A Marine’s Anniversary Reflections

A two-tour Marine recalls what it was like to fight in Iraq on the tenth anniversary of its invasion.

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The sunrise is seen behind a US marine in Fallujah, Iraq in 2004.

It’s the little details you tend to remember about war, snapshots of time that have a grisly habit of creeping into your thoughts and dreams years after your service:

– The deafening silence of “roll call” during a memorial service for fallen comrades.

– A jagged piece of metallic shrapnel deeply-embedded in the whites of an eyeball of a friend who lay screaming on a stretcher.

– An insurgent’s shredded, infected calf muscle torn apart by an M-16, gaping open to the bone.

These are just some of the intrusive images from Iraq that visit me from time to time — each one a reminder of the gruesomeness that is war.

Ten years ago, full of preconceived notions and unrealistic expectations of combat, I watched the invasion of Iraq unfold from the confines of my barracks room in Quantico, Va.

Joined by fellow boot lieutenants from my Marine Corps officer basic school class,  we made cocky, off-hand remarks about Marines kicking ass and killing the enemy — frankly, that’s exactly what we were training to do. So at the time, it seemed like justified confidence for warriors-in-training like us with everything to prove.

But in reality, this group of alpha males was trying desperately to mask our collective insecurity with our uncertain, yet rapidly approaching, destinies in the corps. It was a strange feeling — almost out-of-body, really — to be in the middle of training for war and watching an actual war on TV…

To finish reading this article from TIME Battleland click here.