Modified: Jan 10, 2007 03:05 AM

E-mail brings war's hell home to dad, us

Dennis Rogers, Staff Writer

No matter what the politicians and experts call it -- a surge, an escalation or a waste of even more lives -- President Bush's speech tonight about the war in Iraq will inevitably mean more hard days for Marines such as Cpl. Danny Muller.

Danny is the son of retired Raleigh police officer Wayne Muller. He serves with the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment in Iraq. His unit is based in Ramadi, in Anbar province, where the Marines have suffered so many casualties.

I offer his story for one reason: If we're going to risk the lives of even more young Americans in Iraq, we damn well ought to have the courage to face the reality of their war and what it is doing to them.

As you read these excerpts from e-mail messages Danny sent his dad, keep this in mind: Danny's young wife, Adela -- his high school sweetheart -- is waiting for him in Johnston County. He has lost his best friend, Clayton High School classmate and fellow Marine Lance Cpl. Jeriad Paul Jacobs, in the war, and he is on his second combat tour.

He writes: "What a hell of a day yesterday here at OP (observation post) Hawk. I was on the roof by 5 a.m. Starting to have a few nightmares so I went up about an hour early.

"Around 6 a.m. the guy we've been eyeing tries sneaking through an alley. We let him go. Fifteen minutes later, he, his neighbor and his son snuck into the alley (with) wire, an electrical box and large burlap sack with a 155mm rocket in it.

"My spotter is behind me. Tells me 80 meters, not a long shot, but a shot nonetheless. As soon as the kid, maybe 17 or 18, laid the rocket, our XO (executive officer) came on the radio and said (to shoot) when we were ready. Man, our hearts are pounding.

"As soon as he stood up and turned away, one shot through the back. I've never shot at anyone face to face. They tell us if we have time to wait, shoot them in the back for two reasons: the hollow points do more damage when they come out the chest and two, it'll never be a personal thing by looking at his face.

"After my shot ... I walked up to the kid and checked him for a pulse. He had about two beats but that was it. Probably weighed 100 pounds. But after the Marines that have been waxed by IEDs, I feel no pity. None of us really gave a damn at this point. They all three tested positive for TNT and gun powder residue (so) it was a good day for our guys.

"We got back to OP Hawk around 3:30 p.m. Everyone was talking about it. Named my team the Ace of Spades, but we didn't say much. My team never brags. I won't let them. My guys are very modest.

"It's good to kill a bad guy but sometimes you gotta wonder if he was doing it just for money for his family. No one in this city has a job. If it was me and someone offered me $100 and my family was starving, I'd have to do it.

"Around 4:30 p.m. a suicide bomber crashed into OP Horea. At the same time, every OP in Ramadi got hit. We were outside relaxing and they hit us from nowhere. Everybody went to the roof and it was pretty much fire at whatever window you could see. We kinda got pinned down. The attacks continued throughout the night and finally died down once it started pouring rain.

"So here we are today. I'm not letting (the team) go on the roof for a couple of days. Instead, we sit in the house playing cards and talking about home. I try to give them a break after an attack. Let them clear their heads.

"So at 6 a.m. this morning we're drinking coffee in an old bombed-out room and start talking about dads and families and what we miss about home. We got a little teary eyed for a little while. I guess I never knew how much stress we're under until something as small as the thought of lying in bed with your wife makes you break down for a while.

"But we're close so we gave each other a hug and agreed not to tell the other guys we're a bunch of sissies.

"So that was our day. I love you, Old Man.

"Dan The Man."

Cpl. Danny Muller, USMC, celebrated his 21st birthday one week ago today. He is due home in April.
Dennis Rogers can be reached at 829-4750 or