|From Me in Iraq|
The photo above was taken during one of my last weeks in Iraq. The Marines pictured in it were the original members of the fireteam I led over there, from l to r, they are Joe P., Matt A., myself, and Kevin C.
After my deployment to Iraq, I left my old company, G Co. and joined the sniper platoon. Those three remained with Golf, and deployed together again this year without me to Afghanistan. This was one of the most difficult parts of leaving the line and going to snipers, redeploying without the men I had been with the year before. When we first arrived in Afghanistan, Golf Co began working right away. Knowing they were out there while I was still inside the wire was awful.
About two weeks after they began working, my platoon hit a catastrophic IED. This was not the first time they had been in contact, but it was the first time they took KIA. Four of my friends inside the humvee were killed, and Kevin C. was seriously wounded, with burns over 70% of his body and a broken leg.
About a month and a half later, Joe P. was on a mounted patrol when once again they were hit. This time two men were killed, and Joe and another friend of mine were trapped inside, both seriously burned.
Tonight Golf Co. came home. Most of them. Some had come home already, whether in coffins or on stretchers. Tonight I saw my old team for the first time in 8 months. Matt made it through the deployment unscathed. Joe and Kevin were flown out from San Antonio so they could welcome their brothers home. Both wearing neoprene body suits, both showing signs of their burns, but, amazingly, both still the same. Joe still had his louder than life laugh, and Colbert still had his 'gangsta' walk, only now it was legit because his leg had been so badly broken. They both spoke freely about what happened, spicing it up with the necessary morbid humor.
At one point I was sitting at a bench with Kevin when a woman came up to us and started showing us a scrap book she had made of Golf Co's deployment. I didn't recognize her, but the moment I flipped the first page, I knew. Inside the first page was a picture of a kid I hadn't seen in 7 months. Layton C. He was driving the humvee that Kevin was in. He had been killed instantly. His entire family, mom, dad, and brother (also a Marine) had come out to welcome home Golf. Staring at his picture I didn't know what to say. I had never met her, and I hadn't been there with her son. I simply stood up, shook her hand, and said "My name is Jake, I was with Layton in Iraq. It's a pleasure to meet you." How inadequate.
Tonight really reminded me how much of a brotherhood this really is. I don't dwell on it often, but seeing those guys tonight certainly brought it back into my conscience.
The top photo is some old 3rd Plt guys: l to r- Joe, Me, Brian, Kevin, Chris, Clay
Bottom photo: Myself and Kevin