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"Crossroads of the Marine Corps"

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Marjah veterans gather at NMMC for 5-year reunion

By John Hollis | Marine Corps Base Quantico | February 23, 2015


Some no longer wore the uniform, but, five years after taking part in one of the biggest battles in the Global War on Terror, they are all still Marines.

Gathering at the National Museum of the Marine Corps for Friday night’s Marjah Marines Reunion Dinner, several hundred of the Marines, sailors and airmen who scored one of the most decisive victories in the war in Afghanistan joined family and friends in regaling over their many accomplishments in the face of a determined Taliban enemy while also remembering their fallen comrades. The dinner was the emotional climax of a three-day reunion aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico.

“Be proud,” said Maj. Gen. James Hartsell, the former 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade liaison officer with Regional Command-South during Operation Moshtarak, the name given to the assault on Marjah. “Never forget what you did, who you did it with and why you did it.”

The Marines were a key contingent of the roughly 15,000 troops from a U.S.-led coalition that had descended on the strategically important southern Afghan town of Marjah to liberate it from Taliban control when the battle began on Feb. 20, 2010. Many of those in attendance at the NMMC Friday evening were seeing one another for the first time since they shared the battlefield together. More than 70 coalition service members lost their lives, while scores more were wounded by the time the operation was formally declared over in December.

Marjah and the surrounding area had been a Taliban stronghold, serving as a source of fighters, suicide bombers and improvised devices. The area’s many poppy fields had also provided the enemy a lucrative source of income.

Medal of Honor recipient William Kyle Carpenter, who miraculously survived after lunging atop an enemy grenade in Afghanistan to save a fellow Marine in 2010, also served at Marjah. The retired corporal said it was critical that all Americans remember what happened there.

“A lot of Marines sacrificed life and limb, and went through a lot, good and bad,” said Carpenter, the night’s Guest of Honor. “It’s really important that people remember it.”

Others said it was equally as important for them to attend and reconnect with former comrades-in-arms.

“I think about [Marjah] all the time,” said former Lance Cpl. Shavar Coles, the former 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment M249 Squad Automatic Weapon gunner now living in Frederick, Maryland. “I think about all the guys we lost, but I think more of the good times we had over there.”

Other speakers on the evening included Col. Randy Newman, the former commanding officer  of Regimental Combat Team 7; Col. Preston McLaughlin, former chief of staff for 2nd MEB; and keynote speaker Carlton Kent, the retired former sergeant major of the Marine Corps who lavished praise on the attendees for having lived up to a rich Marine Corps legacy.

“The Marines didn’t disappoint,” Hartsell said. “We accomplished the mission we were assigned.”

— Writer: jhollis@quanticosentryonline.com

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