The Marines at war with an evil enemy

RAMADI, IRAQ - SEPTEMBER 1: U.S. Marine Maj. G...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
Lt.Gen. John F. Kelly:

Given the opportunity to do another 9/11, our merciless enemy would do it today, tomorrow, and every day thereafter.

I don't know why they hate us, and I don't care. We have a saying in the Marine Corps that there is "no better friend, no worse enemy, than a U.S. Marine." We always hope for the first, friendship, but are certainly more than ready for the second. If it's death they want, it's death they will get, and the Marines will continue showing them the way to hell if that's what will make them happy.

Our country is in a life and death struggle against an evil enemy, but America as a whole is certainly not at war. Only a tiny fraction -- less than a percent -- shoulder the burden of fear and sacrifice, and they shoulder it for the rest of us. What are they like in combat in this war? In my three tours in combat as an infantry officer and commanding general, I never saw one of them hesitate, or do anything other than lean into the fire and with no apparent fear take the fight to our enemies.

We can take comfort in the fact that these young Americans are not born killers, but are good and decent young men and women who have performed remarkable acts of bravery and selflessness to a cause they have decided is bigger and more important than themselves. Only a few months ago they were delivering your paper, stocking shelves in the local grocery store, worshiping in church on Sunday, or playing hockey on local ice. Like my own two sons who are Marines and have fought in Iraq, and today in Sagin, Afghanistan, they are also the same kids that drove their cars too fast for your liking, and played the god-awful music of their generation too loud. But have no doubt, they are the finest of their generation.

Let me describe an incident that shows what kind of people they are. Two years ago, when I was the commander of all U.S. and Iraqi forces, two Marine infantry battalions were switching out in Ramadi. One battalion was in the closing days of its deployment, the other just starting its seven-month combat tour. Two Marines, Cpl. Jonathan Yale and Lance Cpl. Jordan Haerter, 22 and 20 years old respectively, one from each battalion, were assuming the watch together at the entrance gate of an outpost that contained a makeshift barracks housing 50 Marines. The same broken-down ramshackle building was also home to 100 Iraqi police, our allies in the fight against the terrorists in Ramadi, until recently the most dangerous city on Earth. Yale was a dirt-poor, mixed-race kid from Virginia with a wife and daughter, and a mother and sister who lived with him. He supported them all on a yearly salary of less than $23,000. Haerter was a middle-class white kid from Long Island. Had they not joined the Marines they would never have met each other, or understood that multiple Americas exist simultaneously depending on one's race, education level, economic status, and where you were born. But they were Marines, combat Marines, forged in the same crucible of Marine training, and because of this bond they were brothers.

The mission orders they received from the sergeant squad leader I am sure went something like: "OK you two clowns, stand this post and let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass. You clear?" I am also sure Yale and Haerter then rolled their eyes and said in unison something like: "Yes Sergeant," with just enough attitude that made the point without saying the words, "No kidding sweetheart, we know what we're doing." They then took up their post at the entry control point of Joint Security Station Nasser, in the Sophia section of Ramadi, al Anbar, Iraq.

A few minutes later a large blue truck turned down the alleyway, which was perhaps 60 to 70 yards in length, and sped its way through the serpentine of concrete jersey walls. The truck stopped just short of where the two were posted and detonated. Twenty-four brick masonry houses were damaged or destroyed. A mosque 100 yards away collapsed. The truck's engine came to rest 200 yards away knocking most of a house down before it stopped. Our explosive experts reckoned the blast was made of 2,000 pounds of explosives.

I traveled to Ramadi the next day and spoke individually to a half-dozen Iraqi police all of whom told the same story. They all said, "We knew immediately what was going on as soon as the two Marines began firing." The Iraqi police then related that some of them also fired, and then ran for safety just before the explosion. All survived. Many were injured, some seriously. As one of the Iraqis explained, they had merely done what any "normal man" would do - run for his life. "What I didn't know until then," he said, "and what I learned at that very instant, was that Marines are not normal." Choking past the emotion, he said, "Sir, in the name of God no sane man would have stood there and done what they did. They saved us all."

There is more. A security camera caught the action and it took only six seconds from the time the truck appeared until it exploded. The Marines stood their ground and did their duty and saved their fellow Marines and the Iraqis. The speech was given only four days after Gen. Kelly lost one of his sons in action in Afghanistan.
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