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thedrifter
07-07-03, 07:54 AM
A Marine has landed
Local soldier receives July 4 homecoming
By JONATHAN ATHENS
Advocate Reporter


ALEXANDRIA -- While most Americans sat riveted in front of their television sets watching U.S. forces topple the regime of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein one battle at a time, Lance Cpl. Gabriel Sharrock helped hold the bridge at An-Nasiriyah for 12 intense days.

Friday afternoon, the 22-year-old Marine combat veteran came home to the open arms of family and friends in Alexandria at a surprise celebration at Tech Park.

For a dozen days in late March, Sharrock and his unit -- the 2nd Battalion/8th Marine Regiment -- captured and held one of the two key bridges at An-Nasiriyah over the Euphrates River.

Taking and keeping the southern Iraqi town was necessary to transport troops and supplies north to American forces approaching Baghdad, according to the Department of Defense.

Sharrock said he and his fellow leathernecks fought Iraqi infantry as Saddam's Republican Guard units moved back to unsuccessfully defend Baghdad.

Although most of the fighting involved intense small arms fire, Iraqi troops fired rocket-propelled grenades at Marines along with mortars and, in some instances, heavy artillery.

"At first they came at us in their uniforms and spent up to five to 10 minutes fighting. After a while, they started getting scared. They would pop off shots at us," Sharrock said.

Contrary to widespread impressions the soon-to-vanquished Iraqis readily surrendered en masse, Sharrock said they did so only when trapped by American troops.

"They wouldn't surrender unless you cornered them. Once you have them cornered, they'll give up. Getting them cornered is the hard part," he said.

After the initial fights, the Iraqis who didn't surrender wore civilian clothing and fought sporadically using guerrilla tactics, Sharrock added.

After taking An-Nasiriyah, coalition forces captured more than 2,000 Iraqi soldiers, according to the Department of Defense.

Despite periodic outbursts of rage among Iraqi civilians and infrequent attacks by those still loyal to Saddam, Sharrock said the long and arduous task of rebuilding the liberated nation is going well.

"The main reason they were mad is some of the fighting continues. They want peace. They want the things they were deprived of -- good food, water and electricity," he said.

An Alexandria native, Sharrock said he joined the Marines immediately after graduating from Northridge High School in 2000 because "I just wanted to better my life."

He had served in various locales throughout the Mideast -- Bahrain, Kuwait, and Africa for six months from May through November 2002 before the invasion of Iraq commenced.

"I knew what to expect," he said, and went on to describe the cradle of civilization.

"They have really pretty buildings, and the people are very nice. The majority of them are. They're generally friendly. It's just a small group of them that don't like you and show it sometimes," he said.

Aside of cold water to drink, showers and having his own bed, Sharrock said the thing he missed most about home was that innate sense of protection one feels when among family and friends.

"When you leave, you realize how much you've left and how protected you are. When you leave, you are unprotected except for the man to your right or your left," he said.

His 70-year-old grandmother, Marlene BeVier, arranged the Independence Day welcoming event.

"I'm so proud of him. I'm amazed at the strength he's had to go through what he went through," she said.

Now that he is finished fighting the war abroad, Sharrock plans to fight the domestic battle against crime and start a career in law enforcement.

While he has not decided what college he will attend, Sharrock said he plans to go straight to college after his enlistment ends next year.

Reporter Jonathan Athens can be reached at 328-8547 or jathens@nncogannett.com


Originally published Saturday, July 5, 2003


http://www.newarkadvocate.com/news/stories/20030705/localnews/597620-214544.jpg

Todd Seimer, For The Advocate)
U.S. Marine Gabriel Sharrock received many hugs from friends and family at Friday's "welcome home" party in Alexandria.

War on terrorism

Marines in Iraq war:

At the start of ground war to topple Saddam Hussein and his ruling Baath Party, the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force consisted of 85,000 U.S. Marines and the British 1st Armored Division - which also included British Marines. There were about 41,000 U.S. Marines in Iraq and Kuwait as of May 30.

Sources: U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Marine Corps

http://www.newarkadvocate.com/news/stories/20030705/localnews/597620.html


Sempers,

Roger
:marine: