Michael's Dispatches

Valentine's Day Weekend, Afghanistan:


Published: 14 February 2010

A crew from the United States Air Force spent Saturday night and Sunday morning airlifting different groups of wounded soldiers from Kandahar to Camp Bastion to Bagram, back to Kandahar, then back to Bagram, and back to Kandahar. These patients were from Afghanistan, Australia, Canada, and the United States. Here, an Air Force nurse caresses the head of a wounded, unconscious Canadian soldier while whispering into his ear.


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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Angelia Knottie Phil · 10 years ago
    Military Medics are so often the unsung heroes. We back here in the warmth of our livingrooms do not always understand that a part of these nurses and doctors heart goes with each one of the men and women they tend to. They truly see the person not just another body. I have been blessed to speak with the medical staff that worked on my son and be able to thank them personally for all they did for him that fateful day two years ago. I hope that my words gave them some peace. God knows they deserve the gratitude and support of all of us as much as those in combat. They do incredible work saving lives under the harshest conditions.

    Take Luck
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    cathy mckinney · 10 years ago
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    Tania Gail · 10 years ago
    Thanks for posting this photo.
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    Ruth · 10 years ago
    God Bless you for all you do for our Brave warriors......thank you for being the compassionate ones they need when they are injuries and for your live saving training that you all have. As a Mom of a 1/3 Marine in that area it is reassuring to know of the dedication that you all have.
    God Bless you all,
    Ruth Very proud Mom of Justin
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    susan potter · 10 years ago
    they are angels among us.
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    moggy · 10 years ago
    when i first looked at this photo i thought OMG and tears were in my eyes i lad laying there hurt badly ...but then i saw the other lad the medic he is there with him taking to him telling him hes going home now
    thank you to all for doing your jobs so well i love you all xxx
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    A&N · 10 years ago
    Good for Fox for printing this photo....I don't know what you think Mike....but this is a hell of a way to fight a war....especially when we have better ways to stop this whole Islamic movement from spreading their filthy religion of hate all over the world. God save our very good men and those of our allies from this evil enemy and from politicians using them for political reasons. This is a picture of real love....the love displayed over and over again by our fighting men...laying down their lives, sacrificing themselves, for each other and sometimes even for the enemy that hates them. Oh that we all had the backbone, the courage and the heart of these men. Keep doing the great work of showing us the real treasure we have in our Military and also for exposing our own insufficiency in supporting them. May we all this day take a stand for freedom here at home and determine in our hearts to do all we can to stand fast behind our men. A picture does say more than a thousand words can. And one brave man is worth at least ten thousand cowards. May your work wake the sleeping, energize the lazy...and inspire all of us to action. Thank you Mike. Our thoughts, our prayers are with you all.....and hopefully you will get the support you need and deserve from the bounties of our wealth as well as will these wounded wonderful Military men. Thanks again.
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    Michael · 10 years ago
    Michael - God's speed and thanks. Been a long time since we met in Iraq and still on the job here. Take care and bring the word to us of what is occuring with next greatest generation as you did here. Happy Valentine's Day - r/ snake
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    Tammy Hodges · 10 years ago
    I am so proud of medics, the military, and you.
    Thank you for everything. :-)
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    F Thomas · 10 years ago
    Michael - May God Bless and Protect you as you bring to us the realities of what is happening in Afghanistan.
    DustOff - often the differance between life and death for our men and women in harms way. Minutes can make
    a differance and the chain of transport to higher and higher levels of medical care and life support is handled with
    care and compassion and speed.
    God Bless our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines and our Allies as they fight not a country state, but a warped and wicked set of beliefs where they value death more than life.
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    Gare Kim · 10 years ago
    I have been a long time reader of your blog (since 2003), yet this is my 1st comment. My prayers are out to our men and women who are serving in Iraq and especially in Afghanistan.

    I am eagerly waiting your blog on the Operation Together.

    God bless.
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    Pete G. · 10 years ago
    I have just sent a donation that I could not really afford but there are some things that people need to sacrifice for, and you are one of them. I've been following your posts for a long time and proudly have both of your books, which if the rest of you people don't have, it's your loss. What you are doing is one of the most heroic and noble roles that anyone could do for their country. No, I don't want your thank you email. I would not want you to waste the time and effort to even try to reply to me or any of the other people who give to your cause. What you do is more than one person should even be able to accomplish. I don't see how you do as much as you get done, given the conditions you are under. May God bless you and keep you safe. You put your life on the line every day for all of us to be able to get a glimpse of what is really happening on the battlefields. The only true window that we have. Please stay safe and tell all the troops, American and others, that all of you are in our prayers. Happy Valentines Day!!
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    Danny McKinney · 10 years ago
    Having served as a medic with the 4th Inf Div and 498th Dust Off in the Central Highlands in Viiet Nam, I can relate and am so proud of our Service Members. Thank you for your e-mails informing us as to the reality in which our Soldier's have to endure and sacrafice for our freedom. So many in the U.S. are uneducated to the realities of the cost of freedom a take so much for granted. God Bless You.

