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3/5 Marines Back In Action - Heroes Return to Iraq

They're Not Just Numbers!

I received this email this morning.

Tonight, when the talking heads give out the number of men and women killed in Iraq, I want you to remember this:

So what's new around the country? Things here in Iraq continue along. We had a great deal of fighting the other day, just lots of gunfire then quiet. Usual stuff.

Some time ago we had a farewell for our Brigade Executive Officer, who left to take command of a battalion in the Fourth Infantry Division. We all did skits lampooning him; some guys could not get their video to play on the video player, so a panic ensued while we transferred digital to video and back trying to get it together. We ended up with a US video player and needed a US video, so we took my buddy Dennis Pintor's home video and recorded the skit on the end of the recording of his daughter Rhea collecting Easter eggs around the house.

When it came time to show the video, we had re-wound it too far, so we had the entire Brigade of officers watching Dennis Pintor's cute little daughter run around looking for Easter eggs and waving at her father far away. It was actually pretty cute, because Dennis narrated the whole time, and because everyone with kids missed theirs too. "There she is, ladies and gentlemen, Rhea Pintor, waving at her daddy," he said.

You would be surprised at how seriously people around here take these farewells. This could have actually been a disaster, but Dennis chiming in with his commentary on his daughter toddling along kept everyone smiling; even I was laughing. The home video had the usual terrible, home video, yellow-green quality, but it was easy to get passed it for the brief moment he transported us all back home to our own loved ones.

Captain Dennis Pintor was killed with his entire vehicle crew a few nights ago, just a kilometer from the base camp at 10:52 PM. You guys will miss him even though you never knew him, because he believed in defending his country, and he knew that a lot of the bad guys he captured here were out to kill Americans wherever they could find them, and he therefore believed in this mission.

As an engineer, Dennis spent a lot of time rebuilding, and in many ways he was very lucky to be able to help the Iraqi people directly, with concrete missions fixing roads (ha ha) and repairing bridges he could look at later to know he had accomplished something. He even went out of his way to help the Palestinians in his sector.

Because of the nature of my job, I always try to remember that the people we kill on the other side are also humans, that they also have families and brothers and sisters and wives and children. Some of them, I have seen, did not even have shoes on when they died. It is an almost forgivable poverty they fight from.

What makes a difference to me is that their goals are to turn this country into one with fewer freedoms than before we came, to enforce an extreme religious government that suppresses liberty and worse, exports their intolerance. It makes a difference to me that when we raided the Kufa and Imam Ali Mosque we found hundreds of bodies that had been tortured and executed. Some had had their eyes drilled out; others - men, women, and children - their genitals mutilated; almost all – men, women, and children - had been sexually assaulted. Holy warriors indeed.

Dennis knew this too. For the life of me I cannot get the memory of his little daughter out of my mind; I can't forget Dennis narrating her laughter and her toddler's speech. He was, of course, a great guy. He and his driver and gunner will be 1067, 1068, and 1069 on a list somewhere. To me three of them were the best of friends, and they were Americans dedicated to defending and sharing freedom.

The men and women doing the fighting and dying know what is at stake, and they know how the media portrays the sacrifices. Don't allow them to become statistics for Peter Jennings or Dan Rather.

Remember what the number means.