*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
Sergeant Ryan S. Becze USMC
LCpl Collin G. Neier USMC
Pat Dollard, Neo-con Gonzo Documentarian
Michael Phillips, The Wall Street Journal
LÃ Ã¡ BhlÃ ir's math na CÃ 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.