voicesofmarines

A Marine Corps. Community

Archive for the tag “United States Marine Corps”

The WAR ROOM

A Word About the WAR ROOM

The War Room was a random idea that came to me as I was updating the lighting in our new basement with interrogation style pendent lights, ones you would see in a tucked away low-profile room that you rarely get out of. After that, I just realized I have so many military items I have accumulated during my career in the Marine Corps but also the relics that my family left behind. Several uncles of mine serving in Vietnam, my Dad in the Air Force and Grandpa in the Navy and older Brother in the Army.

As I would visit my Mom’s house I would find some of my older uniforms, old photos and legendary relics that told stories, that’s where the idea of the War Room came to light. To display and remember all that my family went through in the military, pay tribute, and then lastly (once we get some furniture in there) a place salty vets can hang out and tell lofty stories of war and glory.

The Sign

I thought it only fitting to create a sign to once and for all memorialize the War Room. The sign was made from a piece of wood purchased from Home Depot and then severely (purposely) damaged with nails, kabar slashes, rust paint, hammer strikes, etc. a final coat of rust paint was added and then the words WAR ROOM spray painted in Marine Corps Olive Drab along with a few 7.62 rounds glued. The chain was the final touch, an old chandelier chain found in the basement was spray painted rust and attached to the sign.

A uniform hanger was the next edition, in keeping with the war torn style decor of the room I decided to use old pieces of pipes to construct a hanger for uniforms. The hanger was fastened between two studs.

The Wall of Heroes

The photos created by my Dad displaying photos of all family members in the military. Some of the photos I don’t even remember who they are or if I even met them, but nevertheless its a great tribute to the Wojtecki family in the military. I know maybe one day I can hear more stories of their time in foreign lands and their adventures.

The Bomb

An old ash tray that my grandpa constructed from an old bomb is now in The War Room. I was honored to smoke a cigar and ash in it, in the company of some fine Combat Veterans, TIm Gurgol (USMC Ret. Wpns Co. 3/25) and Aaron Zehr (Lima Co. 3/25). I believe those were Comochos, not a bad cigar, even better stories and company. Cpl. Gurgol arrived late and we had him thinking we bought him cigarillos, when Zehr handed him the Comocho the smoking lamp was officially lit.

INSPECTION!!

Rest assured that continuous inspections are being called in The War Room, particularly uniform inspections. I have no idea how I accumulated all these uniforms, I think the Marine Corps kept giving them to me so I just kept accepting them. You never know when you could use a pair of salty lance corporal woodlands to sit around and bitch up a storm in. And, if I ever get hungry down there, I still have a Chicken Cavatelli MRE from 10 years ago I can eat, of course throw away the Charms and don’t eat the peanut butter, it’ll back you up for months!

When taking inventory of my boots I have one pair of those big winter black boots, a pair of black Vietnam jungle boots with the green canvas on the sides, 1 pair of summer Vietnam style boots, then the new boots came out, desert style, made by Gortex so they were decent. I still think new Marine Corps recruits would have nothing to do at boot camp, that’s all I remember doing is ironing uniforms and polishing boots. Guess you’ll have to get out to the drill field nasty!

The Future of The WAR ROOM

You are probably asking yourself, what’s in store for The War Room going forward? What are future plans for this glorious basement man-cave that eternally commemorates true heroes? Well I’m glad you asked. I have already begun kind of filling in the missing pieces that I didn’t’ quite have, my Uncle had an old Vietnam Helmet liner so recently I got the helmet to add to that from a local antique shop, The Bomb Shelter in Akron, OH. I was thinking of tracking down a very old pack of lucky strikes or Marlboros from the 70’s to really get the effect of the helmet from that era.

Of course, I am planning on some more shelving, the only thing I have in there now is a small two shelf unit which is just not going to cut it. I’d like to have some sharp looking eliminated glass shelving units and also a coin holder, since I have unit coins lying around everywhere. And for the Coup De Grace, I would purchase or try to construct a table made solely out of military parts, preferably plane parts. For chairs, either ones ripped out of a B-52 or something equivalent. I’ve checked prices at places like Restoration Hardware, they are insane. One of our ideas was to look around aviation scrap yards to find what we need, and e-bay has some decent stuff now and then, things others just want to get out of their basements and I want to add to The WAR ROOM.

Battles After War

Image

In the final days leading up to our leaving Iraq, I can remember that feeling. I’m sure everyone else had it. What it would be like to be back home again, what would it be like to get a good night’s sleep without having to worry about someone sneaking up on you at night and killing you. What would it be like to interact with friends, family, go to parties, get togethers, etc. When my plane touched down in Chicago I can remember walking outside thinking to myself, This is what I fought for, for you and I to walk down the road without walking over a mine or getting blown up by an IED. After my Dad’s funeral, I jumped right back into college and got a job as a bank teller even though I could have just stayed at home and reported in every week or so to collect a paycheck, there was an overwhelming urge to get things back to normal, to jump back into a routine. Although I attended a few sessions at the VA for treatment i’m not sure I took it seriously I could just get back to normal on my own I thought. And, for the most part that’s what I did for the last seven or so years. I finished the book Every Other Four about a year after I came back, but I was always pre-occupied with something, keeping busy. I got married, bought a condo, got a full-time job after college.

