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Winning with the Picture from Iraq
I have not been able to figure out if LtCol Smith should be the Battalion Commander or the Battalion Chaplain. In looking back into the “Dark Ages” when I served, I guess both skills were required for someone in a position of authority.
I regret that the picture that was attached was corrupted prior to forwarding this message. I did view it once, but the next time I tried to view it, it had changed properties. LtCol Smith’s description does it justice, but with any masterpiece, you have to see it to really appreciate it.
On another note, have you ever asked why we don’t see stories like this in the National Media or very rarely in the Local Media? This is directly from one of our brothers in arms that is serving there on the ground. We need to hear from them through the media and not just through E-mail. Except for a very few journalists such as Tim Chavez at the Tennessean and Mark Johnson at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, we almost never hear a positive report on those who are serving in harm’s way on our behalf. Nor do we hear very much about the atrocities that are perpetrated by the insurgents (terrorists), almost nothing compared to the excessive coverage that has been given to a young LCpl in Fallujah, and that was misleading and incomplete.
We need the media to support all of us, and give stories like this a Front Page or Lead Article status.
Letter From Lt. Col. Mark A. Smith
If you will indulge me a few moments of your time, I feel absolutely compelled to share some thoughts with you, based on some recent events.
I have expressed with you on many occasions that I am a simple man. To me “class” is where you go in school and “sophisticated” is drinking a Pabst Blue Ribbon from a bottle, and while wearing a tie. With that said, and with the disclaimer that for me “art appreciation” was a required class before I could be commissioned in the Marine Corps and learn how to kill things and blow trash up, not a skill; I would like to communicate to you a recent masterpiece I was subject to.
You see, I like to think of God as an artist. His painting is life, his subjects are us and his canvas is the earth we live on. Now, under normal conditions, you see the painting and only identify the biggest shapes and the brightest colors. However, either when one takes the time to focus, or when situations of intensity change the prism through which you view the painting, you start to notice the incredible amount of work that the artist puts into his creation. You notice subtly of color. You notice various shapes. You notice fine details. You notice intricate patterns. You notice connection and blending and contrast and shadow. You find yourself immersed in the study of the work and inside the mind of the artist, trying to see and FEEL what he was thinking as he created.
In the attached photo, I would ask you to take the TIME TO FOCUS. In focusing, I believe you will see what I am talking about! It is a picture of some of our Marines and Sailors on an operation we run as frequently as we can that we call “CandyCaps.” These are ops where we send the Marines into an area, solely to distribute candy, toys and hygiene items to the kids of an identified neighborhood.
Now, as you FOCUS on the photo, please keep in mind the following while studying the photo. The Marine and Sailor in the photo have seen more than their fare share of violence! They have seen death. They have seen IEDs explode on their patrols. They have been engaged in firefights, have seen their fellow Marines and brothers injured and bleeding, have patched many an Iraqi who was the victim of insurgent and terrorist violence, and have stood by my side as we recovered and transported our fallen and honored dead. They could easily be filled with hate, rage and indifference!
Now, as you FOCUS on the photo, please keep in mind the following while studying the photo. The woman in the photo has known a life of repression and poverty. She lives in squalor and draws her water from a wastewater infested canal. She has been inundated her whole life with a hate of Americans and everything western. She has probably known countless dozens who were kidnapped, tortured and murdered in a previously psychotic “nation” known as Iraq. She could easily be filled with hate, rage and indifference!
Now, I ask you, in the Marine and Sailor, do you see hate, rage and indifference? I don’t! I see compassionate, kind, gentle Warriors who are showing love of their fellow human beings. I see the best humanity has to offer in the worst of human conditions. I see what we bring to the oppressed of the world, HOPE, and it comes in the form of a UNITED STATES MARINE and one of the UNITED STATES NAVY’S FINEST who serve with them.
Now, I ask you, in the woman, do you see hate, rage and indifference? I don’t. I see JOY! The pure joy that can be the only explanation of a smile that cuts to your core and says “good servants are at work here.” I see beauty! In a land where just surviving is a challenge and living is a daily and fantastically hard chore, and where there are few amenities, I see a woman that is strikingly beautiful. I believe my wife will forgive me, as I am quite sure she too will see the natural beauty of this woman, that is enhanced by the quality of her smile that is fueled by the pure joy of being on the receiving end of something she has rarely, if ever, known: true unsolicited COMPASSION!
And, the Masterpiece of God’s work on this one, as always with the Lord, is:
the child. Look closely, what do you see? I see only two things. One, the comfort that all children should know: the comfort of being held in their mother’s arms nestled in the warmth of her bosom. Two, the unbridled curiosity of “who are these Gentle Giants who bring my mother joy?” At her tender age, the question beckons with no answer, for the mind is not yet developed. But the question will continue to beckon. And, in God’s masterpiece, and through the work of his hands, the question will stir in the young girls mind for many years to come. Particularly in her formative years, the question will beckon, and she will judge manhood against the answer. And I believe that on this day, and in this way, God has planted not only the question that will beckon through the years, but the answer that will echo through the winds, with a hush that comforts the weary and oppressed. Yes, when the question beckons, who are the Gentle Giants, the winds will echo in the memory and whisper into the mind…”Marines, Marines, Marines.” This will not square with the diatribe of hate, and the cycle will be broken.
Yes, God is a Master, life his masterpiece, and your Marines some of his finest work.
WE ARE WINNING! Stay safe and strong until you are reunited with your loved one.
LtCol Mark A. Smith
Mark A. Smith, LtCol USMCR
TF 2/24 Commanding Officer, 24 MEU
“Mayhem from the Heartland”
or as the terrorists call us
“The Mad Ghosts”