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    Valerie · 10 years ago
    No words sufficiently can relay the deep and intense appreciation for all these troops who selflessly put their lives on the line so we may all live in peace.

    Thank you for the strength of your convictions in making sure the truth is known to those of us so far away. Without you we would have no other means to get an accurate poitrait, without bias nor political slant, of how our fight is progressing
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    Bernie · 10 years ago
    Thank you for your photo and commentary to update us on what is happening. God richly bless you and keep you safe. God bless our troops to keep them safe and give them discernment to capture the enemy.
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    Gatekeeper, Ontario, · 10 years ago
    Thank you for this poignant and powerful photo. As a Canadian, it is sometimes difficult to accept when our contribution to this campaign gets so little coverage or recognition south of the 49th Parallel. At the same time, I also understand that when your country is expending so much `blood and gold' to carry this mission forward, it is natural to be focused inwards. It is photos like this that can help highlight the true relationship that has existed between our two countries in times of mutual threat - and of the sacrifices that our two Peoples are ready to make in our common cause.
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    Kim · 10 years ago
    What brave men & women we have serving. We owe an incalculable debt to them, and they're truly the best of who we are.

    Michael, you've done it again- this is a stunning photograph. Unforgettable. I'm a photographer, and I've watched as you get better and better...
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    KenWilson · 10 years ago
    I visited a hospital LST in Leyte Gulf and saw those wonderful medics giving their all - and many times just a tad more - and sometimes even that was not enough. They would swallow, wipe away the tears - and move on to the next one. I don't know how anyone could handle that duty - God Bless them all!
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    Bruce · 10 years ago
    Gatekeeper - the fact the MSM here in the US fails to acknowledge the efforts of our coalition allies (and our own troops, for that matter) doesn't mean the American people don't have your forces in our prayers. They definitely are.

    And Micheal - keep up the great work. I'm proud to carry your online magazine on my Blog Roll.
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    Jean,Fl · 10 years ago
    I can never say thank you enough to all our brave men and women for what they do for us.May GOD be with them always and I pray for a healing PHYSICAL,SPIRITUAL AND MENTAL.I pray for their families and I hope they know how proud we are of them and their sacrifice they make too.GOD BLESS THEM ALL AND PROTECT THEM.Thank you for keeping us informed of how things are going and also letting us have the opportunity to let them know they are in our thoughts and prayers always.
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    Dan Curran · 10 years ago
    As and infantry man from Viet Nam One our most valuable resource was our Platoon Medic, we protected him at all costs. God Bless everyone of them
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    6x6x4 · 10 years ago
    Years after Vietnam I learned that some of the worst cases of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder fell to those who never fired a shot or ducked incoming. An Army nurse of my acquaintance was a total emotional wreck because of the months she spent as night charge nurse in a ward where losing five or six soldiers a night was common. Forty years later she still cries every day at the memories of those bitter nights spent comforting dying boys. So while our medical personnel have little chance of getting killed, they too are making great sacrifices.
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    Jim Delaney · 10 years ago
    The pix is inspirational, to say the very least. I'm so damned proud of our fighting men and women and those who so selflessly support them in the field. You're right, Mike. Compared to Iraq coverage, Afghanistan is nearly incidental back home. Of course, were Bush still the Commander-in-Chief, of course the Dems would be piling on daily and drawing much more attention--mostly negative--to that theater. I guess that's the one upside to the Left's takeover in DC. No whining and MOnday morning quarterbacking as in Iraq. Please keep up the great work. And keep your head down when possible.
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    Nettie Harrison · 10 years ago
    May God Bless you all and keep you safe from harm! Medics and dr's are the hero's that are rarely talked about! It takes a very strong and committed individual to take on that challenge. My heart & prayers are with you all!