The one thing that will really creep up on you though even years after are some of the memories. Even seven years later there are some days where something will remind me, a photo, picture, or a smell. Even hand sanitizer, since we used to use a lot of it will get me thinking.

Since I was a combat Humvee driver, let me tell you that my driving record in the civilian world is atrocious. I’ve gotten more tickets and violations than a normal person would see in their lives. And, there’s always that feeling, which the doctors tell me is the “Limbic system” when I hit a bump or go into intense driving or crowded spots, it gets bad for me.

Sleeping has never been a problem for me and doctors always try to ask the question, have you had any nightmares? Can you sleep fine? Honestly, I couldn’t sleep worth crap when I got back, but I think that I’ve pretty much settled into a comfortable sleeping routine. I do have an occasional nightmare every now and then, but most of the time I can’t remember my dreams.

Image

Some people will always tell me, how can you think of something that happened over seven years ago, why don’t you just forget about it? I’m not sure that’s even possible. I stop and think of maybe some other things that lasted nearly a year in my life but i’m not sure anything has made such an impact on me today.

Lately I’ve been dealing with a few things as a result of 2005 and I’m lucky enough to have people who will support me. Friends, family, wife and loved ones. I’ve always thought you’ve never been through what I’ve been through so you could not possibly understand what I’m going through. That’s certainly true, but I’ve found that I need to be able to talk about things to someone, and who cares if they don’t understand. There are only a few that may understand or have gone through it, but the important thing for me is everything I’m carrying inside me has to come out some how. I would rather just talk to someone, rather than blow up at my boss or go postal or something.

For the most part, even seven years later I am still in an adjustment period. If I look back to just after I cam e back, I wasn’t even driving with my headlights on and swerving to avoid pot holes or cars on the side of the road. Now I have a somewhat organized life, a good job to be thankful for, a great wife. Some things I am still working on.

My advice to anyone dealing with some of the same things. Don’t avoid things just deal with them head on. I mean, when we were in the Marines I don’t think we ever ran from things, it’s just funny that this is what I did since 2005. I guess I was more fearful of dealing with things in real life, or it was possible that I just didn’t know how to deal with them.

Things were certainly much more simple in Iraq. Wake up, hope you live that day, carry out the mission. All this other BS in civilian life can really be stupid and at times I thought what the hell is the point to all this? Car payments, bills, retirement, politics, getting to your job on time, the little shit that everyone makes a HUGE deal out of (I can’t stand that).

I know full well there is a point to it. Life can be how you make it. The past will never go away, so you need to deal with it. The challenges in life may seem intolerable at one point. But things will turn out great and there’s a long life ahead, just keep moving forward. 

MW

 

Ohio Veteran’s Memorial Wall

The Wall

The Ohio Veteran’s Memorial Park (OVMP) is a newly constructed memorial park in honor of all Ohio Veteran’s that fought and died in all wars. It is truly pretty amazing. The memorial park is located in Clinton, OH, and recently this past weekend, the names of the fallen were added from the Beirut Bombing, Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

I am thankful for individuals like this, who put together and organized the funds to construct this wall. It’s a great testimant to our brothers killed in 3/25. Steve Cripple invited me to speak at the event as well as some other really great speakers. One of the speakers there, Jason Dominguez was with Lima Co. and Edie Deyarmin was there (Gold Star Mom of Nate Deyarmin). I’m not into speaking that much, but I think someone had to tell it like it was, tell everyone that there are people out there that pretty much take life for granted. That’s fine, but after the close calls myself and other Marines had, every day is a blessing.

I met some other really great people there including C.M. Hayden, a Marine in Vietnam who wrote a book called “A Veteran’s Journey” about his time as a helicopter pilot, but mostly about the time when he came back, having to struggle mentally through the public outcast of Veteran’s after the war. He said he would have to hide his uniforms and grow his hair longer because he was sick of getting spit on and disgraced. I guess I can’t even imagine what that would be like and I’m glad that the public has a great respect for military, especially those who were at the event and those that donated and were involved in the construction of this memorial park.

They called him, Sgt. Mau Mau in Vietnam. An old salty dog from the old Corps. I noticed his moto bumper stickers such as Happiness is a Belt Fed Weapon. He motioned me to come over to his truck and took something out of the front seat. “Check this out” he said. “It’s an M1. Some of the pieces are from when I was in ‘Nam, I brought them back and bought the M1, then took those pieces off and put these ones on.” We shared some stories and he gave me his motivating business card. The card lists a number of things the Marine Corps. have done including; hearts & minds won, wars fought, revolutions started, governments run, assassinations plotted, uprisings quelled – then on the right hand side; bars empired, huts burned, etc.

The Marlboro Volunteers are a volunteer traveling military display. Among the many weapons they have from wars past, they have a full line of old rifles from WWI, WWII, etc. It is amazing, a friend of mine and I would have stayed in there all day talking to the guy if we had a chance.

