How It Really Was In Fallujah

Susan Page
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Wednesday - May 04, 2005
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“Most people in the country don’t know we’re at war,” said Brig. Gen. George Trautman III, Commanding General, Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Deputy Commanding General, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific, and Deputy Commanding General, III Marine Expeditionary Force Hawaii, speaking to members and guests of the Hawaii Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA). “And those who do think the war on terror started on 11 Sept., 2001.”

Since 1979, he said, there have been some 18 terrorist attacks on Americans or Westerners by Muslim extremists, resulting in more than 4,200 deaths and thousands more injured. Taking the fight to the terrorists, he said, had been long overdue. He talked of the successes, the difficulties, the new approach to warfare, stressing the importance of building relationships with leaders and citizens in countries where terrorism exists, like in the horn of Africa, where al Qaida is attempting to regroup. And he enthusiastically praised our fighting force.

Then he introduced Marine Lt. Aaron Brown, a young man who definitely knows we’re at war. One of the Kaneohe Marines from the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment just back from a 10-month deployment, Brown, 26, is executive officer of C Company, one of the first to enter the battle for Fallujah. (His company lost 31 men since the deployment.)

In the first minutes of the mission, they lost three Marines to severe wounds, but C Company commander Thomas Tennant, Brown and their brave unit forged forward, routing out the enemy house to house, securing their three objectives in just 12 hours — some three days early.

“People think of this generation as the Nintendo generation, but they are a superb group of young people. They would die for each other, and I would die for any one of them,” said Brown.

He recalled Nov. 10, the Marine Corps birthday, and Navy corpsman Julian “Doc” Woods, 22, of Jacksonville, Fla. Insurgents had occupied the top floor of a very large house, and C Company’s first Marine up the stairs, Lance Cpl. Aaron Pickering, 20, was shot, and gravely wounded. Hearing this, “Doc”Woods immediately took off to try and save him.

“It wasn’t even his platoon that was engaged. He just wanted to go see what he could do. He was shot and killed outside. Just because he knew there was a Marine down in there, he gave his life trying to help his buddy.”

Once the battle was won, C Company had to help ensure Fallujah was secure for residents to return, again going door-todoor. “We gave people white flags to wave so they could get food from the mosques, but insurgents waving white flags killed two Marines.” Some residents were angry at the damage they found. “It was war, and they didn’t seem to get it. A guy was yelling at me, then we showed him a dead insurgent still among the rubble in his house, and he got quiet.”

But outright lies on some Internet sites and Al Jazeera still frustrate him: “They say during the battle we used chemical weapons and killed women and children. We only saw two families, and we got them out and even got the family car out. We jump started it.” The Marines weren’t “even approved to use tear gas that would’ve saved lives.”

But at least one elderly man did get it.

“He wanted us to make sure his house was safe. Then, he said, ‘Have you had Marines hurt or killed?’ I told him how many, and he started crying, apologizing for us having to come take care of his country when they should’ve done it themselves. And he said, ‘Tell your parents I’m sorry you had to come here.’ He gave me a big hug and kissed me on the cheek. Just that one experience with that gentleman made it worth it.”

Brown expressed deep gratitude to Americans and the people of Hawaii for their support. “We had so many care packages we couldn’t even take them all, so we gave them to the children and families. Giving candy to the Iraqi kids. That was amazing.”

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