Saturday, February 04, 2006

By the Twos

*Click on images to enlarge

From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother.

M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tanks, Old Ubaydi

Corporal Koppes' Patrol, Ubaydi

Sniper Team Gearing Up

Stretcher Bearers

Filling Sandbags

Sergeant Ryan S. Becze USMC

LCpl Collin G. Neier USMC

Pat Dollard, Neo-con Gonzo Documentarian

Michael Phillips, The Wall Street Journal

Là á Bhlà ir's math na Cà irdean
Friends are good in the day of battle
(On the memorial stone of the 51st Highland Division at St Valery)

Marines, hardy individualists all, don't do anything solo when outside the wire. Every NCO or officer briefing a patrol or convoy peppers their instructions with two phrases, two non-negotiable operational concepts; battle buddies and guardian angels. The principle is simple, together we survive, alone we die. Whether filling sandbags, assigned the odious task of burning human waste, bearing a stretcher, patrolling or going out to snipe, you never go it alone, EVER. Today's photos and artwork are illustrative of this.

The two individuals whose photographs appear today, Michael Phillips of The Wall Street Journal and Hollywood documentary film maker Pat Dollard, were my battle buddies while at Ar Ramadi's Observation Post Horea. These two gentlemen, though fundamentally different creatively and politically, have fearlessly shared the common lot of the Marines here in Iraq. Mike was here on his fourth visit and Pat his third. Mike, a seasoned photo-journalist, works diligently to maintain the aloof impartiality of a judge even while enduring all the dangers and hardships faced by the Marines he covers. In addition to dispatches appearing regularly in The Wall Street Journal, he's also written a book entitled The Gift of Valor: A War Story. Lest one thinks his prose is limited to arid reporting, his reviewers assure us that this book displays the hand of a sensitive and evocative wordsmith. This intimate account of the life and heroic death of Medal of Honor nominee Corporal Jason Dunham leaves only the most hardened unmoved and dry eyed. Although he dons all the necessary protective combat gear, his fleece pullover and blue jeans leave no doubt that he's a non-combatant. On the back of his flack jacket is a large strip of duck tape with bold indelible ink letters spelling out PRESS. I asked him why he didn't have the same word in Arabic, and without blinking an eye responded, "it's there for the Marines, not the insurgents". The war in Iraq has been deadlier for members of the fourth estate than any other conflict. Pat Dollard, on the other hand, is a wild eyed zealot freshly descended from the mountain living on locusts and honey. He has found his long lost tribe, the Marines, and he's gone unapologetically native. A former Hollywood talent agent and producer, he's now living out a Hunter S. Thompsonesque complete immersion into the Heart of Darkness I now see the light who are these incredible human beings called Marines experience. Other than a usually unshaved mug, lack of rank insignia and weapon, he is indistinguishable from the jarheads he follows everywhere with camera shouldered and jaunty cigarette dangling from his lip. But don't let this description lead you to believe that Dollard is not the genuine article or that he's going off half-cocked with nary a plan. This is an articulate film maker on a mission. There is method in his madness and hopefully in the very near future the fruits of his labor will grace our television screens. Being with these two was enlightening, enriching and just plain fun.

The two individual portrait drawings show a duo best described as a pair of modern day Gunga Dins. Sergeant Becze and Lance Corporal Neier, assigned to Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, together spent their days and nights during Operation River Gate in Haditha running food, water and ammunition to Marines out on the front lines. Time after time they left the relative safety of a firm base in an open back HUMVEE packed with essentials and navigated their way to isolated units through battle scarred alleyways. Often they returned with a load of enemy prisoners of war(EPWs)in their care. These guys, in danger coming and going, performed with a smile and the confidence that only comes from knowing that a buddy is always covering your six.

Finally, I give you a pair of inanimate objects; two M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tanks as they move into position in support of Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment on the evening of November 15, 2005 in Old Ubaydi, Iraq. On the following day these behemoths would come dashing to the rescue of a pinned down unit, and become more than mere machines to the besieged 3rd Squad, 2nd Platoon of Fox Company. Each of these tanks has a team of four Marines on foot providing external security, and on the morning of November 16th one of these escorts, in desperate hand-to-hand fighting, probably earned a Navy Cross. Insurgents were throwing hand grenades from the roof of a hotly contested house, and Corporal A (I'll leave him anonymous until the award is approved and presented), down and seriously wounded in both legs, picked up a grenade and tried to toss it back inside. Unfortunately it detonated before he could get it completely inside amputating his right hand, but his selfless act of courage prevented anyone else from being killed or wounded.


