25 May, 2006

Combat Diary: The Marines of Lima Company

Update: The program will be rebroadcast this weekend and next (Saturday May 27 @ 8pm/7C, Sunday May 28 @ 12am/11C and 1pm/12C, Monday May 29 @ 8am/7C and 2pm/1C, and Saturday June 03 @ 11am/10C). Thanks to Anna for the tip in the comments.

This two-hour documentary, airing on A&E tonight at 9 p.m., is by Michael Epstein of the widely acclaimed "Antietam," the first in the 10-part series "10 Days that Changed America." It's about Marines of the 25th Regiment, reservists out of Columbus Ohio, covering both combat and redeployment largely in their own words. From the L.A. Times review:

The Marines of Lima Company enlisted to fight. And were disappointed when they figured deployment to Iraq would be boring sentry duty. "We were going to be stuck on the wire," one says.

It didn't work out that way. "Diary" catches the rhythm of a frontline deployment, heart-pounding firefights followed by pizza-eating contests back at base, in this case the Soviet-built Haditha Dam.

"Brotherhood" is a paltry word to describe the bonds that form between the troops. Gunnery Sgt. Shawn Delgado remembered the day Navy corpsman Travis Youngblood was hit:

"His last words to me were, 'Tell the guys I will be back. Don't get another corpsman, I'll be back.' " Youngblood died within minutes.

In the videos shot in Iraq, the Marines are high-spirited and youthfully profane. In the interviews done by Epstein and crew, they've had time to reflect on the meaning of war.

Slowly, painfully, Sgt. Guy Zierk tells of kicking in the door of an insurgent house and, filled with rage over the death of his buddies, coming close to killing two women and a teenage boy. At the last moment, he pulls back.

"It would make me no better than the people we're trying to fight," he says.

"Diary" is free of politics. Epstein knows that foreign policy has little to do with why men keep fighting.

Lance Cpl. Travis Williams, interviewed while fishing in Montana, explains why he wants to return to Iraq.

"I want revenge, and I want to be there for my friends when they go back," he says.

"If something happens to my friends and I'm sitting back here — I don't think I could live with that."


Combat Diary: The Marines of Lima Company
Where: A&E
When: 9 to 11 p.m. Thursday.
Rating: TV-PG (may be unsuitable for young children)