5:05 | The men of C Company got a belated Marine Cops birthday celebration while refitting at Camp Ramadi. Even then, it was kind of an insult considering what happened with the awards handed out that day. Their new mission was overwatch on one of the big Iraqi highways, where there was a blind spot between two outposts. That was trouble. (Caution: strong language.)
Keywords : Andrew Witzel light armor Iraq Fallujah Marine Corps birthday Awards and Decorations Camp Ramadi MSR Mobile Zacharia Davis Improvised Explosive Device (IED) highway Afghanistan Islam Saudi
Joining the Marines was his way out of the small Arizona town where he grew up. Andrew Witzel had a single father and three brothers so the Marine Corps may have been a little quieter. He was still in high school when the 9/11 attacks hardened his desire to become a Marine.
The rumor was that Andrew Witzel's company had been disbanded because the Marines in it were degenerates, but then there are a lot of rumors among PFC's. At any rate it was reconstituted in the run up to his battalion's deployment to Iraq. They stopped briefly in Kuwait, which he remembers as the hottest place on Earth.
During the Battle of Fallujah, Andrew Witzel's unit was tasked with securing the two bridges where a mob had lynched American contractors. Then, they set up a blocking position on the Fallujah peninsula. His light armored vehicle had already taken an IED blast before they got there and, before they would leave, it would take an even bigger one that nearly knocked it out of the war. (Caution: strong language.)
After his Iraq deployment, Andrew Witzel did what Marines like to do. He had a few drinks. Then he had a few more. Eventually, this would lead to him not drinking any more. At the time, though, he was lucky to get an assignment to Okinawa and then with a Marine Expeditionary Unit that would see him on a year long voyage around the Pacific. (Caution: strong language.)
Andrew Witzel got a lot of bonus money to reenlist. All he asked is to not be sent to Camp Lejeune. After a year, the Iraq veteran was deployed to Afghanistan, where he was stationed at a tiny outpost in the desert.
There was a bazaar in a village that was a Taiban stronghold and the Marines were ordered to shut it down. Andrew Witzel remembers that the operation was going well until a suicide bomber detonated his device. The casualties included Afghan children and a very close friend of his. (Caution: strong language.)
After his Afghanistan deployment, Andrew Witzel made the tough decision to get out of the Marine Corps. Returning to his home and starting post-service jobs helped him deal with his personal problems. Especially helpful were the jobs that dealt with helping fellow veterans. (Caution: strong language.)
Afghanistan veteran Andrew Witzel is not at all happy about the pullout from that country. How in the world would anyone want to be our ally? He feels remorse for the women and girls who are losing their opportunity to thrive in an open society.
The sky was full of munitions as Eddie Wright crossed into Iraq. He was moving fast and his outfit was out in front of any other Marine unit. Suddenly, there were three trucks full of Iraqis with questionable intent. Those were easily handled but then a full blown battle was under way and he got his baptism of fire. (Caution: strong language)
Joel Reinesch was called to the duty hut where he thought he was going to be cleaning something. Where's your notepad? That was what he heard, instead of being handed a mop. He had been promoted to squad leader. (Caution: strong language)
Eddie Wright had just taken a hit from an RPG. His mind went through several states of semi-consciousness and, when the lights came back on, he began to feel pain. He looked at one arm and then the other and then at his leg. He didn't see anything good. He knew he needed to put tourniquets on but he had one major problem with that. Part 2 of 4. (Caution: strong language)
After being pulled out of Fallujah, Joel Reinesch saw his fiercest action in the town of Karmah. As a forward observer, he lost count of the fire missions he directed that day. Eventually, he exhausted the battery's supply of rounds. (Caution: strong language)
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.
His father was an Air Force medical officer and would take him out on morning runs. That's where Eddie Wright saw his first Marines. They were running in formation and he thought they were just the best. He would be a Marine. (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.
Before he rotated back to the States, Eddie Wright and some of his buddies met Gen Jim Mattis, who made a lasting impression. The young Marine saved his phone number and set out to pass the screening to become a Recon Marine. It had been his goal for a long time but it was going to be tough. (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 First Sergeant. (Caution:strong language)
About a month into his second deployment to Iraq, the Blackwater contractors were killed in Fallujah. The mission immediately changed for Joel Reinesch. His unit headed there and readied to sweep into the town but, once they had started, the word came all the way from Washington. Pause in place. (Caution: strong language)
He was on patrol and running missions for a month in Fallujah and Josh Lipe was finally getting the benefit of all the training he had gone through. His squad was comprised of Marines that were straight out of central casting, some real characters.
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.
The wait in Kuwait was long, hot and dusty. Marine mortarman Joel Reinesch was excited to get the invasion underway but, at first, it was just a boring drive. Until it wasn't. The unit would soon suffer their first KIA in combat.
They got hit every day in Fallujah. When they were lucky and back at the base, they still got rocket and mortar fire. Eddie Wright was part of a small team of Marines who was there as the Awakening began. Iraqis had learned that ISIS was a much worse enemy than the Americans. How did we get to this point? Someone derailed a good plan. (Caution: strong language)
It finally caught up with him. Josh Lipe had gritted his teeth and kept going back in the School Of Infantry 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.
Eddie Wright gives a shout out to his platoon commander, who was killed during the ambush which nearly killed him. Wary of getting triaged as nearly dead, when the helicopter opened up, he sat up and spoke and startled the Corpsman coming aboard. Once inside, he tried to lighten the mood, despite his grievous wounds. Part 4 of 4. (Caution: strong language)
Josh Lipe had a feeling they were headed into an ambush and he was right. He should have been OK. He was in the second truck and they usually tried to take out the first or the last, but in this IED attack, his truck was hit. The blast knocked him out and when he came to, he began to check on the rest of his guys. Their reactions when they saw him let him know how badly wounded he was. (Caution: strong language)
Eddie Wright was on top of the world. He had just become a Recon Marine, his goal since he was young. At the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, he was assigned to a new team where he already knew several of the guys. Then it was time to return to Iraq. (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)
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.
I should be saluting you. That's what the DI said to Joel Reinesch after looking over his records, implying that the recruit was officer material. He didn't go to OCS but he was made the Scribe and the Prac Recruit. Now he had responsibilities, which worked out fine. (Caution: strong language)
Despite losing both hands in Iraq, Eddie Wright kept up an active life. After leaving the Marine Corps, he worked in the private sector and advocated for veteran's issues. He networked with fellow wounded warriors and, together, they kept spirits up. (Caution: strong language)
The fighting was over and Iraq had not yet descended into total anarchy. Joel Reinesch left Baghdad and his unit waited out the time until they were sent home at Diwaniyah, a town they had passed through and fought in during the invasion. It was an awful place and time because the entire battalion got sick.