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thedrifter
02-28-09, 07:04 AM
Though Iraq war may wind down, Marines, soldiers prepare for fighting in Afghanistan
By Kevin Maurer
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Saturday, Feb. 28 2009

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — The Marines based at Camp Lejeune on Friday found out when
their missions to Iraq will end, but they also know their deadly days of
fighting overseas are far from over.

"Being a Marine, you join the corps to serve your country and do what you have
to do to keep it protected," said Sgt. Kelvin Carrington, 26, of Florida, who
has served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. "No matter what the commander in chief
says, I will follow."

President Barack Obama came to the camp near North Carolina's coastline Friday
to announce the exact day combat operations will end in Iraq. "By August 31,
2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end," Obama told them.

But for the Marines at Camp Lejeune, new orders for Afghanistan have already
arrived.

The change in their mission could end up being no more than a change in scenery.

When Pfc. Jeffrey Gray arrived at Camp Lejeune from basic training, the
19-year-old from Plymouth, N.C., was told he was going to Iraq. As of this
month, his unit is instead headed to Afghanistan.

"I am excited. I am serving my country," Gray said. "We have to fight back and
take action."

Sgt. Joshua Keller, 23, of San Antonio, who has served two combat tours to
Iraq, even said he was worried the American people would see Obama's decision
to withdraw forces from the region as a retreat. To Keller, it's only a course
correction to take on the bigger threat: a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan.

"A lot of Americans feel like we are tucking our tails," Keller said. "We are
not tucking our tails. We are following the terrorists."

In his speech to the Marines, Obama did not claim a mission accomplished;
neither did he admit to defeat. Instead, he suggested America accomplished the
mission as best it could.

"What we will not do is let the pursuit of the perfect stand in the way of
achievable goals," he said. "We cannot rid Iraq of all who oppose America or
sympathize with our adversaries. We cannot police Iraq's streets until they are
completely safe, nor stay until Iraq's union is perfected."

He said: "America's men and women in uniform have fought block by block,
province by province, year after year, to give the Iraqis this chance to choose
a better future. Now, we must ask the Iraqi people to seize it."

Obama said U.S. must end the war in Iraq, both for the future of Iraq and to
allow the U.S. to refocus its attention more firmly on Afghanistan.

Obama already has ordered 8,000 Marines from Camp Lejeune to Afghanistan, and
there are rumblings that a brigade from the Army's 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg
in the central part of the state could get similar orders soon.

The Marines whom Obama addressed Friday insist they're ready, because fighting
America's wars is their job. Pfc. Tiffany Johnson gave birth to her first son
seven weeks ago, and admits she isn't looking forward to leaving him behind.
But the 23-year-old intelligence analyst from Lillington, N.C., was prepared to
fight in Iraq. Now, she's ready for Afghanistan.

"As a Marine, you have to be ready to go when the military says so," Johnson
said. "I am ready to serve wherever my country needs."

Ellie