The wall is near completion but there are a few things they will be adding such as a “Gold Star Father” statue and they will be mounting the helicopter’s near the rear of the memorial. Over half of the proceeds I received from my book signing and display are going to an 8X8 brick near the front of the wall where I plan on listing those of the fallen Marines who I knew from 3/25.

-Wojo

A Chronicle of Heroes

A Tribute to [20] Ohio Marines

Did you feel the wave of sympathy

Surging across the Pennsylvania line

And out to you,

The families left behind? 

We know. 

For we saw your boys

Here among ours, 

In our streets jogging

In cars, in shopping malls, 

In our churches, at picnics, 

And High School proms, 

And not too long ago

On the Fourth

As lads on Main Street

Watching soldiers pass, 

And even then they straightened

When the flag unfurled.

We saw them at gates

Embracing parents, wives and families

Grandparents too

And friends who couldn’t let go —

Turning then to leave

Yet looking back

At the ramp,

One last time. 

Twenty, they reported, had fallen —

Snatched from us,  from us now so far. 

We weep with you

For yours are ours. 

Chronicle Index

The Send Off – 2,000 Pack Gym for Send Off; Marines Say Goodbye after Answering Call (1, 2, 3)

Everyday is a Fight for Independence – Sgt. Teddy Wisley, Jr., Maj. Steven White, 1st Sgt. William Sowers, Cpl. Matthew Brooks, Cpl. Jason Ross, LCpl. Brett Dinkelman, LCpl. Matthew Wojtecki, Cpl. Nate Ickes, Sgt. Matthew Bee, LCpl. Daniel Deyarmin (4, 5, 6)

Guardians of Freedom – Akron Based Marines Share Thoughts from Iraq on Holiday, War – Cpl. Billy Lott (7)

Recent Offensive in Iraq Leaves Few Unscathed – Ohio Based Company are Both Physical, Emotional after Operation Killed 9 Marines (8)

Akron Residents Eulogize Marine – Cpl. Michael B. Lindemuth (9, 10)

Officers Say Arms Can’t Win Iraq War – Shiites, Sunnis Must Find Solution to Insurgency, US Commanders Warn (11, 12)

3 Die in Akron Marine Unit – Roadside Bomb Kills 5 US Servicemen in Iraq Ohio in Jan. – LCpl. Thomas Keeling, LCpl. Devon Seymour, Cpl. Brad Squires, Cpl. Dustin Burch, LCpl. Daniel Chavez (13, 14)

Hundreds Honor Slain Middleburg Heights Marine – Cpl. Brad Squires (15, 16)

In Loving Memory – LCpl. Thomas O. Keeling (17, 18, 19, 20)

Ohio Unit Hit Again; 14 Dead (21, 22, 23)

Ohio Marines Killed – Cpl. Jeff Boskovitch (24, 25, 26)

In Memory – LCpl. Daniel “Nate” Deyarmin (27, 28)

United in Mourning – Loved Ones, Strangers, Officials Come Together to Honor 14 Slain Marines (29)

Ohio Marine Laid to Rest – LCpl. Brian Montgomery (30)

Thousand Attend Memorial in Cleveland – Tallmadge Residents Share Family’s Grief  (31)

Ohio City Mourns Saddest Moment – Citizens Pay Respects to Marines who Died in Iraq, Brookpark Mayor, Congressmen say Residents Taking the Tragedy Hard (32, 33)

Marines in Iraq Stay Focused Day After Attack – Grieving Platoon Mourns, Searches Area Houses. [Iraqi] Prime Minister Announces New Security Program (34)

“Our Fallen Heroes” – Monday 8 August 2005, Cleveland IX Center (35, 36, 37)

3/25 Homecoming (38, 39, 40, 41)

Related articles

Fate, God, and Coincidence

Who knows what the future holds
Not me that’s for sure
A brush with death is enough to make:
Me pause and reflect
Tony Northover

That’s my Gunner, he Stays with Me

When MAP 8 first arrived at FOB Hit, a small shitty outpost just outside of Hit City, Iraq, our accommodations were severely lacking. The gear we had fallen in on from the previous unit was absolutely terrible, particularly the vehicles which had little to no armor and a high back that had no attached gun turret. The funniest experience that I remember was getting there and looking at the vehicles we would be riding around in for our tour. Do you remember that scene in that Chevy Chase movie, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation where the family is out in the woods and Clark Griswald finds the perfect Christmas tree only to have left the saw back at home?  I could hear that sound they play and felt my heart sink into my stomach when the Humvees rolled out and the previous unit was going to conduct left seat right seat missions with us, where the driver from 3/25 would take instructions from a Marine from 3/2 in the passenger’s seat.

