3:50 | Larry Draughn loved being a Marine and he looked forward to deploying to Iraq. He did have one problem, though. His upcoming marriage was going to cause him some trouble with the Corps. His advice? Get it in writing or, better yet, get married before you join.
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He had a lot of military in his family. High school student Larry Draughn was thinking about a possible military future but after the 9/11 attacks, the likelihood increased. Sure enough, he enlisted in the Marines after he graduated.
Larry Draughn embraced the trials and tribulations of Marine boot camp. He had a lot of respect for the DI's, who were recent combat vets. Between boot camp and the School of Infantry, he had a solemn task to deal with, the death of his father.
When Larry Draughn made his picks for possible duty stations, he put Hawaii first. Fat chance, right? But he got it and with his fiance he went to the Pacific. He was a replacement in a fabled Marine outfit and there was a senior Marine there to help the new guys get settled.
Larry Draughn deployed to Iraq in early 2008. The majority of the work was winning hearts and minds in the local populace. He recalls the time a local landowner mistook a night patrol for insurgents. He nearly got a rude surprise. (Caution: strong language.)
The two main concerns were IED's and the occasional sniper. Marine Larry Draughn was on patrol when he noticed that he was right in the middle of something he'd seen on TV. He had a bit of trust in the locals, but that all changed after a fateful conference with a local sheikh.
He returned from his Iraq deployment a little early to care for his wife. This allowed Larry Draughn to take on a role he relished. He got to welcome new Marines to the battalion and show them the ropes before the rest of the unit returned.
Larry Draughn got to his base in Afghanistan in the middle of the night. He knew it was gong to be a rough time, but when the sun came up, it was absolutely beautiful, a stunning countryside. Then the dirty business of patrolling began.
He had only been in country for a month. Larry Draughn was supposed to be training with a drone, but when he heard that his unit was going out, he insisted on going with them. They found twenty IED's before he found the wrong one. (Caution: strong language.)
Only days after an IED blast nearly killed him in Afghanistan, Larry Draughn was awake and flattering nurses in a hospital in Germany. A man in a suit came in and he had the president on the phone. What happened next caused a bit of consternation. (Caution: strong language.)
His determination to recover from his severe wounds surprised his doctors. Larry Draughn quickly got free of the IV's and took his son to a baseball game. In less than a month, he was discharged. No one had ever recovered that quickly. Then he determined that he would meet the airplane when his unit returned form Afghanistan.
Fishing tournaments and training for hand cycle marathons have kept Larry Draughn busy since he was grievously wounded in Afghanistan. He relishes the time with his family and enthusiastically supports the growing movement for veteran reunions. (Caution: strong language.)
It finally caught up with him. Josh Lipe had gritted his teeth and kept going back in boot camp when he injured his ankle and foot. Now he had a bone spur that required surgery just as his unit prepared to deploy to Iraq. He was going to miss the deployment.
A huge sandstorm kept the Marines buttoned up in their vehicles for hours. After it cleared, they rolled into the town of Al Kut, where the enemy had an ambush set up. SAW gunner Jason Wilebski and Company made them wish they had not done that. Part 1 of 2. (Caution: strong language)
Interpreter Ali Alzubaidi was amazed at how warmly he was welcomed into his first American unit. Some of his family had just passed away but now he had a family of 150. He began to feel unsafe when he wasn't with them, however, especially after he got a threatening phone message.
When the vehicle hit an IED, Emmanuel Melendez-Diaz was in the doorway and took most of the blast. All he could think of as he looked down at his shattered body was how long it would take before he could get back to his buddies, but he was beginning a long road to recovery. (Caution: strong language.) Part 1 of 2.
There was a lot of military service in Jason Wilebski's family. By the time he got to high school, he was sure he wanted to be something special, maybe a Navy SEAL. One of his buddies had enlisted in the Marine Corps and began to sell him on that angle.
The Iraqi insurgents would often set a new device in an existing crater on the road and pave it over to look like a road repair. Dale Beatty was in a Humvee escorting a fuel convoy and he was aware of this tactic. When he spotted one of these patches in the road, he instructed the driver to go around, but this turned out to be the wrong move.
At first, the wounds were simple. A lot of frag wounds and Corpsman Joseph Poquiz was thankful. One day when he was on radio watch inside an abandoned house, an insurgent threw a hand grenade into the room. There were two Marines in there with him. He was the lucky one. He only had a concussion.
