How does a former Marine (still very much so at heart), celebrate the birthday of the United States Marine Corps? Well, without specifics, I was in the air above the barren night landscape of Southern Baghdad, with Delta Company 1/184th on a combat mission, what the Army calls an Air Assault. CPT D, of "Demon" Company asked me to tag along and lend a hand where I could, despite my reservations, it was my duty to oblige, thus I went.
The marshaling area was alive with the usual soldierly banter, and my mind wandered and my thoughts drifted to what it must have been like with LTC Hal Moore's men as they descended form the skies above the Ia Drang Valley. Or how tense it must have been prior to the landings at Saipan, Gudal, or Iwo. I wathced soldiers do what they do, they joke, they mess around, and they silently pray. Father Bob was there handing out candy, and making us feel a little better about what we were about to do. I didn't feel scared per se, but I was very apprehensive, that is an understatement.
As the birds, jumped off of the ground, the wind, and rotor wash filled the cabin, and as we were catapulted towards the darkness of the Iraqi sky, my unease left, and if looked at the ground below, from above even Iraq looks good. CPT W, was more or less correct. As the signal was given that we were 5 minutes out, what I can only say was what passed for a prayer "Father, may we be swift, sure, and right. Should we be wrong, let us be wrong and remain standing." 30 seconds, the stomach tightened and I held my breath. wheels down, GO GO GO!!! We jumped from our seats and hit the deck fast and ready. It was 0001 hours. The USMC was 230 years, old, and I could think of no better way of celebrating than to put my boots (USMC issued boots) on the deck. Granted it wasn't like Iwo, or Juno, Sword, or Gold. But for me it was just as real, and the memories of it will be with me for the rest of my days. The tension, and apprehension I felt were as real as I have felt them in over a decade. As I moved with the team I was assigned to moved to our assigned area, the job (training) took over, and I did what I was assigned to do. During the operation, the true spirit of America came out. Children and women were cold, and we gave them blankets, and offered them smiles of reassurance. How odd it was to be there, doing our job, and providing comfort and care to the people we are here to help, the local Iraqi's. Despite fatigue, and aches, we all did our job.
We were in the air, and back to base. The mission was complete, none of us got hurt, and the day was ours (Henry the V reference). It was a good mission, and when I returned a former Marine took my hand and said happy birthday Brother. I am fortunate. I have the honor of being part of two distinct "Bands of Brothers". I got "home" and felt drained. yet I did what I was trained to do; "after every battle, sharpen your sword." I cleaned my weapons. Sleep didn't come easy. Today at evening mess, some of us gathered and we celebrated the Corps's Birthday. Not as well as last year, but then again we are in a different place. Yet the place does not matter, but it is the Company we keep.
230 years, and counting. I was once told by a mentor of my progression into the commissioned Army ranks; that in order for me to succeed, I need only remember that I am a Marine. Though I am not a Marine (in uniform now), my heart still beats with the intensity that it did when I was a younger man, when I was a Marine! Now I am a soldier, and though the uniform and title have changed. The blood that beats within my heart, has not. Though today I be a soldier, forever my spirit shall remain that which was born on the hallowed ground, of MCRD San Diego. Though tomorrow I am a Soldier and proud as hell to wear the uniform of a commissioned officer in this the Army of these United States, on this day, once again I am and honoured to be a Marine.
Happy 230th Marines!