SSGT D J Huntsinger Viet Nam
Seems as though lots of you are not too welcoming to the mom that doesn't know too much if anything about the Marine Corps, worrying about her son's mos. To that mom, Marine Corps recruiters are not glorifying anything, you could not have anything greater that having a Marine in your family. I was the first in my family to even join the military let alone the Marine Corps, a girl right out of high school, out of hundreds of first cousins I am the most successful person in my family and I owe it to the fact that I am a Marine. I wonder how successful your 22 year old is. Your son could serve for 4 years and then go to college and probably graduate ahead of kids that went straight into college out of high school and he will not be wasting his time trying to "figure out" what he is even going to school for. Proud Marine, Mother of 3, wife, teacher with masters degree and served proudly for 4 years active and am just 30 yrs old. Give the mom a break!
Semper Fi! Cpl Prudence Lamar 91-95
"There is but one straight course, and that is to seek truth and pursue it steadily."
Dear SGT Grit,
I just want to say thanks to all of our loved ones who have served under the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor. My mom Nancy Lee (Hunt) Burtron, was a an Instructor on the Drill Field at Parris Island, I was the first kid in the new daycare there, thanks Mom. My dad Jackie Lee Allen was an MP there as well. Now, I serve our country in my own way, but I must say I was not surprised at all to know the man I want to spend the rest of my life with is a Marine as well, Ronnie J. Norris, is one hell of a man and I am proud to stand by his side. Just wanted to thank you for your news letter and all the wonderful things others write in, we read this together and cry more often than not. God Bless all of those who serve under Our Red, White, and Blue. We love you!
Patsy Ann Atwell
Dear Sgt Grit:
A few years ago when my now Vet. Marine son was on his Med. tour I was whining, to myself, about his not being home for Christmas. Things were quite heated in Kosovo at that time.
I'd pray for my son each day & ask the Lord to keep him in His care. One day I even whined to the Lord about my son's absence that Christmas. The Lord definitely understands a Marine mother's heart. God gently reminded me that His Son wasn't home for Christmas either, and that He had sent Him to earth to do battle for me. The heavenly Father knew His Son was going to die in that battle. I only thought mine might.
That Christmas is now one of my most memorable Christmases. Sometimes our hearts are blessed to suffer for a taste of heaven's heart.
Blessings & a VERY Merry Christmas to all Marine mom's whose son's weren't home for Christmas.
Mrs. Ruth Taylor
I served from '68 to '72. My MOS was 2531 Field Radio Operator. Before going to Nam I served with the 13th Marines at Pendleton. When I got to Nam, I served with H&S 1/3 as a radio operator attached to 81 Mortars where I was wounded. On the way home, I served in Okinawa with 1st Amtrac Battalion where I changed from 2531 to 3516, which is a mechanic. As communications people, we were cleaning mess gear on its way home from Nam. The motor pool only had two mechanics and half their vehicles were broken down. I had worked as a truck mechanic before going in the Corps and had graduated from Auto-Diesel College so I was able to use that experience to help out. I served my last year and a half or so at Camp Lejeune where I went on a Med Cruise. I say all that to say this: So many of the letters you post contain something about us returning from Vietnam and people spitting on us and calling us "baby killers". I had heard of that happening although it never happened to me. Probably because I came home through a military air field and flew to my home in Nashville, Tn where the people just didn't do that. The one experience I did have was coming through Dallas. I was fresh in the "world" and got carried away by the huge airport terminal there and wandered down the concourse looking in at all the shops. I heard my name called over the intercom and realized my connecting flight was about to leave. I ran all out back to the gate just in time to see the plane move away from the door. I told the lady at the desk who I was and that I was supposed to be on that plane. She picked up a phone and after a few seconds, the plane stopped on the tarmac. I was taken through a door and down some steps and out onto the tarmac to the waiting plane. They had let a stairway in the tail of the plane down and waved me on board. I was flying standby and, as was often the case, had been put in first class to get a seat. I had to walk the entire length of the aircraft to get to my seat. I dreaded it so much because I had delayed these people. To my surprise, as I hurried to the front, everyone was clapping and cheering. We had to travel in uniform back then to fly standby. My last point is that over the years, I have found that the spitting, "baby killer" shouting, military hating, whiners of that era are the same bunch of military hating, traitorous, unpatriotic heathens.
