River City Charlie

That is the term when private communications on the base – phone & Internet – are shut down.  When I saw the message on my office computer, I knew that it usually lasts 12-48 hours and usually it means that someone has been killed.  That is what it means this time.  I do not know other details, but I know someone died in Al Qaim.  Communications will be restored when the military has notified the next of kin.  If you are reading this communications are open again because the loved ones know that they have lost a son, daughter, husband or wife.   

Although I was in Al Qaim the day before yesterday, I doubt if I met the guy who died.  Still I feel a profound sadness.  I remember the young faces and the energy of all the Marines I met and talked with.   They are the ages of my kids.  It is more personal now.  The Marines take it hard when any of their own is killed.  I cannot feel their sense of family but even in my very short time here I begin to feel closer now that I have slept next to their cots, heard their stories, and rode with them in helicopters & humvees.  

The Marines never forget.  They set a place in the chow halls for the missing and I have observed how they treat these places with reverence.  Next to my office stands a helmet on a rifle hung with dog-tags of the fallen.  The Marines have a strong culture that can be very hard for a career civilian like me to understand.  They never forget, but they go on.  They never forget, but they do not dwell on the loss.  They take it personally, however. 

River City Charlie is becoming less common here in western Al Anbar.  I am grateful for that.  I am starting to take it personally too.  Like the Marines I live with, I want to get this job done and I want all of us to come home safely.