Realities on the ground
Several members of the platoon said they were struck by the difference between the way the war was being portrayed in the United States and the reality of their daily lives.
"Every day you read the articles in the States where it's like, 'Oh, it's getting better and better,' " said Lance Cpl. Jonathan Snyder, 22, of Gettysburg, Pa. "But when you're here, you know it's worse every day."
Pfc. Kyle Maio, 19, of Bucks County, Pa., said he thought government officials were reticent to speak candidly because of the upcoming U.S. elections. "Stuff's going on here but they won't flat-out say it," he said. "They can't get into it."
Maio said that when he arrived in Iraq, "I didn't think I was going to live this long, in all honesty." He added, "it ain't that bad. It's just part of the job, I guess."
As a reporter began to ask Maio another question, the interview was interrupted by the scream of an incoming rocket and then a deafening explosion outside the platoon's barracks. Pandemonium ensued.
"Get down! Get down!" yelled the platoon's radio operator, Cpl. Brandon Autin, 21, of New Iberia, La., his orders laced with profanity. "Get in the bunker! Get in the bunker now!"
Members of the platoon raced out of their rooms to a 5-by-15-foot bunker, located outside at the end of the one-story building. The dirt-floor room was protected by a low ceiling and walls built out of four-foot-thick sandbags. Once in the bunker, several Marines lit cigarettes, filling the already-congested room with smoke.
"The reality right now is that the most dangerous opinion in the world is the opinion of a U.S. serviceman," said Lance Cpl. Devin Kelly, 20, of Fairbanks, Alaska.
Lance Cpl. Alexander Jones, 20, of Ball Ground, Ga., agreed: "We're basically proving out that the government is wrong," he said. "We're catching them in a lie."
You just know that the Bush administration is going to blame this on John Kerry's criticism of the war. But the fact is, Bush has let down our troops through his shear incompetence as a Commander-in-Chief. It will be interesting to see if the absentee ballots from soldiers in Iraq reflect the feelings in the story above.