Every day, Jason Wilebski's squad had to escort some women who were the personnel that searched females for the Marines at their base in Fallujah. He told them to vary their route to work every day. They didn't listen. Later, at that same gate, a car was approaching and the driver wouldn't stop. Unfortunately for him, Ski had his shotgun with him. (Caution: strong language)
During his second tour of Iraq, Jason Wilebski was part of a raid platoon. Their mission was to hit locations of IED makers and high value targets. Then came the push into Fallujah, where he and his fellow Marines fought house to house and collected AK's. Part 1 of 2. (Caution: strong language)
When Josh Lipe came to the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, the unit was understaffed. They were going to go to Iraq shorthanded but there was no lack of spirit. While he waited in Kuwait to cross the border, he found out what night vision can do to star gazing. It was spectacular.
When he pushed into Iraq, Jason Wilebski was part of the Marine infantry attached to a tank unit. At first, he could only hear the sound of the building battle as he rode in a sealed up Amtrac. When he dismounted, he saw a couple of Cobras take out some Iraqi tanks. It was a dazzling display of firepower. (Caution: strong language)
IED's were a growing problem in Iraq and Josh Lipe was alarmed at the piles of stones that he thought had something to do with the bombs. That turned out not to be the case, which was a big relief. He remembers a huge Iraqi truck stop on the trip north and he can still smell the bad diesel.
For a third time, Jason Wilebski deployed to Iraq, this time as a squad leader. He and his Marines were angry that they had been pulled back the last time they were there because they felt they could have finished the job. One thing that was different this time, there were a lot more IED's. (Caution: strong language)
The Marines were living in converted shipping containers and stuck with bad chew and bad Iraqi cigarettes. The desert cammies were filthy so Josh Lipe had his squad change into greens so they could wash them. This led to some incoming from a stiff 1st Sergeant. (Caution:strong language)
No matter what you think about a conflict, you should support the troops who fight it. That's the message Jason Wilebski wants people to remember. He pays respect to the leaders and grunts he served with and reveals what music they were listening to while breaking up stuff in Iraq.
After the Blackwater contractors were killed in Fallujah, Josh Lipe's unit was part of the force assembled to clean up the town. He had a premonition about a friend in a different unit that he happened to see and it turned out to be true. When he had fought his way into the city and had a moment's rest, he got hold of a satellite phone and had a dramatic phone call with his mom. (Caution: strong language)
They train you to get out of an ambush by assaulting through it, if you can. That's exactly what Jason Wilebski and his fellow Marines did in the Iraqi town of Al Kut. It helped once thay figured out you had to milk the grenade before you threw it. Part 2 of 2. (Caution: strong language)
It was great to have a Spectre gunship overhead. Jason Wilebski really appreciated the cover from the air as he fought on the ground in the Iraqi town of Karmah. His unit was taking sniper fire from a mosque but there was a solution for that. (Caution: strong language)
He was raised by a Marine, so when Josh Lipe went off to boot camp himself, he knew exactly what to expect. He was amused instead of intimidated by the mind games but there was one problem. He injured his ankle and kept on going. That was a mistake.
When he found out he was assigned to Twentynine Palms, new Marine Jason Wilebski began to be regaled with horror stories about the place. "It was 130 degrees and they were throwing beer bottles at us," claimed one of his instructors, describing his arrival there.
When the 9/11 attacks occurred, Josh Lipe was at Security Forces school in Chesapeake, VA. The base instantly went on war footing and students were put on guard with live ammo. Rumors were flying as the young Marines waited in suspense to find out if more attacks were coming.
He was just about finished with high school and set to enter the Marine Corps. Then, one day, Jason Wilebski was walking down the hall and saw people gathered around a television. A plane had hit the Twin Towers. America had been attacked and he felt a new urgency to get to those yellow footprints in San Diego.
As part of the Marine Corps Security Forces, Josh Lipe's unit was assigned tasks such as guarding embassies and safeguarding nuclear fuel transfers. When the bombing range in Puerto Rico was reopened following the 9/11 attacks, they had to mix it up with some local protestors.
Three times around in Iraq and Jason Wilebski was ready for a calmer experience. His next assignment wasn't that calm, though. It involved a lot of live fire training. He was one of the trainers, known as coyotes.
He grew up working on a dairy farm where there was always work to do but Jason Wilebski was now a Marine. The training made that feel like nothing. The pace was relentless as his unit prepared for the invasion of Iraq. (Caution: strong language)