So the gear and Humvees were so awful we had to just laugh at it all and eventually we adapted and overcame like Marines do. It seems like Marines are always put into these situations and in some ways it makes us harder, stronger, and extremely pissed off. Somehow MAP 8’s high back, where I was assigned was able to attach a crude “gypsy rack” atop of a canvas that covered the gunner and a gunner inside. From there, we just started taking pieces of junk from an old scrap yard. For any of you who are married, its kind of like when you go to pick out stuff at the Bed Bath and Beyond or some store like that, and she says oh hey that would look nice in the kitchen wouldn’t it? I guess it would! At this Cpl. Bray started singing the tune by Stealers WheelStuck in the Middle with youIt seemed more than fitting, as I though we were just a bunch of jokers, and the joke was on us.

Within a few weeks we settled into the hacienda style FOB (Forward Operating Base) and were ready to go out on patrols. LCpl Brian Montgomery and I were SAW gunners, somehow we got roped into training on a SAW, and although an M-249 SAW is a bad ass weapon it was literally our cross that we had to carry for the entire tour there while others carried a much lighter M-16 A4. Since the unit before us didn’t leave a whole lot in the way of guns like the 240-G or even an earlier version of that weapon, the Vietnam style M-60, I of course had to bungee cord a SAW on top of a scantily clad high back.

At the time, Sgt. Jenkins was MAP 8’s patrol leader. He was rebellious, renegade style Marine who I did not know very well, but he seemed to conduct himself and our patrols well. When it came time to go out on patrols, half of us stayed back in the rear and built up our fortress of bedding from the lumber lying around in the scrap yards, that and fill sand bags to prepare for the next barrage of Muj mortar fire that was a frequent occurrence near Hit. I can tell you even now that I would rather go out on a patrol than stay back in the rear. Even though the prospect of a good bit of sleep sounded great, it never turned out that way because there was always some bored-off-thier-ass NCO who wanted to send us on working parties the entire day.
The sun beat down on MAP 8 as we gathered our gear for another 8-12 hour routine patrol, although it was still quite cold in Iraq at the latter part of March. For whatever reason, I was chosen to stay on that shitty Humvee and patrol some of Iraq’s most IED infested roads. I can tell you right now, I think about a few of these moments all the time.  I was about to throw my SAW up onto the makeshift turret of the high back, when a Marine from one of the sniper platoons came out and was talking to Sgt. Jenkins. He said he needed a SAW gunner for one of the MAKO teams. “No” Sgt. Jenkins replied, “we need Wojtecki in the high back, he’s my gunner”. At that point, there was no way of knowing what would transpire over the next several months

A Game of Backgammon

Crazy 8 sat quietly in the middle of the open desert in a tight 360. Smokin’ and jokin’ while others were vigilantly on watch in the gun turrets. It’s now about July and we have been in Iraq for several months now. Better Humvees with at least a little armor. I’m now the driver of the first Humvee; Sgt. Carr, LCpl. Ross, LCpl Gurgol and LCpl Perry were sitting around. Sgt. Carr was playing a game of Backgammon with LCpl. Perry and Gurgol. I guess he got it in one of the care packages we got. All of a sudden a distress call comes over on the PRC, “QRF needed a MAP platoon (i forget which one?) was hit by an IED on route Uranium, we need you to provide support!” “Roger that, Crazy 8 out”. Soon we were Oscar Mike with me driving the first Humvee.

This wasn’t the first time we drove down Route Uranium, this was probably the hundredth time, I wasn’t counting. Every time I drove down this damn road I always got a sick feeling. Maybe it was the nearby train station and sparsely populated Iraqi huts that littered the area, or the numerous craters that were left from previous IED explosions. The survival instinct you have is 100% real. God only knows what it is or how it works, but tucking my left leg underneath me while driving, Gurgol’s crouching down into the Humvee turret were some of those things that we didn’t know why we did, but we were later thankful for doing them. I drove down the IED laden road, one second I’m cautiously driving down Uranium, the next I see this glitter in the corner of my eye and before you know it a large explosion envelopes the entire vehicle. I thought for a second I was fucking dead, dust and smoke were billowing out of the Humvee. All of a sudden I hear Sgt. Carr, “Wojtecki, shut off the vehicle!” I kept switching the Humvee switch on and off and nothing was happening, so I put my head out the window and the entire front of the Humvee is gone! It was a very close call for the first truck that day indeed. All of us made it out alive, with Sgt. Carr having some hearing problems and Gurgol some shrapnel in his legs.

It seemed like this was a reoccurring theme throughout the tour. Close call followed by close call. If you believe in God, or fate, or whatever higher power out there I can tell you that time and time again these events were so rare that it seems like there was no way they could be a coincidence. After being back from Iraq for seven years now I can tell you that these daily encounters with death bring a whole new appreciation for life for me everyday. Whether it is fate or God that helped me through, I know not to waste life, because we only have a limited time on this earth. Appreciate what you have everyday, be happy and live life to the fullest.

