A faithful reader forwards us the July 4 greeting sent to family and friends at home from the Thundering Third (Third Battalion First Marines):
Families and Friends, I wanted to take a moment to wish everyone a happy and safe 4th of July. I think it is important for us to remember that the good people of Iraq are attempting to establish here what we celebrate each July 4th – freedom from tyranny. Our forefathers led our young nation in the same struggle Iraq faces today and your Marines and Sailors are playing a critical role in this process to establish a fledgling democracy. I might add that they are doing a magnificent job at that.
We continue to conduct counterinsurgency operations in our area of operations (AO Anaheim) denying the enemy sanctuary and freedom of movement. This has allowed us to shift our focus to the people as they are truly the key to our eventual success. We want the local citizens to feel safe and secure in their homes, shops, markets, roads, and schools. They want the same things we as Americans want.
They want to provide a good life for their families and they cannot accomplish this with the insurgents conducting systematic murder and intimidation campaigns. We have stopped this and the locals have stated repeatedly that they feel safer and more secure than they have in years. The atmosphere is completely changed since our operations commenced.
Upon our arrival in AO Anaheim, you would rarely see any civilians moving about or interacting, but now as I travel throughout the area I see farmers working their crops, children playing, markets re-opening and an overall resumption of normal life. Needless to say, there are still bad guys that wish to do us (and the local people) harm and see us fail in our efforts, but we will be relentless in our pursuit of these thugs and murderers.
You will not view or read about any of the things I am describing to you now in the national media as this is not glamorous or sensational stuff, but this is what is truly going to win the day. My hat is off to your Marines as they are truly making a difference (as I knew they would). I am so proud of each and every one of them and I am truly blessed to be in command of such a fine group of Marines and Sailors.
We have sustained casualties, but this has not dampened our spirits or our determination (nor will it). My thoughts and prayers go out to the families of our injured; these warriors are true heroes in every sense of the word. They give so much and ask for so little in return. It is humbling to watch them in action. The very first comment from every injured Marine is how soon can I get back to my unit. True professionals absolutely dedicated to one another and the mission. God bless them all.
To answer your question, yes we will travel home via shipping regardless of an extension. We are working with higher headquarters to determine possible port visits with hopefully a stop in Australia and Hawaii, more to follow on this one.
We are frantically working to establish Internet cafes at all company positions and some are already up and running. We have also freed up some iridium phones for morale calls. If you have not heard from your loved one yet, please be patient and hopefully you will get surprised by a call (or email) in the very near future. Mail is steadily flowing in (daily deliveries now) and has been a tremendous morale booster for the troops, Please keep it coming. I thank you for this support; it really makes a difference to the men. It is always the little things that we take for granted that make the most difference be it a simple letter or a care package full of goodies.
We love you for who you are and what you do to support this BLT.
Keep up the great work and remain positive as we feed off your reinforcement. Words can not describe how much we miss you all and we anxiously look forward to our joyous reunion this fall. We have a lot of work yet to done here, but it is those thoughts of being back together with the ones we love so much that sustains us and drives us in our daily actions.
Thank you for being so supportive of your Marines and Sailors. We are truly blessed to be surrounded by such beautiful and wonderful people. We love you all and you are ALWAYS in our thoughts. Please be safe and enjoy the holiday.
Happy 4th of July! Someone please jump in a nice cool pool for me (I will attempt to enjoy through osmosis:).
LtCol Phillip W. Chandler Commanding Officer
13th MEU, COP Golden
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