Ready to Roll into Fallujah - picture taken at a staging area an hour or so before we rolled in the first day of the operation. The city is just over the dune behind us.
What an interesting trip, interesting being an understatement and probably inappropriate.
I was with an Iraqi Brigade and six other Americans. I found the Iraqis to be wonderful and brave fellows. I learned to never give a gift to an Iraqi unless you are willing to play a never ending game of one-upmanship. I had five Iraqis that I inadvertently engaged in this game. It all started with me giving them gum, progressed through them killing and cooking a rooster for me, me buying cartons of cigarettes from Marines for them and ended when they 'liberated' several cases of Coca-cola from a store and brought it to me. I knew then I had to tell them the game had to stop.
Taking all the politics, motivations, lies, deceptions and whatever else brought us all to this point out of the equation, my experience with these fellows is something that will stick with me for a life time. They are so eager, too eager, to be just like us. The fellows I was with think the world of a US uniform and were willing to do anything and everything I asked, a wholly different experience than that of many US soldiers.
By the third day of the operation civilians by the dozens began to emerge from the rubble, old men and women, young mothers and children. They hid from us as long as they could, they surely thought we would gun them down. Their hunger and thirst forced them out. Contrary to the stories I later heard I can tell you we fed these people (out of our own food and water), medics tended to them and they were taken care of. The fear was evident in their eyes, even as they lined up to receive food and water.
Much more to tell, many more thoughts to think, just now I am too close to some of the more painful sights, sounds and events to comment. I saw some very fine young men doing things young men ought never have to do. My heart remains in the Corps even though I long ago changed uniforms. Those kids are simply the finest and 99% of the world can never really and truly appreciate what I mean by that.
This is a damned nasty war. Make no mistake about it.
Recedite, plebes! Gero rem imperialem