-Wojo

Related articles

Ed Boeringer – Haqlaniyah April 2005

The operation to clear Haqlaniya began April 6, 2005; Haqlaniya is located on the West bank of the Euphrates River going north and compared to the city of Hit is on the smaller side but still dangerous. The river towns in our area were a known haven for insurgents who fled the fighting in Fallujah and Ramadi plus they were stop over points for foreign fighters who entered Iraq from Syria. The plan was for all the sniper teams, that were now all located at Haditha Dam, to push into the city a few hours before Lima Company began its push to clear it out and we would provide over watch. Each team had identified locations that they would occupy during each phase of the push but these things are always flexible because the situation is constantly changing and we have to bend with it or I should say tactically adjust to the situation on the ground or you could have bad day. Mission planning and all the coordination that goes into it, the PowerPoint presentations and good idea fairies, etc… all work out perfectly if the enemy does exactly what you want them to do and they never do so your plan usually lasts for a very short time. We have to start somewhere and this is what we do prior to an operation but adapting to actual developments on the ground is key to success. The Marine Corps as an institution has been very successful because of our flexibility as one of many things we do well. We have a good officer corps but our success truly comes from our NCOs who are well trained and aggressive. We understand that there will be casualties and we train those below us to do our jobs and learn the job above us so when Marines start to get wounded or killed we can still go forward and accomplish the mission. The most successful armies in history have allowed there battle field commanders to make decisions and adapt to the ever changing situation and a good case for each of these points is the German Army during WW II, they achieved stunning victories and crushing defeats depending on which method was used. Our team, Mako 6, which was now my permanent team at this point, was to occupy the tallest building in the city which was an abandoned hotel of 5 or 6 stories high. This building was located directly on the Euphrates River and had a commanding view looking north and west into the city; we also had a good view of an island that was located right in the middle of the river so we had a great place to provide support for Lima Company. We inserted before dawn and met with SSGT Delgado at the entrance to the hotel, the building had not yet been cleared at this point we went about the task of clearing the building of any possible insurgents and there were none which was good because of all the places they could have hidden. SSgt Delgado was a warrior in every sense and the battalion was lucky to have him, the command center and his section would be operating out of the hotel as well. When I say hotel I don’t want to give the impression that it was a completed hotel and all that means, it was never fully completed and it was just a dirty ugly eye sore of a building but it had what we needed to be very effective. As Rock, Nate and I set up our position on the roof we started looking very carefully at possible ambush locations and getting ranges to things that had a high probability for contact plus we were doing the “where would I be if I was going to ambush these guys” meaning the Marines” logic. Major Lawson, the Lima Company commander would be on the roof with us that day as this was going to be the location of the Command Center. About 30 minutes before dawn Lima Company began its push into the city at multiple locations riding in Amtrak’s, Humvees as well as walking dismounted. As Lima Company’s most eastern element pushed past the hotel and made it about two blocks they started receiving machine gun and RPG fire and the ensuing fire fight was quick, violent and Lima eliminated that threat, we could not take part as we could not identify any targets to engage. The sounds of these operations were of Marines aggressively busting in door, metal doors flexing and breaking open under the weight of the sledge hammer, screams rising above the city as the Marines aggressively cleared buildings, sporadic gun fire and explosions to pitched battles for territory, the sound of the tracked vehicles as they moved forward. At about 0800 an RPG was fired at one of Lima Company’s amtracks to our west, Rock and I spotted two insurgents running east down a hill moving in our direction but they were still 800 plus meters away. At this point in the mission Nate was spotting using the 40 power Leopold scope, Rock was on the sniper rifle with a 10 power scope and I had my M203 with 4 power ACOG scope. As they get to between 600 and 700 meters Rock engages with one round from the sniper rifle and just misses one of the insurgents and they scramble behind an outhouse that they were running past. Behind the outhouse was a row of trees and bushes but we could see through it and beyond that was what looked like some apartments. We had another sniper team located about 600 meters to the northeast of our position and about 150 meters from outhouse with the insurgents behind it. We raised Dave, Jeff and Monty on the radio and tried to direct them onto the target but they had an obstruction right in front of their position at the rooftop but took some shots in the general area in an effort to flush them out so we could engage them with both the M-203 and the sniper rifle. Our position was set back off the edge of the roof and we were not worried about the enemy conducting counter sniper missions against us so we had our helmets off which helped greatly with being in the prone position and looking through the scope, Rock and Nate also had their boots unbloused, a heinous crime punishable by death as we found out in a few minutes. Nate Identifies people behind the outhouse and bushes trying to direct the insurgents to safety so we inform Maj Lawson of the situation and ask to start engaging these people and he agreed. I had no issues with Maj Lawson as he allowed us to engage in situations like this putting himself and his career at risk if he made a bad decision; he was able to see beyond the bull shit and turned us loose to kill these people even if they had no weapons and I respected that. Nate identifies a target and informs us, I already had it and Rock was going to take the shot, if he missed I would fire. Just as we were about to start pulling triggers on bad guys the SgtMaj and the senior enlisted Marine in the battalion makes his grand entrance onto the roof and the only reason I found out he was there was he starts screaming at us for not having our helmets on and why did Rock and Nate not have their boots bloused? He tells us to stop immediately what we were doing like we were sunbathing and to fix ourselves. I did not move from where I was because I just through my helmet on but Rock and Nate had to get off the gun and scope to blouse their boots the whole time getting yelled at and not allowing them to speak. I can understand the helmet issue to some degree but the blousing of the boots, to me that was as nuts as he was and I looked at the SgtMaj for a moment and laughed not believing what was going on and he looks at me and yells that if I do that again he will pull me off the sniper team I merely turned away from him without acknowledging him and started looking for targets to engage, Rock & Nate also returned to their scope and rifle and we were ready to start pulling triggers if the targets were still there, turns out one of the RPG guys did get away.
Killing with a sniper weapon system is a very personal thing, the more power of an optic you have the closer you become with that person you are about to kill. The way I can explain it is it is like you are completely inside that scope and you are doing everything to make a perfect shot that by now is second nature, slow your heart rate and control your breathing, take the slack out of the trigger exhale and squeeze and the whole time you are watching them, you can see their facial features and you will decide at what moment they will die, the power you possess at this moment is immense and these visions stay with you long after the battles are over.
Within seconds Nate spotted a good target and Rock is ready to take the shot, I also had the same target in my scope which was 670 meters away and I heard Rock say shit and right away I realized that when he got back on his gun from the SgtMaj incident he forgot to put his weapon back on fire I immediately took the shot I scored a hit on an insurgent who seemed to jump upward of 4 feet, do a split in the air and drop his AK-47 then falling to the ground and getting up and running away, he would die within an hour of being shot. Nate confirmed the hit but we had no time to celebrate as things began to pick up for us. One of the two insurgents that were behind the outhouse made a break for it but Rock had his weapon on fire this time, took the shot and killed him, the guy just dropped immediately so it was either a spine, heart or lung shot because he did not get hit in the head which was the other drop immediately shot location. We had 5 confirmed hits during this engagement but things began to slow down so Maj Lawson dispatched SSgt Delgado and his section to go check the area out and we would provide over watch for them. They confirmed that we had killed two insurgents and they were bringing back a detainee who was wounded in the leg and watched them march this guy all the way back, that must have been a painful walk for that guy but fuck him that’s what you get and he was lucky to be alive. Later in the day we observed a huge explosion to our north and it turns out a suicide bomber detonated his car on an LAV, Light Armored Vehicle, of a unit that was in a blocking position to try to prevent insurgents from getting out of the city, one Marine was killed. Lima Company also received incoming from two different sets of mortar teams but they missed their mark and nobody was hurt. As it began to get dark plans were made for the next day and we were instructed to move across the street to an abandoned school which is where we would spend the night. We were making our way across the street over to the school and noticed a huge sandstorm coming in but we were inside the school beforehand sparing us but not everyone was lucky. To explain these sand storms is like being transported to a very hostile planet, the violence is incredible and the sand gets into everything and I mean everything, your eyes, crack of your ass, weapons, everything ! Then it stops as suddenly as it started and I am glad we don’t get these in NYC. We were co-located with some other Lima company Marines so we did not have to pull watch that night so we cleaned our weapons and talked about the day’s events until we went to sleep on the concrete floor.