Keep up the good work, Sarge.
I was just beginning to read this particular newsletter and was stopped immediately after reading the note from Deborah May, and I would like to comment. My son, Doug, is with the 82nd Airborne and presently in Iraq. I belong to a group of 82nd Airborne Moms. We all do our share of complaining and whining about our sons being gone for so long and, now, some including mine, have been extended another 6-8 weeks.
Some were doing a little more of this than usual lately and it began to bother me. Then one of the moms sent a newspaper report about the funeral of an 82nd Airborne soldier who was killed over there recently and I wrote an email to the group saying basically the same things Deborah spoke of in her email. I told them all that we needed to stop with the whining about our sons being gone for so long, about the extensions, about how they haven't received the Christmas packages yet that we had mailed, and how long it took the letters to arrive, etc., etc. because at least we could still look forward to them coming home at all, and them eventually getting things we mailed to them when some families can no longer write to their loved ones, will never get mail from them again and can never look forward to them coming home at all and that we were so d*mn lucky that at least our sons were still alive and well and we have so much to look forward to. So, although Deborah's note would have hit me pretty hard at any time, it meant so much more seeing just now, so soon after my email to my group. I copied and pasted it just a few minutes ago to my group, just to reiterate and I know they will all receive it and understand the reinforcement of just how lucky we are and how horrible it is for families like Deborah.
Deborah, if you're reading this, please accept my sincerest condolences for your loss and for your children's loss. I am so sorry and I so very much appreciate your husband's service to the rest of us, I will pray for him and for you and your family and I honor him. And, I repeat, we moms in my group are so lucky and so thankful and we know this even though we sometimes complain too much about the hand we were dealt. We do realize the sacrifices of others and we shed tears for them all, each one was someone's loved one and we do know this. I got many, many responses to my email to the group thanking me for reminding them all of these things, and I just want you to know that while we may not fully know your pain and suffering, we do recognize it and appreciate it and mostly, we do care so very much. You and yours will remain in our hearts and prayers. Thank you Deborah and I hope you and your children will eventually have peace in your lives although I know none of you will ever be the same again. There just aren't the proper words for this other than the simple, but very heartfelt, I'm sorry, so sorry for your loss.
Proud Marine/82nd Airborne Mom
Just wanted to make a comment about post from Lt. J and response. I believe the lieutenant is right. Get your head out of your "a--" so you can understand the mission; keep the focus, stay on task and get the job done.
Capt. S. Kuhns, USMC
"There is mercy which is weakness, and even treason against the common good."
For a while now, I've been reading your letters. Thought it was my turn to say something about the Marines.
My Father was a WWII Marine Infantry Sergeant. He fought in the Pacific, Guada Canal, Iwo Jima, & others. His best friend died by his side when they stormed the beach head. He was also on the island of Iwo Jima when the Marines raised the flag. My Father is deceased, he passed away eight years ago.
Then my oldest brother became a Marine during Vietnam but he never saw combat. Now my youngest son is a Marine, overseas fighting for his country, family and friends. I've heard it said,"Once a Marine, always a Marine." I can honestly say that statement is true. For in my Father, I saw and in my Brother & Son, I see strength, honor & courage. Marine Mom
"Nothing appeals to intellectuals more than the feeling that they represent 'the people.' Nothing, as a rule, is further from the truth."
To Corporal Jon Humbolt:
My last message on this and we can stop beating this dead horse. You displayed perfect Marine Corps integrity with your message. I was once like you, I would watch all the combat movies and want to be there killing and a fighting... once I saw my first dead Iraqi blown to bits or burned beyond belief I lost my macho way of thinking. Even worse was seeing a humvee hit a landmine and hearing 2 soldiers crying for help with another dead soldier next to them. These were just a small part of what I experienced. I wish you and your unit the best. The Marine Corps has taught you how to be a great fighter and take care of your fellow Marines. Semper Fi. If you end up shipping over, drop us a line and let us know how you are doing.
