View Full Version : As Iraqis Vote, Lst Honors Those Who Paid The Price

12-15-05, 08:55 AM
by David Benzion | 12/15/2005 7:34 am

He was only one of so many. They are the reason we remain safe in America– and why Iraqis have the freedom to vote as they are doing today.

Below, LST reproduces the journal entry of KSEV morning host Edd Hendee from the day Cpl. Bowling made the ultimate sacrifice.

Wednesday Jan 26

At 4:14 AM my friend Baraka shook me awake – “We have casualties” was his grim statement.

Baraka is a reporter for WABC-7 New York. We met a week ago in Al Asad the first day in the country and had become friends pretty fast. “I’ll meet you up on level 10” he said as he rushed out of the room.

I threw on my clothes and grabbed my Bible – and began to pray for these fine men.

The hospital is right up on the roof – about 100 yds. from the helo pad. The area outside the doors was filled with quiet Marines listening to the Navy Corpsmen inside shouting instructions as they prepared the wounded for transport. One look at their faces told the story – this wasn’t routine.

I knelt to pray outside the door for these guys and their families. The thump-thump-thump of the inbound Blackhawk Med Evac helo was a comfort and promise of the best medical support in the world. But it was also a signal to immediately get ready to transport.

Tuesday had been an amazing day. We did 3 hours of broadcast beginning with a 6AM Texas time (1500 Iraq) broadcast to KMSR in Dallas and then 2 hours back to Houston. We lined up Marines from their respective cities and hooked up phone calls to their loved ones at home. Sons talked to moms and dads, husbands to wives and their children. They were at ease in these responses yet they all stated again and again their conviction to be here and the importance of their mission. They make you so proud to be an American.

The Marines had been planning a night raid, a “snatch and grab” as they call it. It seemed routine as they talked about it. My guess is they had intelligence of a bunch of bad guys or a weapons cache’. The raid would begin at 2300 and wrap up about 0400 Wednesday morning. One Marine calmly stated, “We going out after some bad guys.” Even the most routine sounding mission can go terribly wrong in this business. That had happened tonight.

The doorway of the infirmary was cleared for transport so I stepped out of the way to the roof. There a medic transport vehicle was ready for the stretchers. The first one out was loaded in – breathing on his own with wounds to his shoulder and torso. The wounded come up for transport in priority order so this guy must be hurt pretty bad. I put my hand on his foot and prayed over him.

Next one out looked even more serious – much more serious. His head was bandaged and bleeding, and was being resuscitated with a squeeze bag by a medic. After he was loaded, I prayed over him in earnest. A corpsman grabbed me and another Marine and told us to get down by the chopper to help transport. We ran as fast as we could through the dark night 200 yards toward the roar of the Med Evac chopper with the transport vehicle following.

The Med Evac crew was on the ground working with the Navy Corpsmen to get all the information on the wounded. I helped Staff Sergeant Watson check the names on the list as he double-checked the names, injuries, and priority order.

The last name of the Marine with the head wound began with a “B”, but I couldn’t hear the full name in the roar and thump thump of the Blackhawks turning rotor.

I prayed “Lord you know his name – I lift him up and ask you to spare his life and heal him. Father, You are the Great Physician – heal and comfort them all and give those who care them and transport them supernatural abilities to Your greater Glory.”

Now it was time to take Marine “B” to the chopper – but they needed help. I had the honor of carrying this brave wounded Marine to the Med Evac. We lifted on the count of 3 – and moved smoothly under the terrific roar and beat of the Blackhawk’s rotor.

Twice we stopped to wait for the first guy to be loaded. The Blackhawk shakes the air under it but no man carrying the wounded cared. I cannot describe the sense of urgency and purpose that we all felt.

Carefully we set the front two rails of the stretcher in the slots and slid Marine “B” into the chopper. He was in the back of the cabin where the crew can sustain him and constantly work the breathing bag all the way to Al Asad’s hospital.

Next came two more Marines on stretchers #3 & #4. Later the Navy Corpsmen told me that the first two Marines on stretchers were critical with less than a good chance to make it. Now came the Marines who were wounded but could walk. Nine casualties had been a record for this unit – one they didn’t want to set.

Their injuries were serious enough for helo Med Evac and the Corpsman and Evac crew led them to the Chopper and we stood back. A moment later the Blackhawk lifted powerfully
off the pad and roared into the dark night on its way to the stabilization hospital at Al Asad. These Med Evac guys stand ready to transport 24 hours a day – 7 days a week at the ring of a phone.

The urgency of the moment faded away as the sound of the Blackhawk diminished. Now we walked back in silence across the top of the dam to the hospital.

A Sergeant was on VHF radio back to MEU headquarters as they relayed the events of the raid and planned to go clean up the insurgents who had staged this ambush.

Now I heard the worst of it – how the Marines had been given bad intelligence of an insurgent house. They found nothing there but when they began to leave had been ambushed with several IED’s, RPG’s, small arms fire, and automatic weapon fire.

