View Full Version : Marine's parents find out dangers son faced in Iraq

09-25-05, 12:34 PM
Looking back on his first two years in the Marine Corps, Lance Cpl. Jim Quinlan Jr. says he'd rather be on the front lines of battle instead of standing post in a safe spot.

"It keeps you on your toes," he said.

Quinlan, 20, who grew up on Harriet Street in the town of Geddes and was nicknamed Tough Guy by high school buddies, has been on his toes quite a bit lately.

Based in one of the most dangerous places in the world, Quinlan was involved in 280 firefights during his first tour of Iraq, a seven-month hitch.

"We were always taking rounds, mortars and RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades)," Quinlan said at Hancock Airport, where he arrived Saturday afternoon to start a one month leave.

"Sometimes it'd be as small as two or three sniper shots, sometimes as big as three suicide vehicles coming into our camp." Quinlan graduated from Westhill High School in 2003 and joined the Marines several months later.

In February, he shipped out to Camp Gannon, a U.S. post near the western boarder of Iraq, near Syria. His outfit made international news in April by destroying two explosive-laden vehicles that were on a suicide mission to kill hundreds of Marines inside the camp. No Marines were injured in that attack.

Judy and Jim Quinlan Sr. used computer instant-messaging and occasional phone calls to keep in touch with their oldest child, but they didn't know until recently just how much danger he was in .

"His mother and I just didn't realize how much he was in harm's way," Jim Sr. said. "Now that he's home, there's a lot of things I know that a parent shouldn't know."

During his tour, relations improved steadily with the citizens in the nearby city of Husaybah, inlcuding an increasing use of a telephone hot line to tip Marines off to the location of insurgents, Quinlan said.

Reacting to that intelligence, Quinlan's unit went out on many night missions to find the insurgents.

"We didn't do anything in the daytime because it's too dangerous," he said. "We usually wait 'til they're sleeping."

Quinlan's Marine company was only the second one to complete a seven-month tour in Iraq without a single fatality, his parents said.

Preparation and training played a key role in that success.

"Before a mission, we spent three days doing rehearsals, rehearsals, rehearsals," Quinlan said. "By the time we did a mission, everyone knew it. There were no mistakes. Everyone just did it."

Quinlan will return to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina after his leave, and next July, his unit is slated to return to Iraq-this time to Fallujah.

Asked what he missed most during his first tour, Quinlan didn't hesitate.

"The way the air smells," he said. "The air over there is just nasty. They just take their trash and throw it outside somewhere. The smells, they were just....you get used to it after a while."

Generally speaking, Quinlan said he believes things are going in the right direction, slowly but surely, in the U.S. mission to provide democracy to the Iraqi people.

"We need to be there," he said. "If we pulled out right now, that country would be really bad. Everything we've been working for would just be lost. It would have been a waste of time."

Quinlan, who said he joined the Marines to try to bring something good to other people, said he'd do it all over again, if given the choice.

"It's good for you," he said. "It's good for me. It made me grow up, and made me realize I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing."