It's Who We Are... It's What We Do.
(What I am about to write may come as a surprize to many of you. Yes. I am a Liberal and I am probably going to take some heat for this from my Liberal friends and readers. No, I do not support George Bush or his decision to invade Iraq. But...I am also a realist. I realize that we are in Iraq. We cannot just "pull out". Even John Kerry recognized the need to stabilize Iraq and see this through. There is, at this point, no other course. Those of us who opposed the War must, therefore, separate the Warrior from the War.)
Much has been made lately of the shooting of a wounded enemy in Iraq by a United States Marine, (World - AP, U.S. to Probe Shooting of Wounded Iraqi) .
For the life of me, I just don't get it. Killing the enemy is our job. It's who we are...it's what we do. It's what we are trained and ingrained to do from Day One. From the moment the new recruits line up on the famous yellow footprints at Parris Island or at MCRD San Diego, every waking moment is spent molding those recruits into the finest, most efficient killing machines on the planet. In order to achieve this remarkable transition, recruits are stripped of their individual personalities - a vacuum is created and then filled in again. Recruits are trained to be void of emotion, to neither love nor hate the enemy, but rather, to regard the enemy as a target, only a target. When a Marine switches into "Combat Mode" only Death will keep him from eliminating his enemy.
As Marion Sturkey relates in his excellent book, "Warrior Culture of the U.S. Marines":
"Why are U.S. Marines considered the world's premier warriors? Why? What puts the Marine Corps above the rest? Other military services have rigorous training and weapons of equal or greater lethality. So, why do U.S. Marines stand head and shoulders above the crowd?
The truth lies in the individual Marine. He (or she) did not join the Marines. Roughly 40,000 try each year. Those who survive the crucible of Marine basic training have been sculpted in mind and body. They have become Marines."
But do we actually feel anger, fear? Ofcourse. Hatred? Maybe. Love? Definately. Love of our families, our Corps, our country and always our Brothers and Sisters. It is the love that motivates us to become Marines and to remain Marines forever. It is only when that switch is thrown that emotions leave and training takes over.
So what does all this have to do with killing a wounded enemy?
Everything. Consider the fact that the enemy has brought this treatment on himself! In the fighting leading up to this incident Marines had been killed and injured by enemy troops faking wounds and surrender, only to turn at the last moment and open fire on unsuspecting Marines. Enemy bodies have been booby-trapped to explode when examined. In short, Marines in Falluja were left with no other option than to take aggressive action in their own defense! As a salty old Lt. Colonel once told me, "Son. Let the other guy die for his country. We need you alive to fight again."
And what are we fighting for? Or rather, what are they fighting for? Really? The answer is simple to those of us who know. Each other. That's it. You are fighting for the guy next to you. All the patriotic hoopla and grand ideals go out the window in a firefight. It breaks down to survival, to making sure it's the "other guy" who dies. If that means shooting an enemy who "appears" to be wounded, so be it.
Below is a letter from a Marine who fought in Falluja. It was posted on Newsmax and I found it via Mike The Marine. (Yeah, Newsmax is a Right-leaning News Service, that doesn't detract from the impact of the letter!)
Letter From a Fallujah Marine:
This is one story of many that people normally don't hear, and one that everyone does. This is one most don't hear:
A young Marine and his cover man cautiously enter a room just recently filled with insurgents armed with AK-47's and RPG's. There are three dead, another wailing in pain. The insurgent can be heard saying, "Mister, mister! Diktoor, diktoor (doctor)!"
He is badly wounded, lying in a pool of his own blood. The Marine and his cover man slowly walk toward the injured man, scanning to make sure no enemies come from behind. In a split second, the pressure in the room greatly exceeds that of the outside, and the concussion seems to be felt before the blast is heard. Marines outside rush to the room, and look in horror as the dust gradually settles.
The result is a room filled with the barely recognizable remains of the deceased, caused by an insurgent setting off several pounds of explosives.
The Marines' remains are gathered by teary-eyed comrades, brothers in arms, and shipped home in a box. The families can only mourn over a casket and a picture of their loved one, a life cut short by someone who hid behind a white flag.
But no one hears these stories, except those who have lived to carry remains of a friend, and the families who loved the dead. No one hears this, so no one cares.
This is the story everyone hears:
A young Marine and his fire team cautiously enter a room just recently filled with insurgents armed with AK-47's and RPG's. There are three dead, another wailing in pain. The insurgent can be heard saying, "Mister, mister! Diktoor, diktoor (doctor)!" He is badly wounded.
