View Full Version : Home from war

06-07-03, 11:01 AM
Home from war

Marine from Zion marries longtime sweetheart, former Warren hoop star savors contrasts

By Judy Masterson

While 160,000 U.S. and British troops continue to face scattered but deadly resistance in post-war Iraq, Lake County welcomed home two of its own.

Marine Staff Sgt. Terry Love, 32, of Zion and Marine Pfc. Mike Brandow, 21, of Park City no longer have to worry about rocket-propelled grenades, snipers or suicide bombers. Both men arrived back in the states late last month after months of war and waiting in the Mideast waiting for the fighting to begin, waiting for it to end, waiting to return home.

The two men are enjoying leave before heading back to their respective military bases in California.

Love was married Thursday to longtime girlfriend Pam Lee. Brandow is catching up on his sleep, regaining his appetite and hanging out with buddies from high school.

Brandow was a Warren Blue Devil in 1999 the year Warren Township High School took second in state in boys basketball and said he used lessons in teamwork learned on the high school basketball court in war.

As a mortarman with the 3rd Battalion 4th Marines, Brandow's infantry unit moved into Iraq from the south and helped take Basra. One of the first to push into Baghdad, his unit suffered two casualties, one killed by so called "friendly fire" and another, a scout sniper, cut down by random fire in Al Kut.

Love, an 11-year Marine veteran, serves with the 3rd Battalion 1st Marine Division. As a platoon leader, he led 35 men over the Kuwaiti border on March 21, traveling over blowing sands in groups of 18 aboard amphibious assault vehicles.

It was his first battle.

Love guessed that his platoon moved through at least 10 cities. In the heat of the desert with temperatures reaching 120 degrees by May and in the cold of the night, the battles blurred together. Two of his men were wounded, one shot in the hand and one in the buttocks.

"We moved mostly at night when they couldn't see us," Love said. "They had no night-vision capabilities. Everything we did, we did swiftly, so they couldn't hit us with Soviet missiles."

The invasion of An Naziriyah was delayed after an ambush of an army convoy in the area, in which more than a dozen American troops were captured or killed.

Confronting fear

Both Love and Brandow said their combat training helped them deal with fear.

"Anyone over there who said they weren't afraid would be lying," Love said. "The scariest part was going through the cities when civilians were coming out with bombs on them. But once we started, we got into the rhythm and everything we did in training kicked in. Clearing houses, walking through cities, there was always that threat. You didn't know if civilians were your friends or enemies. We were coming to liberate the same people who were trying to kill us."

Love said the reality of war sank in when he saw people die.

"That's when it hit me," he said. "But I couldn't show that it affected me. As a platoon leader, my job is to keep morale up, keep the men motivated. I never showed them I was down or missing my family."

The interminable waiting is one of the worst things about war, both men agreed, because waiting means time to think about the possibility of not coming back.

"Everybody worried about that," Love said. "You joke around a lot to cover it up. But the only way you are going to come back is if you accomplish your mission."

Brandow had his own close calls in firefights in which his M-16 rifle was his friend and savior.

"When we were in firefights, the intensity was so high you didn't have time to think about how scared you were," he said. "A couple days later you would think, 'Holy cow, I did that.'

"We had counter batteries firing at us all the time," Brandow said. "Some rounds landed closer than 100 meters. The reality (of being killed) was always there. You just kept thinking about going home."

Brandow said he and the other guys in his unit felt isolated and that they were more concerned about their families back home than about themselves.

"We knew what we were over there to do," he said. "But we worried about not knowing what else was going on in the world."

Changed by war

Both men the strapping, gung-ho, 6'5" Brandow, who has a bit of a reputation as a brawler, and Love, soft-spoken and described by a sister as peace-loving and kind-hearted came back changed by war.

Jacqueline Shepard said her brother seems more serious.

"I see a young man who has seen a lot," Shepard said. "I can see it in his face. He hasn't talked a whole lot about the war, but about the young men in his unit and how brave they were."

Marge Brandow said her son looked haggard and had lost 20 pounds. A group of relatives and friends met his plane at Midway Airport last weekend.

"When we first saw him, every tear saved for a month came out," she said. "I still cry. He has some incredible stories. He was on the front line the whole time. I saw the pain in his eyes. You know these young men have seen things we can't even imagine."

"I think I changed for the good," Brandow said. "I appreciate life a lot more now. The only negative thing is maybe a dirty mouth from hanging around 100 guys for five straight months.

Love, who was greeted at O'Hare by the long, tight hugs and tears of his mother, his sister and his fiancee, said the best part of coming home is "the support everyone is giving me."

Love will return to San Diego with his new wife by June 15 for some down time at Camp Pendleton before resuming training. He and his family are still hoping and praying for the safe return of brother Sgt. Maj. Michael Love, who is stationed with U.S. Army forces in Afghanistan.

Brandow will return to Twentynine Palms, Calif., on June 22 and will attend school to become a platoon instructor for hand-to-hand combat before heading to Okinawa in December for a seven-month deployment.

One of the best things about coming home, Brandow said, was sinking his head into a pillow for a good sleep. He rarely slept more than 30 minutes at a time during combat, and there are no pillows in the desert.

"I appreciate the things everyone else takes for granted," Brandow said. "Give me two minutes of quiet time and I can sleep anywhere in the world."