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Iraq,

A Marine's Greetings from Fallujah

By Doug Woodhams
Friday, November 25, 2005

This is a letter I received from Santa Monica Police Officer Doug Woodham who is serving in Iraq. As a retired Santa Monica police officer I wanted to pass it on to all of you. Say a prayer for Doug and his outfit this Thanksgiving and remember that it is their sacrifice which enables us to join with our families and friends on this, the most traveled of our holidays. As we used to say..."Bless the boys who are here today.  Bless the boys who couldn't make it. Bless the boys who died fighting for our country. Our Father..."

As we face the the war on international terrorism weighted down with a party of appeasement bent on skewing the debate with distorted and revisionist history, determined to give our enemies aid and comfort by turning honest political debate into slanderous attacks designed to deflate the fighting ability of our fighting men and women while currying favor among those who would kill us and destroy our democratic value system, all for the sake of political gain, we must remember that men and women such as this are serving across the globe and daily lay their lives down for their brothers and for us...

As Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz described the actions of those who served on Iwo Jima, " Uncommon valor was a common virtue." And so it can be said of our troops in Iraq and in Afghanistan.

May it always be so.
John Burtis
Derry,
New Hampshire

Dear Brothers and Sisters of the SMPD,

Our Brigade is in the process of taking independent battle space.  It is a big step, and I believe it will become only the second brigade in the Iraqi army to do so.   Along with the changes now in motion, I am currently staying in the north side of the city of Fallujah.  I am advising the Brigade's Commando Company as they take over the mission of running the entry control points into the city.   I am semi-solo at this location, staying in the same compound as a Marine advisor for 4th Company, 2nd Bn, along with our combined strength of 130 Iraqi soldiers.   E-mail and other amenities are much rarer for me now, but I'm enjoying the simple things of life.

I now carry a digital camera on each patrol, as the most common grounds for premature prisoner release is lack of photographic evidence.   This particular mission was a cordon and sweep through a section of Fallujah where there have been a rash of grenade hit-and-run attacks against Coalition and Iraqi patrols.  I was going house to house with one of the search squads when a little girl boldly padded out from her front porch, gave me the slightest smile, and said, "Hello, Mister," in passable English.   It just about melted me right out of my boots.  I decided to make a use for my camera other than incrimination, so I had my fellow Marine advisor snap a quick photo.   Don't worry; there are plenty of Iraqi soldiers watching my back at the moment, including one you'll see in the far right background holding down the perimeter on this block.  Right after the photo was taken I knelt down, shook her tiny hand and thanked her in Arabic, then motioned her to get back behind her gate as I continued with the sweep.  Several houses down the block we pulled a belt-fed machine gun out of a guy's bedroom.  

It requires more memory, but I'm sending the photo with full resolution because so far — for me anyway — it is somehow illustrative of this particular chapter of the Iraq war.   It means in at least one home in Fallujah, the kids aren't being raised to despise the Americans.  In this part of Iraq that's a big deal.

This block was a microcosm of the city.  In a couple of the homes our search party was welcomed as honored guests.   As we left one house the lady, with knee-high kids orbiting underfoot, kept saying to me, "Barac-Allah, Beek," which means "May God bless you."  I imagine our coming has heralded the ability for women to vote and be treated with a little respect.  But just as you start to think this, you walk into another home where the matron of the house delivers a litany I'd rather not translate even if I could catch it all, while her punk teenage boys give attitude to the Iraqi soldiers.   There you have it.  Some will love you, some will hate you.  You just keep doing your job, all the while watching for the few who have evil intentions and not just opinions.  