Suddenly, he pulls from under his bloody clothes a grenade, without the pin. The explosion rocks the room, killing one Marine, wounding the others. The young Marine catches shrapnel in the face.
The next day, same Marine, same type of situation, a different story. The young Marine and his cover man enter a room with two wounded insurgents. One lies on the floor in a puddle of blood, another against the wall. A reporter and his camera survey the wreckage inside, and in the background can be heard the voice of a Marine, "He's moving, he's moving!"
The pop of a rifle is heard, and the insurgent against the wall is now dead. Minutes, hours later, the scene is aired on national television, and the Marine is being held for committing a war crime. Unlawful killing.
And now, another Marine has the possibility of being burned at the stake for protecting the life of his brethren. His family now wrings their hands in grief, tears streaming down their face. Brother, should I have been in your boots, I too would have done the same.
For those of you who don't know, we Marines, Band of Brothers, Jarheads, Leathernecks, etc., do not fight because we think it is right, or think it is wrong. We are here for the man to our left, and the man to our right. We choose to give our lives so that the man or woman next to us can go home and see their husbands, wives, children, friends and families.
For those of you who sit on your couches in front of your television, and choose to condemn this man's actions, I have but one thing to say to you. Get out of your recliner, lace up my boots, pick up a rifle, leave your family behind and join me. See what I've seen, walk where I have walked. To those of you who support us, my sincerest gratitude. You keep us alive.
I am a Marine currently doing his second tour in Iraq. These are my opinions and mine alone. They do not represent those of the Marine Corps or of the US military, or any other.
During the last Presidential Campaign, much was made of John Kerry killing a VC who was aiming an RPG at Kerry's swift boat. Many said that the VC was wounded, many said he wasn't. It didn't matter one way or the other to me or most of us who supported John Kerry.. What mattered was that there was one less VC to kill Americans. And this situation is no different.
Was this action honorable? I think so. And it was definately necessary, if for no other reason than to send a message to the enemy that this ruse won't work anymore. We will not take chances anymore.
Honor is also ingrained in Marines. To quote from Sturkey's book again:
"Once he has earned the title and entered the Brotherhood of Marines, a new warrior must draw upon the legacy of his Corps. Therein lies his strength. In return, the strength of the Corps lies in the individual Marine. The character (often defined as "what you are in the dark") of these warriors is defined by the three constant Corps Values: honor, courage, and commitment.
Honor: Honor requires each Marine to exemplify the ultimate standard in ethical and moral conduct. Honor is many things; honor requires many things. A U.S. Marine must never lie, never cheat, never steal, but that is not enough. Much more is required. Each Marine must cling to an uncompromising code of personal integrity, accountable for his actions and holding others accountable for theirs. And, above all, honor mandates that a Marine never sully the reputation of his Corps.
Courage: Simply stated, courage is honor in action -- and more. Courage is moral strength, the will to heed the inner voice of conscience, the will to do what is right regardless of the conduct of others. It is mental discipline, an adherence to a higher standard. Courage means willingness to take a stand for what is right in spite of adverse consequences. This courage, throughout the history of the Corps, has sustained Marines during the chaos, perils, and hardships of combat. And each day, it enables each Marine to look in the mirror -- and smile.
Commitment: Total dedication to Corps and Country. Gung-ho Marine teamwork. All for one, one for all. By whatever name or cliche, commitment is a combination of (1) selfless determination and (2) a relentless dedication to excellence. Marines never give up, never give in, never willingly accept second best. Excellence is always the goal. And, when their active duty days are over, Marines remain reserve Marines, retired Marines, or Marine veterans. There is no such thing as an ex-Marine or former-Marine. Once a Marine, always a Marine. Commitment never dies.
The three Corps Values: honor, courage, commitment. They make up the bedrock of the character of each individual Marine. They are the foundation of his Corps. These three values, handed down from generation to generation, have made U.S. Marines the Warrior Elite. The U.S. Marine Corps: the most respected and revered fighting force on earth."
Many will argue that the actions of this Marine were neither Honorable or Courageous. I beg to differ. He had the courage and honor to do what he felt he had to do to protect himself and his Brothers from the enemy. He had the commitment to follow through on his training and eliminate the enemy.
Consider what every Marine is taught, what every Marine believes in:
THE CREED OF THE UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS
This is my rifle.
There are many like it, but this one is mine.
My rifle is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life.
My rifle without me is useless. Without my rifle, I am useless.
I must fire my rifle true. I must shoot straighter than my enemy who is trying to kill me. I must shoot him before he shoots me.