    Soldiers Angels
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    cynical joe · 10 years ago
    As a Canadian I was very moved by the photo. Between all the obvious technology just in front of him, and the personal very human care by the nurse, I'm comforted that everything that can be done is being done for him and that he'll be home soon. God Bless all the soldiers/aircrew/medical personnel of the USAF and all US forces for extending their mission to their allies.
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    ACElliott · 10 years ago
    No amount of words can be said or written to convey the appreciation "We The People" of good ole USA have for Our Warriors and Our Aussie/Brit/Canuck Warrior friends. Thank You from the bottom of the hearts of We The People.
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    Mary · 10 years ago
    This is a very moving photo and if it wasn't for you, Mike, what would we know or understand? Our thoughts and hearts are with you and with all the troops no matter what country they might call a home.
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    Rhonda · 10 years ago
    You have not lived a perfect day, even though you have earned your money, unless you have done something for someone who will never be able to repay you. ~ Ruth Smeltzer ~
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    petedcurtis · 10 years ago
    If you are near FOB Airborne, say hello to a fellow Floridian, my son Sgt Phil Curtis. 173rd Airborne / 1/503 A Co. he's on his thrid tour, his second one in Afghanistan.

    As always your nitty gritty down to earth view of the war is much valued by us here in the US, especially those of us with loved ones in harms way.

    Keep up the good work,
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    Clara Strom · 10 years ago
    You are all in my prayers and I am forever grateful for your sacrifices. Most people at home are, don't believe the negative press.
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    Arlene in CA · 10 years ago
    A picture is worth a thousand words. Our medics, our medics, our soldiers, our soldiers........our Valentines, our angels, our protectors. I sent the link for this dispatch to the Canada Free Press. I hope they put it on their front page. I'm sure they must ask your permission and I hope you allow it. God Bless you and all of our Forever Valentines.
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    Lucy · 10 years ago
    As the Critical Care Air Transport Team Nurse in the picture, it is truly my honor to transport these brave men and women here in theater! This brave young man was sedated but arousing, I was telling him who I was, where he was, what injuries he had and where we were going. He calmed right down. He was our teams 70th critical care patient since being here in theater, truly I have been blessed many times over this deployment. God Bless, Major "Lucy" Lehker
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    Christian · 10 years ago
    Well done, Major Lehker, well done.
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    atpanda · 10 years ago
    That's my Godmother! We're so proud of her. Thank you so much for the picture.
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    Helen · 10 years ago
    God bless you, Major Lehker. You and your colleagues are angels of mercy. My son is a Marine - been to Iraq but not Afghanistan yet - and I can't tell you what it means to a military mother to see this picture. Thank you so much, on behalf of all of us. It's comforting to know there are people like you over there looking after our precious sons and daughters. My son has the greatest respect for the corpsmen, nurses, and other medical personnel.
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    Bill Brent · 10 years ago
    Once again you touch the hearts of all those who recognize the true cost of freedom and yet still step forward to serve.
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    DUTCH in Atlanta, GA · 10 years ago
    This photo and caption moved me deeply. I forwarded it to a friend of mine who is currently an Instructor at West Point. He emailed me back that he plans to show it to his Cadets.
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    Garry L. Sheets · 10 years ago
    Mr. Yon,
    As the Charge Medical Technician on this flight I want to thank you for your professionalism! I was skeptical about having a reporter on this flight, I thought you might impede on our patient care. I could not have been more wrong, you were very professional and stayed far enough back, allowing us to perform.
    Maj. Lehker, The Critical Care Nurse shown in the photo is one of the most awesome people you will ever meet! I am extremely blessed to be the Non-Commissioned Officer In Charge (NCOIC) of my own extremely talented Aeromedical Evacuation Team. Our team comprised of, Maj. Marsha Shuman, 1stLt Thomas Parsons, TSgt Mark Russak, TSgt Kat Hamblin, and Myself, are honored to serve our country, and care for the wounded. As you know it was a very time consuming mission, but to a person we were ready to go on another leg if we had to.
    I am a grown man who turned 45 on Valentine's Day (yesterday), and a former Marine Drill Instructor, but as I sit here reading the post prior to mine, I can't stop my eyes from watering. I am elated to see so much support for the wounded Warrior, sacrificing his Family, mind, and sometimes life for our freedom. It is for this very reason that I came back into the service after being a civilian for 14 years.
    Mr. Yon, God bless you for keeping the Nation informed.
    Respectfully Submitted,
    Garry L. Sheets
    MSgt USAFR
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    Tara Holland Prior · 10 years ago
    Dear Michael,
    Reading the comment from MSgt Sheets is very moving and shows respect, care and diligence you put into your reporting. Not only that but the fantastic support that the guys on the frontline are receiving from us the general public. Keep safe... God bless all those involved in this operation.
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    Marilyn Morgan · 10 years ago
    Thank you, Major Lehker. My son is over there. It is comforting to know there are people such as you to care for him if he needs it. Thank you!
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    Jan · 10 years ago
    May God bless our precious men and women in uniform. May God continue to bless America.
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    Derek Davey · 10 years ago
    I am a former US Marine officer and the father of a Marine rifleman who was on active duty on 9/11. I have followed all the combat, all the politics, all the drama of our involvement in the wars since then. I lost my son, killed in action in Iraq as a called-up reservist, in October 2005. I have been caught throughout this whole experience, 9/11/01 to today, in a very tangled mind game of disgust of it all, but support for what our military people, all branches of service and all Allied troops, have to endure, in the cause of dedication to the mission and pride in their homelands and peoples. I have protested hard against the politics of the war in Iraq, still I know not what it was all for or where that country will go now that we have "liberated" it to its own devises. I wonder, as many of us do here in USA, and I suspect Canada, why the fight still goes on in Afghanistan. But, basically as a Marine, and because of what a Corpsman did under intense fire in October 2005 attempting to rescue my son, I am always, and will be, forever grateful to the medical people who care for the troops. This photo is the epitome of that love that military medical people have as their core belief. God Bless you for what you do.
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    Dick Matern, · 10 years ago
    To our Blessed Michael ("Blessed" being the 1st step to Sainthood, but what do I know; I'm a Lutheran)

