Original story via email from Persian Gulf
David Sadler For Congress (2002) 12th CD/Illinois
Quotes are inserted here by the editor.
On behalf of the Marine's of 1/7
By Lieutenant Colonel Christopher C. Conlin & Sergeant Major Henry E. Bergeron
October 01, 2003
To the Citizens of the United States,
On behalf of the Marine's of First Battalion, Seventh Marines, First Marine Division, Twentynine Palms, California, we would like to take this opportunity, to thank all of you for your thoughts and your prayers. Since our arrival in Iraq, we have received numerous cards, letters and packages from the wonderful citizens and children of the United States. These cards, letters and packages were greatly appreciated and had a very positive impact
on the morale of your Marines. Although we have gone through great lengths to ensure each received a proper reply, at times we were extremely busy and may have been unable to respond. The intent of this correspondence is to ensure that we have expressed our grateful appreciation to each and every one of you for your outstanding show of support for these fine young men.
While staged in Kuwait, our Marines were concerned with public opinion. Leaders were constantly asked about the pulse of the citizens back in the United States. At the time, things looked pretty grim. There were many Americans opposing the war and news of large protests broadcast on the BBC daily. Celebrities were using their status and making a charge of opposition. Our Marines were seeing the makings of another Vietnam and were
not looking forward to the experience. Then the polls turned from negative to positive, and the news of such was passed throughout the battalion. At this point, the morale of our Marines went up significantly. Then came the cards, letters and packages. The enemy did not stand a chance. America was now united and headed towards Baghdad.
Prior to the beginning of hostilities, we were certain that the Marines of this battalion were an extremely confident and capable fighting force. Having seen them in action, we can assure you that your Marines have performed above and beyond our highest expectations. During the early stages of the war, they continuously found themselves in some very dangerous and challenging situations. In every case, they responded with the confidence, courage and determination necessary to defeat the enemy forces. Their collective performance and sacrifices have demonstrated to the Iraqi people that as United States Marines, there could be no better friend (for those who wished peace) yet, no worst enemy (for those who chose war). It was this mentality that contributed greatly to achieving such an overwhelming success in such a short duration of time. We cannot tell you how proud we are to have had the honor and privilege of serving with the Marines and Sailors of this battalion. They are superb Americans who represented their country very well.
Our ability to return these men safely back to their families and loved ones upon our return was the ultimate goal of this battalion. Through the grace of God, which we believe was in the response to your prayers, we have not lost a single member of this command. Unfortunately, some of our sister battalions and sister services were not so fortunate. On behalf of this battalion, we offer them and their families our deepest and most sincere condolences. They were brave Americans who served their country honorably. They will be missed. May God be with them and may they rest in peace.
The major hostilities have now ended. Although the Marines are anxious to return home and reunite with their loved ones, they continue to remain focused and understand the importance of their current mission. The focus of
this mission is the stabilization of the country of Iraq. In support of this mission, our Marines continue to patrol the streets ensuring the safety of the Iraqi people and the potential success of the Iraqi communities. The Marines continue to hunt down and apprehend resistance forces whose sole intent is to disrupt the current stability that has already been achieved within most major cities. Importantly, they repair schools, government facilities and restore basic utilities in order for the Iraqi people to return to an acceptable standard of living. Although most of these tasks are not combat related, these requirements are no less important in achieving a smooth transition towards peace and democracy.
We understand that back in the United States, there has been some negative publicity in reference to the acceptance of our presence by the Iraqi people. We personally have not experienced this. Although there are some individuals who do not welcome our presence, the vast majority of the people are extremely happy that we remained committed to their cause and grateful for their newly found freedoms. We base this assessment not on news reports, but on the daily contact we have had with the local population. The children here are extremely pleasant and happy. They run towards the streets with big smiles on their faces just to wave hello to the Marines as they drive by in hopes that their waves will be returned and their presence acknowledged. They often crowd around the patrolling Marines seeking autographs or just a chance to say "hello" close and personal. Personal touch is far more significant in their culture than it is ours. A simple handshake is all it takes to make their day
complete. They will usually return for many more. The little girls offer the Marines flowers as a sign of affection and gratitude. Although the Marines are pleased with the fact that they have brought so much happiness to the people of Iraq, for them, it is a very humbling experience.