The gunfire came from houses and a Mosque. It was a well planned and sizeable ambush – the enemy knew they were coming. The Marines had sustained two KIA’s (killed in action)– one had died on the battlefield – the other at this facility on the table. They would be transported later. The young Marines I spoke to described the battle like a scene from Star Wars – bullets, RPG’s, return fire – a huge fire fight. They got the bad guys – but it came with a price.

The Marines had recovered their dead, transported their wounded, and began to plan their counter action. A group of guys came up to the roof – one of them a Captain I had interviewed the night before.

We got 5 guys together and prayed for the families who lost sons, asked the Lord to welcome them into an eternity with Him in heaven, prayed for the families who would receive a visit tonight back home, prayed for the loved ones who would deal with the grief of loss and the fear for their wounded family member. We prayed for them all in Jesus’ name.

It’s 0630 and chow is open. The Marines file in and begin another day of doing what Marines do – fighting to protect their buddies, their nation, and their families. We owe these brave men a debt I cannot describe.

10:00 at the Dam: Communications have been locked down – all phones, email, sat phones – pending the notification of next of kin. This is a very serious policy – the Marines will make a home visit no matter how long it takes to notify the family.

One Battalion had a communication lockdown for more than a week while the Marine Command at home struggled to find a family who had left on vacation. I had been told the radio show could go on – they wanted the families to have a sense of normalcy as so many were ready at home for the broadcast – but no mention of the raid or the losses until it was absolutely certain the notifications were accomplished.

As I entered the office – Staff Sgt. Watson came up to me. It had been just a few hours ago that he and I had loaded the wounded Marine into the Blackhawk. He took me aside and told me that both the wounded Marines didn’t make it. Lt. Commander Levitt – the Navy surgeon who worked on these guys stopped by. He was worn down from the loss.

Both wounded Marines had severe injuries but he thought he had them stabilized. The Blackhawk did its job but the Marines didn’t survive. This is the worst day of loss for the 1/23 Marines on this deployment. Yet there aren’t any guys with glazed over eyes – they go back to work because what they do is important, and it’s their job.

The WABC-7 guys had been on the raid and they have film of the attack. They offered Marine Intelligence a copy – the CO wants to see it.

We watched the video over and over with the Marine Officers. The firefight had been vicious – a planned ambush with fire coming from many places. The haji had laid out weapons and they sprinted from station to station to continue the attack.

The Marines defended themselves well – 50 cals spewing out streams of tracers in the black night. RPG’s missing their mark over the top of the Marine convoy. Now came the report of the 25mm guns on the LAR’s lighting up the Mosque that had given the terrorists cover. After the meeting was over – the Marines had analyzed the entire raid – the targets – tactics – and planned their counter assault.

A handsome young Marine came up to me – Brett – a friend of our daughter Lisa’s from TAMU. He said he had been watching for me – and we chatted about his wife and family and plans to come home. Then he gathered his maps and notes and went back to plan the next move. No glazed eyes – no stunned spirits – just a job to do and do it well.

Now more bad news – a CH53-E Super Stallion Helicopter with 30 Marines and 1 Sailor onboard going to Korean Village – a FOB (Forward Operating Base) for the Task Force Naha has crashed in the desert. There are no survivors.

These guys were from the 1st Battalion 3rd Marine Regiment from Hawaii. They had been in Al Asad coming back from Fallujah just a few days ago, and were tasked to add support to the Task Force Naha at Korean Village and the 1/23 at town of Hit (pronounced “heat”).

Cpl. Brad Thomas is in that group and I had walked through their tents looking for Brad just a few days before. When I found him it was a great reunion. We had an hour or so together and grabbed lunch in the Mess Hall at Al Asad. Outside I grabbed my Sat Phone so Brad could call his mom and his wife Diana. I am praying Brad was not on the Helo, but I won’t find out for a few hours. He was supposed to go to Hit - not Korean Village – but orders can change.

The Marines take it all in stride. We watch a video made by a Marine from Austin with great music and photos highlighting the brotherhood these men have. At the end of the video are the words: “All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”

2100 Wed Evening: The Marines held an award ceremony for the Combat Engineer Company who lost those 4 brave Marines.

When the CO and Sgt. Major came out – they said “Well it started out pretty rough – but it turned out to be a good day.”

It seems the #1 bad guy in Haditha had been killed by the Marines the night before. They all said they hoped he was scattered far and wide when it happened. In addition, there were 10 funerals in the city – the dead must be buried before
sundown the next day – so you can attribute this to the Marine counterfire.

This afternoon they had captured two of the region’s bad guys, the #2 guy and he had confirmed that #1 was dead. This evening the Marines struck again and the mission was very successful. This is the Marines’ job. It’s our job to support them and welcome them home in late March.


May our loss be the gain of the Iraqi people.
I pray that freedom is cherished and protected.
Honor our troops.
God Bless