It gives me great pleasure to have the chance to share some of my experiences from my time in the United States Marine Corps to all of you. It brings honor to the USMC and military when you so willingly join the toughest, hardest and most realistic unit in the community. As you all know, this unit is not just a hobby for me but also my way of inspiring you and our fans to take a closer look at their countries militaries and understand that their is no higher honor you can personally give to your country other than serving. While most people our age focus on their daily lives, a Marine only focuses on preparing their mind and bodies for their next deployment. I want to give you guys a short story of why this unit and creating it means so much to me.
I started my military career in the corps the same place thousands before me have. Parris Island, South Carolina was for me a new beginning. Before PI I was struggling to hold down part time jobs while juggling college and girls. I thought my life was pretty hectic then until New York City came under attack from international terrorists in an act of war. Like many American's, 9/11 was felt personally as my Cousin and Aunt where among the killed. Rage entered my heart and I wanted revenge.
I stayed in school for the rest of the semester while watching daily updates on the emerging war in Afghanistan and Iraq. I felt ashamed that while I was sitting here others where fighting. When college ended I returned home and informed my parents that my decision has been made and that I wished to join the United States Marine Corps. It was tough seeing the tears in my mother's eyes and the pride on my father's face but to me none of that mattered to me anymore. There wasn't going to be a way for me to be able to forgive myself if I did not enlist to go fight. That week I enlisted and fought with my recruiter to put me on the first available bus to recruit training. It took a whole week.
After Parris Island and School Of Infantry at Camp Geiger, North Carolina, I was issued my permanent duty station with the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines Weapons Company 81MM Platoon. I was greeted at the airport terminal by the meanest looking Marine I have ever seen before. I had thought the Marines at Parris Island looked tough but this Marine gave me chill bumps when he looked at me and called my last name. This was my future Platoon Leader SSgt. Ramseyer (Ram). My first impressions of him after my first month in his platoon lived up to my expectations. I had never in my life met a more fit, conditioned person than he was. Or as pissed off to the world as he was. Hell if that wasn't enough I later found out that he was a regular contestant in the UFC fights on base.
It went on like this for a few more months until we where only one month away from our deployment and where heading to CAX for our final training exercise. Overseas in Iraq Operation Phantom Fury was underway. This operation did not feel like all the other ones. Every Marine was talking about it and everyone knew this was going to be the fight. One day, during our training, SSgt. Ram set us all down and briefed us on the developing battle raging in Fallujah. It was the first time I saw that once you get on his level or gain his respect he is actually a very emotional guy who cares deeply for his Marines. SSgt. Ram came from 2/3 who happened to be the ones fighting in Fallujah. These Marines who where like me who used to be in his old platoon he trained where his brothers no doubt about it. When training commenced it was over 100 degrees, all of us could barely walk and everyone needed sleep. But something in Ram's words and the fear of so many Marines like me where currently being killed in Fallujah turned training into a new phase for me. I was no longer training. I was preparing. And later that day SSgt. Ram expressed his approval of my days performance. The first real compliment I ever got from him.
After a hectic last week of signing Will's, ensuring dependents where on Marine's coverage, updating our life insurance policies and checking the condition of our weapons and equipment we were on the flight deck ready to depart for Iraq. News reports from Iraq at that time where about escalating violence in the aftermath of Fallujah. Particularly in Haditha, right where we where heading. Without a crowd of people cheering or a single pretty girl in site we loaded onto our plane and started the long flight.
Too antsy to sleep for most of the traveling I finally fell asleep when we where on our last leg. I woke up minutes before we were to land. I felt nausea that I had gotten myself into this but I remembered my cousin and Aunt's faces to help hide any fear that was in my eyes. I wasn't lucky enough to have a window seat but I was close enough to a window to peek out and see the nothingness of Iraq. Suddenly the plane descended and the nausea returned. My heart was pounding even though I knew we would be landing in a green zone and wouldn't have the possibility of running into any insurgents until we left the base. Just as I was telling myself that three loud pops made every Marine jump out of their seats. We all looked at each other for what felt like a few minutes and then one more pop. And then another. Finally over the intercom our pilot informed us we just got shot at. Welcome to Iraq Devil Dogs.
A week went by of exhausting work and no sleep. My billet was no longer a mortarman at that time because politicians where too worried about negligent discharges and civilian casualties to they combined us mortarman with the machine gunners and snipers of weapons company to make us into a mobile quick reaction force called MAP 1 (1st Mobile Assault Platoon). This was a groundbreaking strategy that other battalions would use while In Iraq to maximize speed and presence in Iraq's more dangerous areas.
On the outskirts of Haditha our lead vehicle was hit by an IED. I was a turret gunner in one of our attack vehicles while we performed immediate action to secure the vehicle and get a corpsman to it in case any Marines where wounded which there where not. As soon as our corpsman started helping Marines out of the Humvee Insurgents from a nearby building opened fire with automatic weapons. I was surprised by my own actions when it took me less than half a second to have my hands on my weapon and start firing back. The building they where in was completely destroyed by .50 CAL machine guns and a few rounds from a nearby Mark19. Rescue efforts continued on Victor 1 when my fireteam leader yelled out he see's wires leading into a house beside the one we just destroyed. They lead directly to the damaged Humvee signaling to all of us that the bomber was in that house instead of the other one we just destroyed when he triggered the bomb.
My fireteam leader ordered his fireteam out of the truck and we dismounted with the house in our objective. Another fireteam came with us stacked on the door. Like an idiot I was the first one at the door. This meant I volunteered myself as point man, but seeing I was still a "Boot" I would probably be told to take point anyway I didn't even think to complain. Seconds before I breached the house SSgt. Ram shouted at me to wait up. He came over and said there's probably a good chance someone is in here and that he will go first. I stepped back and restacked on the door while SSgt. Ram set in front to kick it down. As soon as his foot made contact with the door it exploded. Every Marine who was stacked was knocked off their feet and where deaf from the blast. SSgt. Ram was on the ground in front of us clearly deceased.
It felt like losing my father more than my brother. And worse still, he was the best and toughest Marine I have ever seen before and he was our first from our platoon to be killed. He left behind three children and a wife in North Carolina. If he could get killed what chances did I or most of us have?
For the remainder of my deployment similar stuff like this happened throughout. I had never imagined in my life that this was war. I had every sane predictions about war but nothing came close to what it was truly like. So, after getting out of the Marines when my enlistment ended I wanted to do what I could to show others the significance of what it means to serve your country. It truly is the most honorable thing you can do for it and their is nothing stronger in the world than you, a rifle and the rest of your platoon. The 3rd Marines I have created is my attempt to give you guys a closer look to the real thing. Granted I cannot actually take you out onto a real life training exercise, but I can do what I can to teach you guys about the Marine Corps. How they talk, act, run their platoons and coordinate with others. But there is also room for laughing, joking and making friends.
So when I tell you guys you truly inspire me to work even harder on this unit it is the truth. You knew before you joined that we have the hardest Boot Camp in the community. You knew before joining we required more out of our recruits to learn than many other units combined. And you also knew that it would take years before you see a NCO rank. But you enlisted anyway. Not because we are just your friends but because you guys do in fact have a patriotic bug inside of you. All of you remind me of myself but better than me in the fact it took me until 9/11 to start learning more about the military. I am very proud you guys respect my advice and what we are doing in the 3rd Marines and I can assure you the respect is given in return. You are my online brothers.
Semper Fi Marines,