My rifle and myself know that what counts in war is not the rounds we fire, the noise of our bursts, nor the smoke we make. We know it is the hits that count.
We will hit...
My rifle is human, even as I, because it is my life. Thus, I will learn it as a brother. I will learn its weaknesses, its strengths, its parts, its accessories, its sights, and its barrel. I will ever guard it against the ravages of weather and damage. I will keep my rifle clean and ready, even as I am clean and ready. We will become part of each other.
Before God I swear this creed. My rifle and myself are the defenders of my country. We are the masters of our enemy. We are the saviors of my life. So be it, until there is no enemy,
When you breed and train an attack dog you can't be upset when he bites.
Marines are America's attack dogs and we will bite!
WHO ARE THE HEROES?
A high school senior in Ohio, Adrienne, got an English class assignment. She had to research and write a thesis. And, she could pick her topic.
Adrienne dipped back into our Nation's history. She reached back to a time before she was born, back to a time of national turmoil, back to the time of the war in Vietnam. Today, that long-ago conflict is a mere footnote in her history books. Who fought? Why? Who survived? Who died? Who were the heroes?
From her Nation's long struggle during the war in Vietnam, Adrienne picked her topic: WHO ARE THE HEROES?
An exhaustive search began. As part of her research, young Adrienne posted a notice on the web-site of the USMC Vietnam Helicopter Association. For the Marine Corps helicopter crews who flew and fought in Vietnam, she asked: "Who are the heroes?"
The many responses included an e-mail reply from Marion Sturkey, a Marine Corps helicopter pilot in Vietnam. He wrote not of glory and valor. He never mentioned anything he did, or tried to do. Instead, he wrote of basic human virtues: commitment, loyalty, brotherly love, and a cause greater than self. His reply to a young American schoolgirl is quoted below, verbatim:
March 6, 2001
I understand you are researching a project about heroism during the war in Vietnam. I commend you for the extent of your research.
"Who are the heroes?" you ask. I had the privilege of knowing many heroes during my time in Vietnam in 1966-1967. But, I doubt they are the type of men you would recognize as such. They were simply common men. Actually, "boys" would be more accurate with regard to many of them. They were not the "Follow Me!" type you may have seen in the movies. I have never heard any of them call themselves brave, although I witnessed what you would call bravery on a daily basis.
So, who are the heroes? They were the men (or "boys," many just a year or so older than yourself) who believed in each other, who relied on each other, and who sacrificed for each other. They were bound together by simple loyalty to their fellow Marines, their friends. They shared an unspoken trust and responsibility. Each knew that no matter how grave his peril, his friends would try to save him. They might fail and lose their own lives in the attempt. But, we all knew that they would try. We each had the same obligation. When one of our friends was in peril, we had to try, despite the danger. We had no choice. That was the pact we made. That was our code.
Heroes were soft-spoken men like Jim McKay, a helicopter gunner. Jim had survived his scheduled time in combat and was scheduled to fly home on the night of August 8, 1966. But, that night he learned that four of his friends were cut off, surrounded, fighting for their lives in the dark. Jim refused to leave Vietnam. He volunteered to fly on a rescue mission. His helicopter was shot down.
Heroes were men like Joe Roman, a helicopter pilot. On January 26, 1967, he answered the plea for help from Marines trapped on a ridge in Laos. They warned him of the danger, but he disregarded the warning and flew down to attempt a rescue. He, too, got shot down. Wounded in the head and buttocks, he survived. But, he never talked about it afterwards. When questioned, he would shrug and say that it was "nothing anyone else wouldn't do." He was right. Incidentally, Joe died last year. I attended his internment in Arlington National Cemetery.
There were thousands of such heroes. I am honored to have had the privilege to have served with them. Simply stated, they believed in a cause greater than themselves. They believed in each other. They knew the danger, but they also knew their responsibility and their code. They shared a brotherly love that no earthly circumstance can shatter. They, along with the 58,000-plus names on The Wall in Washington, DC, are true heroes.
The heroes who survived are now in their fifties or sixties. You know them as fathers, uncles, neighbors, maybe teachers. They have jobs and families. They pay taxes and make our society function. They don't label themselves as heroes. Yet, they are American Patriots in every sense of the words. And, deep down inside, they still maintain that undying brotherly love for the men with whom they served in Vietnam, thirty years or so ago. Without question, they are your heroes.
I hope the foregoing will be of assistance to you.
Warrior Culture of the U.S. Marines
by Marion Sturkey
These "new" Marines fighting in Iraq are no different. Gotta go now, I have to dry my eyes.