15 February, 2010


I was multitasking at the USO today. Local Marines had gotten a few days of leave from infantry training and taken full advantage, making the airport a busy place as they returned to their duty stations.

My secondary task was to find a picture of Marines in Marjah that could inspire the homefront to think of and remember the fighting there. And so, sitting at the reception desk, I sifted through pictures like this:

A Marine with Weapons Platoon, Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, affixes a mortar round to his pack before a helicopter-borne assault to seize the "Five Points" intersection east of the insurgent stronghold of Marjeh... Some Marines carried more than their body weight during the assault. Photo by Sgt. Brian Tuthill.

And this:

Lance Cpls. Keith B. Lawson and Spence G. Press, scout snipers attached to Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, work together to identify targets as Taliban fighters approach from Marjeh toward their position... Lawson, 25, is from Reedly, Calif., and Press, 20, is from Newbury Park, Calif. Photo by Sgt. Brian Tuthill.

And some like this...

Cpl. Alton S. Floyd, a wrecker operator for Alpha Company, 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, rests after working to build multiple makeshift bridges in Marjah, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Feb. 11. During the construction of their last bridge, Alpha Company encountered an improvised explosive device, no Marines were injured. Floyd, 25, is from Atlanta, Ga. Photo by Lance Cpl. Walter Marino.

And in between the discovery of each picture, I was fulfilling my primary task...

Every time time I looked up from my search, I'd see a young man standing in front of me: broad-shouldered and hard from weeks of rigorous School of Infantry training, strong and tall and buoyantly confident in the way only young Marines untouched by the implications of their service can be. I laughed and joked with them as they signed in, softening the formality of asking for ID by teasingly telling them I had to check because they didn't look a bit like Marines. Most of them smiled and laughed right back.

They were stuffed with food from Mom's, or from their buddy's aunt who lived a short plane ride away and had taken in a couple Marines for the weekend (and had probably been surprised to find out how much Marines formerly living on MREs could eat). Not an inch of fat on them, but they were "fat and happy" nonetheless.

They were the younger brothers of the Marjah Marines.

And I moved back and forth between here and there...

USO: A friendly greeting... smiles... sandwiches from the Rotary Club

Marjah: Waiting... wondering... fear

USO: Comforts of the modern life... peace... safety

Marjah: 7th century... bullets... explosions

USO: a rest stop between practicing

Marjah: the real thing.

Re-immersed in the pictures, I would once again look up to greet another young warrior halfway through his training, and feel that clank of worlds bumping up against other.