-Bo

Mako 6

Souvenir Gallery

All photography by Sgt. Daniel Dmytriw, Marine Veteran of Weapons Co. 3/25.

Bayonet

The story is known all to well. A man walks for days in the desert. Tired, exhausted and thirsty he comes to grips with the fact that he may not make it to nourishment alive. Suddenly a river of water appears on the horizon. The man uses the last ounce of energy he has to reach it, but the last hope he has, just within reach does not exist. This is kind of like the feeling that came to mind when our Mobile Assault Platoon (MAP) team traveled to a distant “Oasis” in the desert, a 20-30 square mile stretch of farmland in the middle of an otherwise barren desert of Iraq. It was the third or fourth day of searching the area for weapons and ordinance. The residences there, scarcely spread out over the island like mirage, mostly housed farmers. It is still a wonder how the inhabitants of this area sustain themselves with no other resources in site, aside from wheat fields, sunflowers and the neighboring Euphrates River. Everyone was now bitching up a storm, morale was low, especially among the 03’s who had to hump the entire stretch of land,  leaving no stone unturned and finding numerous weapons caches. The operation know as “Cache Sweep” was dragging on and on; the ability to call home and get a shower just within reach but never making it.

MAP 8’s (or as we liked to call ourselves “Crazy 8”) Humvees stopped next to a small farmer’s house and dismounted the vehicles for a routine sweep for weapons. Only a Marine that has been to Iraq would understand the mentality and demeanor of some Iraqis. It was as if though the guy had thought we were aliens coming to abduct him with our highly technological equipment, body armor, Kevlar and M-16’s. Two kids run out of the house and start approaching the high back where I am sitting. All of a sudden our gunner LCpl Rick Turner starts trying to talk to the kids, “Do you know what a frisbee is? FRISBEE, DO YOU KNOW WHAT THAT IS? Here!” Turner shouts as he looks as his military issued Arabic to English dictionary.

