Before you wish someone a Happy Memorial Day please think! It is not.
Memorial Day is a time to think on and honor those who died serving our country. This hit home for me a few days ago when my son, who served in the U. S Marine Corps in 2nd Recon a special forces unit posted the following on Facebook. It was written in 2006, when his unit was in Iraq and it sums up some of the emotions these young men and their families carry with them every year at this time. He lost 12 friends that tour, a large number for the small unit they were. Many carry survivors' guilt, and many went through things we can never imagine or comprehend. Leaving all politics aside please take time to honor these young men and women who have served and if anything give them a hug and let them know you care for them even if you don't understand the mental or physical scars they carry.
To family and friends and all those back home who support the fight for freedom,
I just sealed the envelope on what I hope to be the last condolence letter I ever have to write. As I addressed the envelope to the mother of my most recent fallen Marine, I inscribed “FREE” on the upper right corner - to denote the lack of postage due to its origin being a combat zone. As I wrote that word, I felt the pen - and my heart - become heavy. Four simple letters, written to denote the cost, or lack thereof, of sending a letter to home from combat. Four simple letters that sum up everything written inside of that envelope. The postage is free; liberty is not. All of the Marines who we evacuated after the horrible IED attack on the night of 01 May have fallen, each at his own time. Yesterday was their memorial service - Memorial Day weekend was an appropriate time for such a service. Moving units around at the last minute to get as many Marines back inside the wire just for the few hours they needed to pay their last respects to their fallen brothers is the type of Memorial Day weekend one experiences during war. I have received quite a few emails from family and those friends who I consider family, wishing us the best during this Memorial Day weekend and thanking us for the sacrifices made. Those people who should be thanked are the ones that won’t come home and those families they won’t come home to.
Lance Corporal Robert Moscillo - Combat Engineer, man of God, brother to five and son. Robert was killed on the night of 01 May.
Robert spent many years growing up trying to figure out what his path in life was going to be. When he felt called to religious service, he decided to join the Marine Corps first to serve his country and to earn the money he needed to attend the religious education he sought. He was attached to my platoon for about a month before he died in the IED attack on 01 May. A source of entertainment, motivation, and spiritual outreach among the Marines in the platoon, he will be sorely missed.
Corporal Cory Palmer - Recon Marine, Sniper, Marine Combatant Diver, Son and Brother. Cory Palmer wanted to hike the entire Appalachian Trail. He loved surfing and lived for having fun. He was one of the finest Marines I’ve ever served with. He died on 06 May as a result of the burns he sustained on the night of 01 May - four days before his 23rd birthday.
Enthusiasm - “intense feeling for a subject or cause, eagerness, zeal …something inspiring.” Corporal Cory Palmer personified enthusiasm…enthusiasm for the Marine Corps, for having fun, and more importantly, for his family and his brother Marines. Indeed, Cory was “something inspiring.” A specimen of physical greatness and mental ingenuity, he was a natural leader. Though he didn’t hold a leadership billet during most of his time in the platoon, Cory led Marines. Every Marine in the platoon would follow Cory, myself included. He was a man who had the courage to speak his mind, and the courage to take the enemy face on. Paddling against the waves to find the one he wanted was the way that Cory operated in all that he did. Whether surfing, or wading through the tides of war to find the best way to destroy his adversary, Cory always maintained his composure and followed through on every occasion. Cory and his enthusiasm will be missed.
Corporal William “Brad” Fulks - Recon Marine, Golden Glove Boxing State Champion, Son, Brother, and Boyfriend. Brad Fulks was a quiet professional who was deeply respected by every man in the platoon. He died on 18 May 2006, 15 days after his 23rd birthday.
Toughness - “so strong and resilient as to withstand great strain without breaking.” Corporal William Bradley Fulks was tough. A quiet professional, he was humble, yet had every reason not to be. A golden glove boxing state champion, he could put a man on his face in a second, yet never once let that quality show, unless he needed to. It was easy for me to tell that the men in the platoon felt comfortable around Brad whether out in town or outside the wire - they felt protected. I know that if I had to survive a bar fight, or a gun fight, he’d be the one I’d want right by my side and I know that the rest of the platoon feels the exact same way. Brad and his toughness and quiet dependability will be missed.