SSGT PB Modesti
NOAD (From L/cpl Larson's Recommendation)
Not On Active Duty
To Cpl Jon Humbolt,
It takes a man to stand up in front of his peers and admit that he was wrong. You're learning a great deal about life and death and the brotherhood of the warriors. Keep learning young man. I'll fight along side you anytime.
Pvt to 1st Lt 1966 to 1978
"Strange, isn't it? While we spend men and money to fight for freedom in other lands, the courts and Congress continue to nibble away at it here at home."
....statues in the park.....
If a statue of a person is on a horse that has both front legs in the air, the person died in battle.
If the horse has one front leg in the air the person died as a result of wounds received in battle.
If the horse has all four legs on the ground, the person died of natural causes.
"We should never despair.... If new difficulties arise, we must only put forth new Exertions and proportion our Efforts to the exigency of the times."
This is still in response to the mom whose poor baby will miss Christmas. Lady, quit feeling sorry for yourself, and focus on your son and what he might be enduring at this time of year. Long ago, in a land called Viet Nam a whole lot of people missed their Christmas at home too. But , they survived. They cut down small shrubs, decorated them with paper cups, blown up prophylactics with drawn faces of Santa, snow scenes, etc, and sang Christmas carols, or at least sang them in their hearts. Back home their families sent gifts, care packages of kool-aid, candy, cookies, magazines, Etc.. not to just an individual, but to be shared by all. What a great gift that was having homemade cookies from my buddy's mom in Arkansas, and sharing my mom's homemade candy with guys from Jersey, the Bronx, and San Diego.
Lady, in the words of a famous man "war is hell" but don't make it worse on your son by sobbing to him about it. Do something positive, and his and your life will be much better for it...
Bob Carter Cpl USMC 1965-69
Chris Pangalos is sending you this article from Al-Jazeera English web site.
Marines to soften image in Iraq
Sgt Grit, this is a link to a beautiful tribute to our Armed Forces. Thought you could print it in the newsletter to share with everyone. Take care.
"Without allegiance to the Constitution it doesn't matter one hill of beans which party is in power!"
I've noted a lot of griping about the wholesale issue of Bronze stars to Army troops.Maybe this will clarify things. the bronze star as such is a meritorious award. I have personally been at an award ceremony where one was awarded to a Mess Sgt. for running an outstanding mess hall! The "V" for valor is what makes it a combat decoration.If you look at photos of those army personnel you'll see that the combat "V" is missing. Hope this clarifies things
Sgt.Pappy McCarthy 1st Recon 1869365
Dear Sgt Grit,
I enjoy your news letter. I am sending a copy of an article that my son wrote. I think most of your readers will like it. My son got out of the Marines in October, he wrote this for the local newspaper.
Proud Marine Mom
How do I feel now that Saddam Hussein has been captured? I'll answer this way: It doesn't matter. His capture doesn't change one thing in my life. I was the lucky one. I made it out. When I stepped off that homebound plane in June, Iraq became nothing more than a giant bad- dream factory. My priorities shifted very suddenly from keeping my backside attached to the rest of me and keeping my helmet free of bullet holes, to finding a job and paying the rent.
It doesn't matter to millions of Americans who watched the capture on television, either. Whether Saddam was running roughshod over Iraq, cowering in a fetal position 6 feet underground or locked in a military prison cell, it's largely water cooler conversation for most of the public. They're still going home to watch "The Simple Life" after work.
It doesn't really even matter to the tens of thousands of U.S. military personnel who remain stuck with a huge job to do in that godforsaken place. We're still going to read about their deaths every day. Saddam is in custody, but that fact won't stop a single Iraqi teen with a parent or sibling in the grave, a Kalashnikov in his hands and a G.I. in his sights. It won't stop one religious zealot with a vest full of dynamite, a mind full of jihad and the will to become a "martyr."
It does, however, matter to the vast majority of Iraqis who want only to earn a living, raise a family and live free of fear. In my experience, the Iraqi people are a kind and generous people. They supported our mission. But speaking to them, one could tell they were holding back from committing themselves fully to our notions of Western-style freedom.
Saddam was the reason.
I made a friend in Baghdad named Ali, who found work as a translator for one of the American networks. He asked me about Las Vegas and how to pick up American girls. I asked him about life under Saddam. I can't print most of his stories. Every time he finished a story, he'd go sort of quiet, look down and say, "You must kill him."