LCpl Turner throws the frisbee and the kids watch it whiz by, absolutely clueless about what it is. There is a strange-looking Iraqi man, probably one of the brothers of the house, who was standing off to the side talking to one of his other brothers. They both were dressed in American cloths. A strange combination of sweat pants with early 90’s flannel shirts. From their body language they looked pissed off that we were there. All of a sudden Cpl. Stalker and others in Crazy 8 walk out of the house with some AK-47 rifles, grenades and other weapons, “Do you need these grenades for sheep herding?!?” Stalker shouts.

One of the items that we confiscated from the farm was this bayonet for an AK-47. I’m not quite sure what these Iraqi farmers were doing with it, but I would have to guess at one point, along with the majority of other Iraqis, were in the military and it was probably something the guy just hung on to. We could only dream of what they needed all this shit for. The guy still had the deer in the headlights look, “Why did you lie to us?” Stalker said in his thick southern accent. The truth was we could have arrested the Muj brothers, but we were so far from our base that it would take days to get these knuckleheads to processing, so we took their weapons including the bayonet and moved on, sweeping the rest of the area for ordinance and finding quite a bit over the next several days.

Today, the Bayonet sits on my shelf. I pull it out every once in a while and feel its dulled blade, smell the sand on it and play around with its pliers the blade and the sheath made designed for cutting concertina wire. A constant reminder to me of that story you always hear of that hopeless man in the desert.

HEDP Round

Shortly after a tank was blown up by an IED outside of Haqlaniyah, MAP 1 was assigned to overwatch positions within range of the crash site. I was assigned to the Humvee next to a mansion which was equipped with a MK-19 automatic grenade launcher. Having just experienced one of the most awful things in my life, witnessing the death of the Marines in a Humvee explosion, I wasn’t exactly feeling very well. I asked the Doc to give me something, anything to get my mind off things. He of course handed me a Motrin and some water. I swear to God my fucking arm could have been blown off and he still would have handed me a Motrin and water.

I was now up for firewatch. I got up into the turret with the MK-19 and PAS 13 (thermal scope). From my position I could see the mansion to the rear of my POS, just to the front was the crashed tank, its hulk still smoldering.  They were saying it was the type of IED to deliver an extra explosive impact due to the fact that the Muj used a combination of PE4 (like C4), oxygen tanks and old artillery rounds. To my 11 o’clock was the abandoned concrete factory that we just got out of hours earlier.

About 30 minutes into my watch, I was doing a routine scan of the area and saw a white Nissan car / truck (I forget which one) approaching. “Shit!” I yelled. The vehicle commander and others ran over after I described the car. Two MAM’s (Military Aged Males) got out of the vehicle and started fucking with the crash site. I suppose they were hoping to steal some shit from the tank in hopes of selling it. We ended up calling it in to battalion and got the go ahead to go hot. “Light um up!” I heard a voice say from the driver’s side. I racked back the MK-19 and got a round into the chamber. “BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM!” The MK-19 fired 4 or 5 rounds in the general direction of the crash site. I kept trying to look for bodies or a crashed vehicle. I don’t think anything was ever confirmed but if I didn’t kill them I sure as hell scared the living shit out of them. One of them got into the vehicle and tried to drive away “BOOM BOOM BOOM” three more rounds. The vehicle started smoking. I picked up one of the empty shell casings,”I’ll keep this to remember”I thought as picked it up and felt it was still hot.

The HEDP round sits in a box with some of my other memorabilia. It is amazing how well you can remember the event just by picking it up, holding it in my hands, reading the writing on the outside of it. Gripping the round extra hard in my hands, I can almost feel the recoil of the MK-19.

Ring Holder

What the hell is this? I thought as I picked up the silver finger welded to the embossed plate. Later I found out it was a ring holder. I imagined what kind of rings were thrown onto the small item maybe near to a large amount of jewelry. Before I took it, it was probably used to hold an Iraqi ring or something similar. I try to imagine what type of person the owner was. Obviously rich and powerful, maybe a woman used it to keep some more important pieces of jewelry. Today it holds my Marine Corps graduation ring. The silver ring holder is tarnished, although I tried to use some silver polish to clean it up a bit a few years back. It looks so out-of-place on my dresser, but its a constant reminder of how different it was over there to say the least.

Brass Plate

One of the items I grabbed when we explored the mansion in Haqlaniyah was a brass plate. I just basically looked around the house for anything that looked valuable and although the house was well picked over, the brass plate stood out to me. What the hell does it say? I wondered as I put it into my cargo pocket. I tried applying some Brasso to it to make it shinier and that seemed to help. Later on that day I showed it to one of the terps (Iraqi interpreters). “Be Patient and Allah will Bless You” he said. Wow, that’s kind of cool, but at the same time kind of ironic. I’m here sitting in this shithole and some plate that I take from some Republican Guard asshole says, Just be patient and you’ll be okay. Okay, it’s a little odd and I think goes along with the whole superstition thing. But, for the rest of the deployment the words rung true. I still keep it as a reminder. Don’t get too worked up about things, keep calm, be patient and God will bless you.