Iraqi men of all ages engage the Marines in conversation on a daily basis while women stand in doorways waving and smiling or offering them a cold drink of water or a shot of Iraqi tea. Grown men will shake your hand and, with tears in their eyes, thank us for freeing their nation while offering us their blessings. Once tight lipped, they now speak freely of the horrific years under Sadaam. In the past, they would have had their tounges removed for such statements. With this restriction eliminated, today's typical phrases are "Down with Saddam", "We love U.S.A", "We love you", and yes, "We love George Bush". Just recently we were honored to see "WE THANK U.S.A" written in large letters and repeated three times on a wall in the streets of An Najaf. Contrary to some reports, the request we most often receive from the Iraqi people is that we not leave. Some still believe that should we leave, Sadaam (who is now the Iraqi "boogie man") will reappear and destroy them. We continue to reassure them that Sadaam will never and can never return to power.
The Iraqi people that we have had the pleasure of meeting are generally very good people. Although they have no desire to be a United States, they are very open to the ideals of democracy. The country of Iraq is beautiful and rich in resources. With the implementation of an honest government and under a democratic rule, they have the potential of becoming a prosperous and peaceful nation.
How could this have all happened in such a short period of time? Based on your heartwarming cards and letters, it could easily be assumed to be our actions and ours alone. The truth of the matter is that this success can be
attributed to you, the American people. For it is the support of the American people from which our Marines draw their will to fight and their determination to win. When their country calls upon them, with the support of the people, Marines will give the ultimate sacrifice before they let them down. Failure is not an option and retreat is a place to get away and take a long deserved break. Neither are considerations for combat!!!
As stated in some of your cards and letters, our Marines have performed heroically and with pride however, even we have heroes and we would like to acknowledge some of ours: First to our Commander and Chief, the Honorable Mr. George W. Bush who stood up when many others sat down. He demonstrated outstanding leadership at a time when diplomacy had failed. Mr. President, we are proud to have served under your command and prouder yet to be Americans. God bless you and God bless the United States of America. We thank those who have served before us for all they have given us. You have left us with a legacy and a reputation that intimidated and cowered most of the enemy forces before we ever met on the battlefield. For those who did not believe in this reputation, we convinced them once we engaged!!! Word spread fast and because of this, many lives were saved. Thank you!!! We only hope that we lived up to your expectations.
Last but surely not the least are the American people who stood behind our President and their military in support of a difficult global decision. During this crisis, the world needed a leader and in typical fashion, the American people showed them one! Now the war has ended and the Iraqi people are free to show their gratitude, you can take comfort in knowing that "It was the right decision". While patrolling the streets of Iraq, we do not see or hear any thing like, "We love Marines", God Bless Marines, or "Thank you Marines". What we hear and see is, "We Love America", and "THANK YOU U.S.A.".
Remember, "America is us". So tonight before you go to bed, take a look in the mirror, take a moment for yourself, understand the impact you have made on the lives of the Iraqi people and pat yourself on the back. You have an admirer. In fact you have 174,000 of them. You are our heroes!!! Our men may not be celebrities and they may not have a celebrity status, but they are United States Marines who serve in the forces, which keep our country free. They are willing to give their lives in its defense and in our opinion, you can't beat that!!!
Once again, we would like to thank you all for your patriotism, unselfishness and overwhelming support. May other countries take notice. The United States of America will not be threatened, intimidated, nor will they shirk their international responsibilities. They will retaliate when necessary and it will be costly. BECAUSE THE AMERICAN PEOPLE SAY SO!!!!!
God bless each of you and God bless the United States of America.
Christopher C. Conlin
United States Marine Corps
Henry E. Bergeron
United States Marine Corps
Battalion Sergeant Major