    What we are seeing iin your picture of the airborne nurse and her patient is a member of that glorious profession holding a small light with her l hand (not seen) and raising the soldier's l upper eyelid with her r thumb (not seen) to ascertain the reactivity of his left pupil to light to determine his level of consciousness. And yes, she is engaged as you probably observed in encouraging her patient with soft and cheerful words to hang in there with her - this latter effort being even more important than her efforts to determine a level of consciousness. athis method still competes as a test despite the millions of dollars worth of intrumentation behind her and scattered about on that plane.

    In comment: from our military's efforts in Iraq we have learned things enhancing the forward march of medicine for today's world - this according to lectures given by the Medical Officer in Charge (in Iraq) at the National Defense University at Ft. Myers,VA in '09 : 1) the current efforts to overcome "battle fatigue" are showing great promise, 2) the efforts to promote regional anesthesia in conjunction with other less potentially lethal sedation (learned by said chief from medical missionaries in the mountains outside Jibouti and thence emulated subsequently in Iraq) also leads to decreased mortality, and 3) for the worst battle injuries military transport, in conjunction with the finest modern medical equipment, when placed in use by today's finest trained nurses, can get those patients from anywhere in the world to the finest target hoepitals in the world (think Ft. Sam in San Antonio,TX) in less than 36 hours. This is the usual time it takes to get the patient in the best condition possible for surgery. Which means that the militery transport, and the state-of-the-art equipment in the hands of the woman whose picture you've shown us, all will more often than not enhance or at least equal the cnances for survival that her patient has with the best of care he can get oaverseas. And of course when you throw in the importance of the patient's family - that makes any comparison unfair. Once again - what a great picture!! Thanks!
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    Dick Matern, · 10 years ago
    Michael, I realize despite my above comment that patient was not being trasported so far away but the principle still holds. Some people deserve far more credit than they'll ever get. Small illustration: when I was In CHLA (Children's Hosp of LA), I had a newborn i was sent out to get, born at home. Couldnt breathe. pneumothorax. Collapsing lung. He got a chest tube. Same story for hours. At 5 hours of age he had tubes in both lungs, a third one in the space around his heart. He was on the country's finest kid's respirator, with a fine nurse, about in despair, but no quitter. We called the intensive care MD supervisor. She said it was a true dead end; "nothing can be done." Nurse said, "My boyfriend is working on a respirator for new borns at the Jet Propulsion Lab. Could I call him? Luck was that machine was in his lab upstairs in the same hospital. He came tearing in, hooked up baby and machine. This doc sat back and watched the magic of these 2 kids swing into action. By an hour the machine told us he was improving. By morning he was a full-blown miracle. Saw baby at age one yr doing fine. (Nurses teaching him to say MY name?!) By now I hope the young fellow has made his first million at least. And I hope he didn't let a gal like that get away. But not sure. You've shown us her spirit lives on now in Afghanistan.
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    Andre · 10 years ago
    As a father of young children who may some day face danger in their Nation's service, I thank God each night for you, MAJ Lehker and every servicemember who holds our precious children, fathers, mothers, spouses, friends and loved ones in their hands. You truly are God's agents and I thank you for doing our job of protecting and comforting those we love.
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    L. M. Calhoun · 10 years ago
    It is immensely humbling to see this photo, read the caption and then the comments. Thank you to all our warriors in the fight, no matter the nationality. God keep them safe through the medical ministrations of these Angels of Mercy. And thank you, Michael, for your continued wonderful work--your life's work and dedication. To discover what we were created for is a gift. You have discovered your calling. God bless you.
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    Donny · 10 years ago
    USAF C-17 configured as Aeromedevac Aircraft; $25 Million Dollars
    State-Of-The-Art Life Saving Medical Technology; 1 Million Dollars
    Human Touch from a dedicated USAF Nurse; PRICELESS
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    Dustoff · 10 years ago
    Nothing more I need to say. It's already said, but thanks again.
    57th Dustoff 1972.
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    jill · 10 years ago
    U.S. curtails use of airstrikes in assault on Marja