Catnapping said...

These illustrations are fantastic. I really love your line work.

p.s. Too bad Dollard's a neocon...he's kinda cute.

Cheryl said...

You are amazing - you tell your stories in two art forms - through a story and through your drawings.

Keep them coming!!

Beth* A. said...

You provide so many slices of Marine life for us to appreciate. And now a book to look for, thanks for the heads-up about your buddy's work.
I have to ask, in your drawing what's the equipment in/near LCP Neier's hand?
Don't know if you're a football fan or not, but they did a good pregame story about the fact that the 444 day Iran Hostage Crisis ended with the hostages coming home on Superbowl Sunday 1980 - to a piece of Americana they weren't sure they'd ever see again. It was a moving thing to see.
Be safe and well, M D Fay!!!

Buck Pennington said...

Brilliant. Brilliant as always, Mr. Fay.

Be careful out there.

Anonymous said...

Hi there, m d fay! I don't comment often - you have some fans who are so much more articulate than I - but they say what I would if I could. I AM lining up for a membership in that club they're forming. ;) I had to get in on this one though, when I saw the M1A1 Abrams. My son says those guys saved him and his buddies several times over. His motto is "God bless the Tankers!-(Thanks from a Crunchy)". So Mamma loves 'em too! That makes your picture of them even more poignant to me than your pictures usually are.
I'm no artist, and don't understand all the elements that make up the whole, but I know when something portrays more than just the objects in view, and portrays it all in a compelling way. Keep up the good work, please sir. We need it!
(I want to praise you too, for understanding our need to see the humble and mundane, as well as the heroic. You treat all our beloved warriors with such respect. Bless you!)
A 2/1 Fox Mom
And hey, I got a great laugh out of that comment about the exes and the sanity. Can we contact them? :)

mdfay said...

To Beth*a., That thing by his hand is the little reciever/transmitter for a personal communication device. Marines at the platoon level use them to stay in touch out in the field. Usually every fire team, squad and platoon leader has one.

To anonymous. You are as articulate as anyone who has been gracious enough to leave a comment. Your son should just about be home by now.

*annie said...

I am in awe-looking through your drawings, and reading the things you have written to go along with them. You give me much insight to the more personnal side what things are like-I am a very grateful lady for your blogg, and of course-the talent you have been given. Your gift, provokes many thoughts, and feelings-and acts as a window into the place where, I myself would stand-if I had been called upon to do the same job as my husband. I am inspired by the companionship and devotion that is sharded by Marines, and find hope in everything-by just the mear mention their title.
I am not surprised to hear, they are rubbing off on those around them; giving them the chance to feel what true brotherhood really is.
I have told my husband about your blogg, and I'll have to show him and the guys your drawings when they all return...I am sure many will be familiar to them.
Thank You again, for putting this page together, and Thank You for what you do for all of us, and what you, unknowingly-have brought to me.

Samantha West said...

I hope you don't mind. I stop by at least once a day to look at your beautiful work. I never get tired of seeing your images.


Beth* A. said...

To: A 2/1 Fox Mom,

Not articulate? Are you kidding??? Your words had a bell-like clarity.
That's it, I think you should ask M D Fay's Mom if YOU can be Secretary of the Fan Club (I know when I'm outgunned) I'll bake cookies, or unfold chairs, or something...:-)
(I loved the tanker/crunchy bit, btw. The way these guys just cut to the chase with their descriptives - it's great!)

In all seriousness, tell your son thank you for his service, please. As just the friend, not the Mom, of someone over there, I marvel at YOUR bravery and the strength you show every day.

David said...

Another one for you Mr Fay:

Theid an deagh shaighdear gu h-aoibhneach suilbjear an dail gach tuitemais a thig'na chrannchur
(The good soldier will advance with spirit and cheerfulness to any service that comes his way)

(Address to soldiers of the Highland brigade at the end of the 18th Century)

GunnNutt said...

Great post and art! You are such a treasure!!!!