I tried, naively, to assure him he had nothing to worry about. At best, I said, Saddam was nothing more than a wet spot at the bottom of a bomb crater. At worst, he was deep in hiding out in the desert somewhere. Either way, he wasn't coming back.
That wasn't good enough for Ali. "He will come back. He has followers. You must kill him." This was not speculation to Ali. It was cold fact, and he was deathly afraid.
All Ali's life, Saddam wielded a power over his people that is difficult for us to comprehend. To them, he was omniscient and omnipotent. As long as he drew a free breath, he held onto some of that power. The palaces were vacant, but somewhere the dictator waited and plotted his return.
To Ali and the rest of his people, nothing less than Saddam on a slab or in chains would convince them they had nothing to fear. Now, thankfully, they have that very thing.
What the Iraqis saw on that now-famous video clip was not an all-powerful bogeyman or even a military strongman. Not really a man at all, in fact. They saw a ratty, scraggly little husk more worthy of spare change than fear or obedience.
I've never been a big believer in "psycho-babble" words like "closure," but I'm willing to make an exception in this case. Now that they're positively sure Saddam's dictating days are over and there will be no return to the Baathist "glory days," maybe the Iraqi people can commit themselves fully to building their new nation however they see fit. They have closure.
As for our troops, the violence isn't over by a long shot. There are too many Uncle Sam haters in this world with a ticket to Baghdad for it to be that easy. But this could be the beginning of the end.
With Saddam out of the way, a cloud has lifted from the Iraqi psyche. When I was there, I saw a sad, sad people wanting desperately to be happy. Now they have a chance.
How do I feel now that Saddam Hussein has been captured? I feel great, now that I think about it. Good luck, Ali.
BRENT WALKER is a copy editor at The Southern Illinoisan. He served as a combat correspondent with 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.
I would like to extend my thanks and best wishes to all our service members in the military and their families. I am not military related but I enjoy reading the articles you send and they are very heart touching, sometimes as I read them I well up inside and want to reach out to the families of these brave individuals and just give them a hug. That must be the hardest life known, having your loved ones sent off over seas to wars and possibly the worst imaginable death!! I truly wish every branch of military service members and their families the utmost respect and best wishes and my many prayers to them all. Keep up the great job you guys.
Sharon D. Case
"Honesty does not require posturing. In fact, the two things are incompatible. Nor does objectivity require neutrality."
(I would like to add my opinion of the advice to traveling service members NOT to wear their uniforms.
I think that ALL traveling military personnel SHOULD wear their uniforms to make the terrorists aware that they are there. This way some misguided souls would know that in the event they try "something" there are people on the plane who would not hesitate to take action and would "beat them until they quit bleeding".)
Sergeant of Marines (Inactive Duty)
Was looking through last week's letters and came across the one stating that Rick Nelson was a Marine. Not saying the old L/CPL is wrong, but it got me a little curious. I had never heard that one so I did a little on-line research. Looked at several biographies and as yet, have not seen any mention about him being of the "Brotherhood." If someone can send some info about where I might find this, I would appreciate it. He was a great singer and probably a nice guy, but if he doesn't rate the title, let's not give it to him. Looking for proof.
Sgt. USMC 73-77
I would like to share a part of an article I read recently in 12/03's edition of Law and Order (which is a cop magazine). I have CC'ed the original author above so he is aware that I am sharing it with your readers, and I'd like to request that you forward him a copy of your Sgt Grit newsletter. In part, the article pertained to "Five Solutions to Complacency" and how law enforcement leaders need to have higher expectations of their personnel in order to combat complacency. "A recent study highlighted the difficulties that the US military have experienced within the last decade recruiting and retaining qualified candidates. Rather than lower it's entry-level standards, the USMC adopted a different strategy. By raising it's standards without an increase in pay or benefits, the Corps has shown a steady increase in the number of applicants for the past decade." It's true that people want to be challenged, no matter what line of work you are in.
I believe this challenge of meeting higher levels of expectations is a key ingredient that keeps current Jarheads and those that are now in law enforcement a step above all the rest. We not only 'talk the talk', but 'walk the walk'- leading by example and from the front!
