Sunday, August 5, 2007
Are you Ready?
Are you ready? That’s the question I have asked myself over and over. From the moment I accepted to go on this deployment, to my first night in Kuwait when I could not sleep and spent the long night staring at the ceiling of the tent. To each day waking up here in Iraq… are you ready for what may come today? I have traveled all throughout the Al Anbar Province and the Marine Corps area of operations. I have experienced a wide range of emotions from cursing at the current situation with words I was even surprised came out of my mouth, to swallowing hard and pushing on… Are you ready?
In my travels as a historian I have had the opportunity to talk with hundreds of Marines and have seen things I will never forget. Doing an interview is mostly a one on one meeting between me and a fellow Marine, behind a closed door on most occasions. I have seen hard as nails combat veterans break down and cry when telling me about the loss of a fellow Marine or seeing a child killed; I am most likely the first Marine who has asked them to tell me their story, sometimes making them relive horrible memories. I have heard stories of incredible bravery and of self sacrifice to “Duty, Honor and Country” words that for some are not a cliché, but truly have meaning. Those moments are burned into my memory….Are you ready? I have tasted my own fear being outside the wire and riding in a convoy with weapons loaded and at the ready, the mental preparation for that is something to experience…Am I ready to do what may need to be done?…Is there an IED in the road? Will we take fire? Is there a sniper out to kill us? If it does happen what will they tell my daughter about her father?… Am I ready?
In my job as the historian the stories and pictures I have captured for future generations of Americans so that we will not forget what has happened here will remain with me. I have them all in my head, each interview, the words, the faces; I have images in my memory that will be life long. Am I the same man who left Maryland months ago? I have continued to push on and keep focused, I have found strength here that I had long ago forgotten about: “Remember your roots Mike, you are a Marine I tell myself”, the time is here and now. I will always remember my days as the “Gunner” here in Iraq. There are few things in my life that have made me prouder than what I do today. I will hold firmly onto the memories of the times my uniform said it all SEARS……U.S. MARINES…Was I ready?
There will be a day shortly when I will no longer be the Gunner. I will put my pack down for the final time and walk off into retirement. A quarter of a century from when I first showed up at the gates of Parris Island not sure what I got myself into. But I will leave with the knowledge and pride that I have served with the finest America has produced. My Corps is in great hands with the Marines I have had the privilege and honor to serve with here in Iraq, This is the Corps’ future leaders, and they are ready.
In a few days this journey will start to move towards its conclusion, I will board a plane bound for Kuwait and ultimately the United States and leave Iraq behind me or will I always carry part of iraq with me I wonder? The full realization of where I have been and what I have experienced is starting to set in, it seems like April when I left Maryland was a lifetime ago. .. Are they ready for me back home?