Horseshoe

Shortly before our unit deployed to Iraq in 2005, I kept in touch with a fellow I used to work with from Russia. He used to design security and camera systems during the Soviet Era (I would only guess for the government). The man became good friends with my Dad. They used to hang out in the basement of my parent’s house, sip on Russian Vodka and talk about engineering and technical things above my knowledge level. My Dad ended up recruiting him to assist him at the University where my Dad was a professor. Yurik worked with me at a computer store, where I worked part-time while in high school and my freshman year of college. When Yurik heard of my deployment to Iraq he wanted to come over and have dinner with the family. After a filling meal my Dad, Yurik and I adjourned to the basement where my Dad showed off our proud military family. Portraits of my Uncles and other relatives lined the room. Yurik was truly impressed. He gave my Dad a bottle of Russian Vodka, the kind with the Russian writing on the label, you know, the good stuff.

Yurik reached into his coat pocket and pulled out this horseshoe. He said in a thick Russian accent, “this will bring you luck. Good luck Matthew.” I kept the horseshoe with me, along with other small items as it seemed that the farther into the deployment I got, the more superstitious I became. Don’t take showers after chow, keep your left leg tucked underneath you when you combat drive, keep a rosary with you on the dash, sleep with a bible were among the many odd things that we did that some how attributed to me surviving. Whether it was the horseshoe, the rosary, the St. Michael medallion, pure luck, or coincidence I managed to make it home alive.


-Wojo

FIRAS ABDULLAH

09 June – 11 June 2005 K3 District

I keep thinking what a fucked up couple of days that was. Cpl. Squires, Keeling and Seymour; three great Marines I know did not make it when a fatal IED attack devastated their Humvee. I remember being so incredibly pissed off, having been in that Humvee just minutes before it exploded. I was guarding three detainees we had arrested outside an abandoned concrete factory. I can remember them and they just stared at me, almost as if to say, “hahah they got what they deserved, hahah your next”. It took a lot of self-control and discipline to get through that night. Almost seven years later it’s still pretty fresh in my mind, it scares the shit out of me sometimes, that life is there one minute and the next it’s gone. Today, I think about how unreal it all is.

The Mansion

Shortly after the explosion we escorted the detainees to a nearby mansion at the edge of the city. Things were funny here because there was always one or two gorgeous mansions outside of absolutely terrible living conditions. The story that we got was that the owner was a wealthy republican guardsman that owned the factory here and they used to have parties here for Saddam and other RG. One picture I saw inside the house was a photo of the man sitting by a Hookah with Saddam Hussein. Every few seconds you could get a whiff of the lavender fields in the distance just adjacent to a vineyard. The guy was obviously at one point very loaded, although I also heard that he was killed fighting and his sister inherited this, but had a much more extravagant residence in the green zone in Bagdad. Walking around the house it looked like it had been pretty well looted. All the valuables, jewelry, designer cloths and amenities had been most likely all stolen. I laughed to myself when I went into the bathroom area. Marble floors, very nice silver and brass sinks, a hot tub and then a single “hole” in the ground where the toilet should have been. It just seemed funny to me. The other thing I remember was that one of the infantry companies had been there (Lima Co. I think?) and a bunch of them had been huddled around a large safe. A basket of keys were scattered about on the floor and as everyone lounged around, someone would go up to it and try one of the hundreds of keys that sat there hoping to unlock what we could only guess would be inside. I remember living the good life for a while, a temporary escape from the horrors outside. As we left to go back to our over watch positions I took a number of items, including a strange looking notebook. It was a light reddish color and it was mixed in with other novels, books and torn pages, all in Arabic.

The Notebook

The notebook sits on my bookshelf years later. Yesterday I decided to pull it out and take a look at it. Honestly, it scares the living shit out of me. Take a look at some of the entries. At first, when I found it, it looked more like some Iraqi‘s school notebook with math problems scattered about, some occasional doodles here and there and a couple of pages of practicing how to write your name. But I look at it more in detail —and maybe it’s just my own paranoia— but some of the drawings look like diagrams for how to design bombs and IEDs or at least some educated pieces on how circuits work. If we follow this logic, what other reason would this guy need to draw these types of pictures? Some of them, when I look at them, I think of several of the explosions where mines were strategically placed with metal bars and saw blades to double the explosion power. What if this was the scribbling of a crazy muj asshole? I don’t know, I’m just saying it looks that way to me now that I have pulled this thing out years later. But, having this notebook and not knowing what it means drives me nuts. Maybe eventually I’ll take it to someone who knows how to read this chicken-scratch.

-Wojo

 

1,826 Days

Hello, my name is Cpl. Matthew Wojtecki and I am a former US Marine with 3rd Battalion 25th Marines Weapons Company located in Akron, Ohio. My book, Every Other Four is a journal style memoir about my time in the al-Anbar Province Iraq in 2005. Like many, thoughts, photos and scribbles of the war are scattered about in journals and notebooks that many have not had time to finish; now just gathering dust. Fellow Veterans, I hope you will be able to share some of your experiences here in this site, not only those Marines from 3/25 but anyone who has not yet felt the urge to tell someone about their own personal story.

Image

Semper Fi,

Matthew Wojtecki

 

 

Post Navigation