On Nov 10th the Marine Corps turned 230 years old.  To understand the Marines, it helps to note the treatment this day receives.   Days like Thanksgiving, and typically your own birthday, will come and go while you're in the field without you even realizing it.  But the Corps' birthday is celebrated with dress-blue uniformed galas in the rear and it is not excluded in the field.   On this day, every time I pass a Marine checkpoint the Devil-Dogs, without exception, say, "Happy Birthday Marine!" a greeting I return in kind.  Every unit dutifully performs its cake-cutting ceremony with all the required observances on Nov 10th (or the nearest day the operational tempo allows — for us it was Nov. 13th).   As Marine advisors in Fallujah, we mustered a total of 19 (including radio operators and some visitors from Echo/2/6) as well as 15 honored Iraqi officers and NCO's as guests.  The gunnery sergeant scrounged a cake from goodness-knows-where and the Iraqis slaughtered a lamb and prepared us a feast.  Among the various speeches, the ceremony always opens with a benediction.   We have no chaplain so I was asked to prepare the prayer.  The prayer I gave was not vanilla and non-sectarian, but I'm not a qualified chaplain anyway so I can always say I never "received the memo" that neuters prayer at government functions these days.   Most of the Marines said they liked it so I decided to copy it to this email.  None of the Iraqis seemed to be offended by it, as I'm sure some of my own countrymen would have been had they suffered to hear it from a federal employee.   But I wasn't talking to them anyway, I was talking to the Almighty; and judging from the number of close calls the ceremony's attendees have escaped since that day alone, my guess is when the Lord honors prayer, He proves it through trial.

Hope you are doing well.
Take care and God bless,
Doug Woodhams

Delivered Nov 13th, 2005, in the 2-2-1 Command Post, northern Fallujah, Iraq:

Gentlemen, let us pray:

Our Dear Heavenly Father,

We gather here today, before Your presence, humbly.  We ask that You be honored by our ceremony today.   In accordance with our tradition, we celebrate 230 years that the Marine Corps has defended the United States. 

 

I believe, according to Your Word, when two or three gather in Your Name, You are present in a special way.  I believe You are standing here in this courtyard with us now, and You hear even our unspoken requests, for You see our hearts.  You formed us in the day of our birth, and You know our last hour.   I ask You to watch over each of us, and to help us perform our assigned tasks well and with our honor intact.  Help us to help the Iraqis whom we advise, to help our teammates, and to return to our families at the appointed time with sound minds and bodies.  

I do not know that You are my God and Heavenly Father.  I believe… this is what You call faith.   By faith I believe I am here for a reason, that You have a specific purpose for bringing me to Fallujah.  I believe You have assembled the team standing in this courtyard by design.   I believe each of us here has a skill crafted by you, our Maker.  By faith, I believe You are at work in this place and You have a plan in mind for this troubled nation of Iraq.   I believe, through the pain-filled marriage between Iraq and the United States You will divinely work out a blessing for both our countries. 

As U.S. Marines, we have each taken an oath to place our lives in the way of danger for the sake of keeping our nation free of trouble.   We are in the process of fulfilling our oath.  Lord, hold our acts of sacrifice as precious in Your sight, and by our actions protect our nation from all enemies, foreign and domestic.   Allow us to keep our oath, which each of us concluded with, "so help me God."

Oh, Lord, be pleased to keep us a "nation under God" for a little while longer.  Do not remove Your Presence, Your Spirit from our country, for what are we without Your blessing upon us?  

According to Your Word, in the gospel of Luke, Your oath is "…to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve (You) without fear…"

Lord, right now I claim this verse to be true for us.  I believe, even though it was penned 2,000 years ago, You meant it for us here in this courtyard today.   According to Your Promise keep us safe and allow us to serve our nation boldly and fearlessly. 

One day I will see You face to face and I will no longer believe, I will know.  Till then You are pleased when we walk by faith.   Help us in our weakness.  Be our strength when we struggle, and keep us from falling when our plans go well.  Guard our hearts.  Surround us with Your mighty angels when we are on foot patrol, moving in our vehicles, or inside the wire.  Frustrate the plans of the enemy who would harm us, and deliver him into our hands.   Keep our families safe until we are reunited with them.  And Lord, watch over our Corps for yet another year.

In the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, we pray,