View Full Version : A Veterans Day Birthday: Marines celebrate, tell vets: ‘We’re still carrying the flag

11-11-06, 08:13 AM
A Veterans Day Birthday: Marines celebrate, tell vets: ‘We’re still carrying the flag’
By Marie Szaniszlo
Saturday, November 11, 2006

From the moment he first saw a Marine, Erik Weise wanted to be one.

“When you see the way Marines look in uniform, the way they carry themselves, the values they live by, your most prized possession is to earn that title,” says Weise, who, at 28, has already risen to the rank of captain, served two tours of duty in Iraq and is now a recruiter.

So it seemed only fitting as the Rochester, N.Y., native stood in his dress blues yesterday on the dais at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center and welcomed more than 1,300 other Marines to celebrate the Corps’ 231st birthday.

“This is our way of letting (older Marines) know we’re still carrying the flag,” Weise said. “We still live by those values: honor, courage and commitment.”

Weise seems the epitome of all these as he talks about being invited into Iraqi homes to break bread, about twice delivering the Marines under his command safely home from Iraq and about recruiting men and women to serve in the war.

He wishes the media would show the more “gratifying” aspects of the American occupation, such as service members cleaning up debris and restoring water and electricity to areas that were bombed by U.S. forces.

Weise even has kind words for former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who quit this week after Republicans took what President Bush called a “thumping” in the midterm congressional elections over dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq. Rumsfeld, nevertheless, was “the right man for the right job at the right time,” Weise said.

But not every Marine is so sure.

Coleman Nee, who served in the Reserve from 1987 to 1993, says he and other Gulf War veterans had two critical advantages over today’s troops in Iraq: a clearly defined enemy and broad popular support.

“The Marines I talk to have the same pride and determination we had,” Nee says, “but they’re fighting an insurgency 360 degrees around them.”

Nee believes Rumsfeld and other Bush administration officials didn’t plan on such an insurgency.

They also fell short of how many troops they would need on the ground to accomplish the Iraq mission and did not have a firm plan on how they would establish a new - and stable - Iraqi government, he said.

“People made rash decisions and didn’t think through all the consequences,” he says. “The men and women on the ground right now . . . need a clearer idea of what constitutes victory and when they’ll be able to come home to their families.”

Nee says they also need “a resolution to this war that honors the sacrifices they and their families have made and that provides security for the Iraqi people.”