Via Seamus, this is an update from a Marine in Iraq:
Sorry I haven't been able to write lately, there have been some major movements in the AO. I will give you a brief update on the two most recent events that my platoon took part in.
Recently, we were on a presence patrol and conducting bridge recon in a surrounding town. There were locals everywhere and the streets were very narrow. We couldn't find defensible terrain for the tanks and trucks because there was a large cemetary in the only open spot. We were forced to provide overwatch as the grunts went across the bridge, met with the local tribal leaders and sheik, and visited the medical clinic. The people started massing around the tank I was in, pointing and waving towards the brigde. I had my crew provide overwatch as I dismounted to "talk" with them. After my best effort, I gathered that they needed to move a huge concrete slab that was preventing anything but foot-mobile traffic from crossing the bridge. The slab was about the size of a full-size pickup truck. After manuvering the tanks and getting some help from the crew, we set about to move the slab. After a few unsuccessful attempts, we succeeded in dragging the slab off to the side. The crowd went crazy, happy at what we had done and in awe of the tank's raw power. Soon after, the first vehicle was able to cross the bridge in years. It came across and got medical supplies from the corpsman to take back to the clinic. Marines also handed out soccer balls, pumps, and some sweets to the children.
The next series of events occurred as the unit we were supporting moved locations. They had to take over a house and establish a new Combat Outpost (COP). After a painful discussion with family living there, they began to pack up and move out. The kids were ambivalent, the mother was in tears, and the father was concerned about his financial settlement. Soon after, the engineers moved in to fortify the place. On the second day, we received incoming 120mm mortars which landed less than 15 meters from our position. My ear is still ringing and recovering from the blast. Two patrols hit IEDs, which destroyed a Hummer and a 7-Ton truck. We received incoming fire daily, ranging from 7.62 mm to 14.5 mm and RPGs. We responded with machine gun fire and with main gun. A few of my Marines got their Combat Action Ribbon/Award on the Marine Corps Birthday.
That is all the time I have for now, we are about to help out with a re-supply convoy. I am sorry if I have been unable to write letters or email, it has been busy lately. I will do my best to stay in touch when the situation and time permits it.
Thank you for the prayers, email, letters, and support.