Sunday, April 29, 2007

Baghdad Update

This is the second in a series of reports on war in Iraq from our good friend Lt. Col. Dave McCarthy, USMC. (See “Greetings from Baghdad” 4/17/07). Some of my readers don’t know Dave and have asked for a bit of background. Here, in his words, is the McCarthy family.

Greetings, All. Very early tomorrow I take a C-130 to points far northof Baghdad. My previous messages have told you about my life here in Iraq and now, before I leave, I wanted to tell you about the home front.

Joseph (17-years old) has gotten a job at Islands restaurant and enjoys it very much, however that means that he doesn't visit Carey,Connor and Trevor as much as we'd like. We understand that between work and school it's difficult. Joseph is an absolutely super kid who everyone likes; His brothers Connor and Trevor idolize him. When I speak with his guidance counselors and teachers they all rave about him. He's been accepted to several colleges. He would like to be a U.S. Marine, and is weighing the pros and cons of enlisting in the Reserves while he's in college and then getting commissioned or doing the Platoon Leaders Course. Either way he'll make a fine Marine. For years he has studied the Guidebook for Marines and the Marine Officer's Guide, and he knows the 11 Leadership Principles and the 14 Leadership Traits.

Twins Connor and Trevor are a barrel of monkeys - a loveable barrel of monkeys but a barrel of monkeys nonetheless. They play on Basketball, Little League and Soccer teams and do quite well. Like Joseph, they're very well-mannered and polite (they're my boys - they damned well better be). Cullen is our Irish Terrier, and he is one crazy dog. When he has extra energy he tears around the house at breakneck speed - I find it hard to comprehend how anything can go so fast in such a confined space - and Connor and Trevor just jump up on the couch to get out of his way and they shout in unison, "GO CULLEN GO! GO CULLEN GO!" Most of the time, the three of them tear around the house like a hurricane.

As for Carey, where do I start? She works almost full time in a demanding job, takes the boys to all of their sports practices and games, their after-school tutoring and all of their appointments. She reads to them and with them every night and does endless math problems and other studies. Carey is an amazing, wonderful wife and an amazing, wonderful mother. I honestly don't know how or why God saw fit to bless my existence on this earth with her, but I thank God every day that he did.

This current vacation in Iraq is my fifth deployment since 9/11; the first four were back-to-back, so after 9/11, I was gone from home for over two years. It is a testament to Carey's strengths - physical, mental and spiritual - that she managed with twin boys who were 18 months old when I left and almost 4 years old when I returned. This time is not any easier for her and in many ways it is more difficult. What she did then and what she does now is immeasurably harder than what I do. Heck, it’s easy getting shot at and having bad guys trying to blow you up.

Take care and be well.
Semper Fidelis,

Colonel McCarthy’s previous message of April 24 tells about the daily life of a “garden-variety Marine Ground-Pounder/Bullet-Stopper.” Dave explains that because he is a lawyer in civilian life “some people back home think what I do for the Marine Corps is lawyering, with the Judge Advocate General Corps. However, I don't practice law in the military and I have no desire to (I'm allergic to desks and offices). I went to law school after I left active duty a hundred or so years ago, so I never practiced military law.”

One of Dave’s more humorous experiences was an encounter with a wolf aboard a Forward Operating Base. He sent a truly frightening picture of the wolf (or his brother) and notes “the resemblance between a U.S. Marine and a wolf.”

On the subject of life in the war zone: “I will tell you that we can handle hunger, filth and the deprivation of all manner of comforts. What is a killer, or at least has the potential to be, is the sleep deprivation that we sometimes are subjected to by mission necessity. It's akin to the stress that I previously wrote about in that we try not to think about the stress or the lack of sleep, but we're likely internalizing it. I suppose if we thought consciously about stress and lack of sleep we'd go nuts. Then again, this whole place is nuts. One of our expressions here is NORMAL is a cycle on a washing machine. One thing that would likely seem abnormal to a normal person is how we are accustomed to explosions and gun fire. There are generally 140 attacks per day in Iraq, and 60 per day in Baghdad. Every night and much of the day the sound of small arms fire and machine gun fire is all around us, and yet if it isn't in our immediate area we don't even pay attention.”

With regard to the photo of me last message, military friends have felt compelled to tell me that in a tactical situation I shouldn't be wearing the Silver Oak Leaf rank insignia of a Lieutenant Colonel - it makes me a juicy target for a sniper - that instead I should be wearing the blackened Oak Leaf that is intended for tactical situations. For the record, I am well aware of tactics and tactical garb, however I don't care for blackened rank insignia, and while I have no aversion to others wearing it, I don't wear it; I never have and, unless I'm ordered to, I never will. Fortunately for me one of the senior ranking Marines here is Major General Moore, who also dislikes blackened rank insignia and who also never wears it. I half-jokingly tell my men that they should be grateful: I'll draw the sniper fire so they won't.

The children of Baghdad are much like children anywhere in theworld in that they run and play and are generally amusing to watch. I wish I could climb out of the Humvee and kick a soccer ball with them or have a catch, but if I did likely I'd be killed and they might also. Of course the kids here in Baghdad more often than not are dressed in clothes that have seen better days. We often take up collections and give the money to the Chaplain to buy clothes or shoes or soccer balls for the kids. Of course with the millions of residents of Baghdad we can't even make a dent, but something is better than nothing. You may recall what the Chaplain told us: We cannot do all the good the world needs, but the world needs all the good we can do.

Dave’s message goes on for several pages, all of it riveting. If anyone wants his complete email just let me know.

God protect Colonel Dave McCarthy and all our troops in the war zones.

Ps It looks like our grandson Johnny Walton is not going to have his second tour of duty in Iraq extended due to the latest surge.



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