    By Rajiv Chandrasekaran
    Tuesday, February 16, 2010

    MARJA, AFGHANISTAN — To the Marines of Bravo Company, the black-and-white video footage from a surveillance drone seemed to present the perfect shot: more than a dozen armed insurgents exiting a building and heading to positions to attack U.S. and Afghan forces seeking to wrest control of this Taliban stronghold in southern Afghanistan.

    Facing stiff resistance from Taliban fighters, the Marines radioed for permission to call in an airstrike on the insurgents at midday Monday. It appeared to be the sort of clear opportunity that would have prompted a rapidly executed bombing run during the Iraq war, or even in the first seven years of this conflict.

    But not anymore: Officers at the Marine headquarters deemed the insurgents to be too close to a set of houses. In the new way the United States and its NATO allies are waging the Afghan war, dropping a bomb on or near a house is forbidden unless troops are in imminent danger of being overrun, or they can prove that no civilians are inside.

    The rejection of Bravo’s airstrike illuminates the challenges and complexity of waging a counterinsurgency mission that aims to protect Afghan civilians, while battling militants who appear determined to stand and fight for control of this farming district…

    "It seemed like a good target to us," Capt. Ryan Sparks, the commander of Bravo Company, which is part of the 1st Battalion of the 6th Marine Regiment, said of the strike rejected by Marine headquarters on Monday. "We didn’t see any civilians around."

    Not seeing any civilians on a video feed from a drone or through one’s rifle scope is no longer enough. Under a tactical directive McChrystal issued last summer, troops must verify that there are no civilians inside a house by watching it for at least 72 hours to establish a "pattern of life" before an airstrike will be authorized..

    Some Marine commanders contend that insurgents in Marja understand what is now out of bounds and are using those bright lines to their advantage. Earlier Monday, the Marines from Bravo Company spotted a group of women and children carrying bundles, which they suspected to be weapons, to a safe house. Later on, the Marines said they saw a band of armed men darting in and out of a mosque, which is off-limits for bombing.

    "It’s a frustration and a challenge," said Bravo’s battalion commander, Lt. Col. Cal Worth. "The enemy has read the tactical directive and he understands it. He knows our rules of engagement."

    The Marines did not want to strike at the women and children, nor did they want to hit the mosque. But they reasoned that striking the fighters in the open, even if there might be some damage to homes, would ultimately be better — and safer — than fighting house-to-house to flush out the insurgents.

    "Now we’re going to have to clear the compounds one by one, and that increases the risk, potentially even to civilians in the area," Worth said…

    Even so, he said he understands McChrystal’s reasoning. "A professional fighting force need to assume the preponderance of risk," he said. "That’s the way it should be in a counterinsurgency."

    After arriving by helicopters early Saturday, Bravo Company has largely been holed up in a mud-and-brick compound, located in the central bazaar area, that had been used as a drug-processing and bomb-manufacturing facility.

    Although the Marines have set up heavy machine guns on the roof and guard posts along the street, they are shot at by insurgents multiple times a day. Usually it is just bullets fired by an AK-47, but occasionally a rocket-propelled grenade will come zipping over the wall.

    "We’re fighting an offense from a defense," said Lt. Mark Greenlief, Bravo Company’s executive officer…
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    Michael · 10 years ago
    In 2006 my wife, a nurse in the Louisiana Air National Guard deployed to Balad AB, Iraq just months after spending a week in the Superdome following Katrina. When she came home from Iraq she said that was the most fullfilling and rewarding period of time in her 20 plus years in the guard. She also commented on how it touched her heart when these wounded warriors would thank her for being there for them. Knowing all along that it was for her to thank them. I am very proud of my wife that she volunteered and deployed twice. God Bless Them All.

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