Semper Fi and please continue sending out the Sgt. Grit newsletter- It is 'true motivation'!
Cpl. Vepley '89-'93 USS Wisconsin MarDet & 2/8.
My dad works for a place in San Antonio that has to do with the rebuilding going on in Iraq by sending some of its engineers, etc. over there. Below are some comments from one of the employees.
Our man in Baghdad has sent another account--very thoughtful.
Subject: Some Thoughts
It has now been four months almost to the day since I left Indianapolis to come to Baghdad, Iraq. It is now Christmas Eve. At the outset, I must say that I have not regretted my decision to come over here at all.
Iraq has changed or, maybe I have changed. The dictator's henchmen have been dropping one by one and now the dictator, himself, has dropped. When the dictator's sons "defended" themselves to the death the Iraqi people breathed a small sigh of relief and bravely gave some critical information leading to the demise of some of the hunted henchmen. But, there was still a reluctance to be too forthcoming. After all, Saddam was still out there.
Our translator lives in Baghdad and, of course, he is able to walk the streets he says, without fear. He's an Iraqi after all. Since I am not able to though, it seems kinda strange that anybody could or would. Isn't everybody in danger on the streets of Baghdad? Well, obviously not. But, that was my uneducated impression when I got here. It's weird how preconceived notions develop and how wrong they usually are. I think a lot has to do with the way one looks out on the world at the moment. In my case, I was looking out from the sidewalks of Rockville, Indiana. Correction, the sidewalks only existed around the town square so I have to say I was looking out from amongst the sidewalks, cornfields, soybean fields, Raccoon Lake, Amish Farmer's Market, St Joseph's Church (a small 400 family parish), and being somewhat equidistant between Indianapolis and Terre Haute. Having been there since 1999 I think I had adopted the small town rural view of the world despite my having been other places before. Over the years, during my conversations with stateside people, I have sensed some preconceived notions in them as well.
As an aside, when I went Russia a few years ago I had about thirty years of accumulated and filtered information mostly from the narrowly focused eye of the TV camera about Russia and its people. All the information I carried with me was based on "the American view" of the Communist State of the Soviet Union. A place to be wary of; a place where Americans were hated; a place where the KGB did its evil things. If I had taken the time at home to read books other than those reinforcing this view I might have been able to arrive in Moscow with a more open mind. Later on in my stay I had the opportunity to visit the city of Barnul, Siberia. We had employed a Russian as our Office Manager there. One day he invited a couple of us to dinner at his home. I had seen indications before in Moscow on how Russians felt about family but here I saw it in action. It dispelled the final elements of my preconceived notion about Russia. The Russians are a family oriented people reaching out even to the extended family. Honor thy Father and thy Mother is truly visible. One of the first items of business the Mayor of Moscow initiated upon the demise of Communism was the immediate start of reconstruction of the Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Moscow that Stalin blew up. The work went on 24/7 until it was finished. The Russians had a deep seat in religion, too, despite the Soviet State saying that the State was God. I guess the message is, treat your preconceived notions (because that's all you have at the time) as temporary and be ready at Passport Control to begin the deprogramming process.
What I saw coming into Baghdad my first time reinforced my preconceived notion of the Iraqi people to a degree but I now know I was not seeing the essence of the Iraqi people. I was seeing the impact of a repressive dictatorial regime. The little girl with the dirty clothes and face was a symptom of this repression. The condition of the people was appalling but it told little of the resilience and the resolve to carry on that they have. I saw the same thing in Russia. I've now been here four months. I think I've changed.
I've had the opportunity to move about the country albeit at convoy speed but I am now able to see a little deeper into the Iraqi closet of its psyche. Surprise, surprise, they want what we want. They want the pursuit of happiness. They recognize they have God given inalienable rights and want to exercise them. I found that in the Russians, too.
Now, the dictator is a threat no more. I saw an immediate change in the faces of the Iraqi people working with us and around us. Their shoulders seemed broader and they stood more erect. The Bathist party is still out there and are still trying to wield their influence, but their days are numbered. They represented the hand of the dictator. Their privileges are now disappearing. The suicide bombers are still out there, too. But they, too, will be taken to task. Iraq is, in my opinion, on a path to healing. That doesn't mean that the worst is over because it isn't. It does mean that the Iraqi people now have a chance at controlling their own destiny, something they've not had for thirty-five or so years. The struggle will continue for a while but its up to the Iraqi people, now, what the outcome will be.