Sergeant Alessandro Carbonaro - Recon Marine, Recon Team Leader, Husband and only Son. Today is the one-year anniversary of the marriage of Sergeant Alessandro Carbonaro and his wife Gilly. A year ago he was married in Washington D.C. Days ago, he was buried a few miles south, in Arlington Cemetary.
Wisdom — “insightful understanding of what is true, right, or enduring…a native good judgment.” Sergeant Alessandro Carbonaro personified wisdom. Refined in his ability to communicate, Alex quietly commanded the attention of the platoon at times. His words and opinion were valued among every man and his good judgment was often sought from those both above him and below him. Many times, I went to Alex for ideas and advice on how to accomplish a task, never walking away without a better plan than the one I had started with. It was easy to tell from my first days with the platoon that he cared greatly for his Marines and their welfare. After the horrible IED attack, as his fellow Marines treated his wounds, he continued to ask about his team members, ignoring the pain he himself was experiencing. He truly cared for others more than himself - the mark of a great man and a true leader. Alex and his caring nature and wisdom will be missed.
The four great Marines listed above are only those from my platoon. Our battalion has lost two more and there are others who are still in naval medical facilities beginning their healing process. Some have been killed in the enemy’s cowardly but effective IED attacks. Others have died and been wounded in close range firefights with determined and fanatical foreign fighters, members of well known terrorist organizations like the one responsible for September 11th. One of these men is Petty Officer 3rd Class Lee H. Deal, a Special Amphibious Reconnaissance Corpsman whose funeral was Friday in Baton Rouge, LA. A former student of West Monroe High School, he was to be married upon his return from this deployment to his wonderful fiancé.
All of these Marines are those who should be remembered this Memorial Day weekend, along with all those who have paid the ultimate price in every war before ours.
I have been fortunate to have such a great family and such great friends to know that everything we do here is supported from those back home. I’ve received numerous care packages - some which have been gestures of extreme generosity (thanks Mr. Art!). I’ve taken these care packages and massed them together, then separated all the things inside to make “sniper resupply packages” to drop off to my recon teams and sniper teams when we replenish them with water and ammunition. The men greatly appreciate your generosity.
Have no doubt that as the American people grow wearier and more impatient during this war, that our resolve grows even stronger. The enemy knows that his greatest friends are those in America who can work to demoralize the country and to break our will to fight. He has learned from history and knows the impact of the media and the influence of famous people who have no idea what freedom means or its real cost. Today’s Jane Fonda’s still exist and all those factors that made it so difficult to achieve a strategic victory in Vietnam are the same factors that exist today. We won the tactical fight every time in Vietnam. We continue to win the tactical fights today. It is at the strategic level that America is so vulnerable because of the influence of the masses - the most often times uneducated masses, those that are swayed easily by the media and by famous people who are out of touch with reality. The evil we face today in this world in fanatical Islamic Fundamentalism is as bad or worse than the evil faced by communism or even nazism during WWII. Many people agree that our participation in WWII is what prevents us from speaking German today. To stand by and idly watch whole portions of the world succumb to the demands of Islamic Fundamentalists is as bad an appeasement as Europe in the late 1930s. The men who fight and kill these evil people every day in this war understand this. I can only hope that those back home, the masses who affect foreign policy decisions, can look at history and come to understand this. The war we are fighting is a just war and a necessary war. During this Memorial Day weekend, let us not forget those who have paid the ultimate price fighting it.
Robert Moscillo, Cory Palmer, Brad Fulks, Alessandro Carbonaro
Strong — “physically powerful, robust, healthy, difficult to break, durable, intense, violent, persuasive, and forceful.” Robert, Cory, Brad, and Alessandro were strong Marines and strong men. All were intense and violent against the enemy. They protected their fellow Marines. In his own way, each was persuasive. Each was robust, healthy, and difficult to break. We must not look at their passing as them having broken, or given in. We must look at it as their passage to a place where their strength, their toughness, wisdom, and enthusiasm will be used for a much greater cause, that of the Lord. They remain among us, watching over the platoon and using their talents to protect us against evil - a much greater foe than anything we’ll face on earth’s battlefields.
Thank you for your constant prayers. Please pray for the souls of these Marines and for their families this Memorial Day Weekend.
1st Lieutenant, USMC
Recon Platoon Commander
Recon Platoon Commander
— with Swaleh Bones.