The Iraqis do celebrate in a strange way, though. I saw this in Bosnia, also. A day or so after Saddam's capture, a few (sounded like more, though) took to the streets of Baghdad and raising their AK-47's into the air began firing unceasingly for about two hours. We knew about it because we watched the red tracers (every forth round) pass overhead and heard the noise of the rifle fire in the distance. We finished the day's work in flak jackets and Kevlar helmets just in case. What goes up must come down, ya know!
It is now Christmas day. I had stopped yesterday, and a few paragraphs ago, to go to Midnight Mass. Went at ten because there was to be some singing of carols from people of different countries in the Coalition Force. I've not heard Christmas carols sung in Korean, Philippine, German, Polish, Italian, Arabic, or Australian prior to this night. It was amazing how understandable they were. Picture soldiers with nine millimeters on their hips or an M-16 slung over their shoulder singing Christmas Carols. The apparent visual conflict is, upon reflection, really a statement of resolve. Peace is what we want but we are ready to defend it if need be, is my take on the visual.
Today, from noon to three, one of the subcontractors threw a party in our rec room. We listened to Iraqi music, watched Iraqi men dancing their traditional dances and ate Iraqi food. Some soldiers joined in the dancing. I took pictures.
The next phase of the Iraqi future is already in the planning stages. The rebuilding of the infrastructure and the economy is already starting. If it is the will of the Iraqi people, there is no way but up from here. Hope springs eternal!
My son, a proud active duty Marine, is preparing along with the rest of his unit to return to Iraq in the near future. Some of the Marines in his unit have purposely smoked dope to fail the urine test so they don't have to go back. Their punishment? "Less than Honorable" discharge. I'm told that is not as serious as a "Dishonorable" discharge in that it doesn't follow them throughout their life. They don't have to tell future employers about it. It is as though they were never in the Corps.
Can some of your readers explain to me whether this is true? If so, seems to me the punishment is too light. Whether or not my son and many of the other sons and husbands agree or don't agree with our presence in Iraq, they signed a contract and made a commitment to the Corps and their Country. How can the Corps discharge these guys with so little consequence?
Looking forward to hearing from your readers.
Proud Marine Mom
By Jack Williams
SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
January 13, 2004
To those who knew her best, Amy Krulak was the consummate general's wife: a gracious and vivacious blend of parent, hostess and community servant.
"She had all the ingredients of a lady," said James C. Haugh, a longtime friend of Mrs. Krulak and her husband, retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Victor "Brute" Krulak. "And she was a dynamo, just like Brute himself."
Mrs. Krulak died of complications from pneumonia Friday at Sharp Hospice Care in La Mesa. She was 90.
I work on a ranch. One year, as we got ready to gather and brand, me and ol' Hugh went up to the camp to clean it up and get it ready. Hugh was a WWII veteran, having fought his way across Europe and had seen plenty of action. I was having a dickens of a time getting a cot set up, I couldn't get the canvas to stretch or something. I called over to him for help and inquired, "What am I doing wrong, Hugh?" He looked over in my direction, squinted and growled, "AAARRGGGHHH! I kin see that YOU were never in the Army!" "NoSir", I replied uncharacteristically quick, "I was in the Marine Corps, and we slep' on the ground."
Due to age and/or laziness, I made an error in my previous e-mail regarding the 5th Marine Division during the Vietnam war. I stated that 1/13 and 2/13 deployed to Vietnam and stayed there for the duration of the Marine Corps involvement. I should have checked first. 1/13 deployed July 1967 and departed in March 1970. 2/13 deployed with 27th Marines in Feb 1968 and redeployed with them in September 1968.
As for the 26th Marines, 1/26 deployed in September 1966. 2/26 and 3/36 deployed in August 1966. The entire Regiment redeployed in March of 1970. Sorry for the accidental fib. Semper Fi, Gunny Art
"Diplomacy without arms is like music without instruments."
--Frederick the Great
God Bless America!