Tuesday, June 3. 2008
An Interview With: Ryan Kareliusson
Ping: Hello. So if you could start by telling us your name, birth date, war served, and branch of service.
Ryan: My name is Ryan James Kareliusson. I was in the marines. My birthday is May 17, 1984. My unit was MWSS 373, which was Marine Wing Support Squadron 373, and I served two terms in Iraq: ’04-’05 and ’06-’07.
Ping: Ok. So I guess umm.. we will start with a few biographical details. So where and when were you born?
Ryan: I was born on May 17, 1984 in Altadena, California.
Ping: And, um, can you tell us something about your parents, siblings, you know. How many siblings, if any?
Ryan: I have two brothers. My dad is from Sweden, my mom is from Australia, and two older brothers.
Ping: Um, so what were you doing before entering the service?
Ryan: I went to Arcadia High.
Ping: Oh you went to Arcadia High? Ok. What year did you graduate?
Vivian: So were you drafted or did you enlist in the army?
Ryan: I enlisted. I enlisted my junior year of high school.
Vivian: And like, what made you make this decision?
Ryan: It’s just something I’ve always wanted to do as a little kid and I just knew I was going to do it.
Ping: Did you have any other family members who served in the army?
Ryan: No, I was the first one.
Ping: How did your parents feel about that?
Ryan: I would say scared but proud.
Ping: That sounds all right. So, um, why did you choose that branch—the marines?
Ryan: From what I knew at the time and what I still know is they have the most pride in themselves, they have the most honesty, they’re the first ones in there, they have the courage to do what’s right all the time, so, that’s the organization I wanted to be a part of.
Charissa: Did any of your friends from school enlist with you?
Ryan: There were two other seniors from Arcadia High that enlisted the marines, yes.
Ping: Um, can you tell us about your early days—sort of your early days in the training camp?
Ryan: Well, it was a lot of—then, it wasn’t so much fun. But looking back on it, it was a lot of fun. It was a good experience. Uh, you don’t see the values that they’re teaching you while you’re in boot camp. But later on, maybe down the road a year and a half you’re looking back and I realize that it was really nice. It’s just really good training that they offer.
Ping: What did you actually do, uh, like as a part of your training?
Ryan: You learn to do everything. You learn to overcome your fears, you learn how to adapt and overcome the different situations. They’ll make you not fall, and still think on your feet so you…you learn to overcome certain obstacles and all these barriers that normally make someone just give up.
Ping: I once heard of training with a toothbrush. Hehe. Did you ever do that?
Ryan: No. Not that one.
Ping: Not that one? All right. Hehe.
Ryan: Just cleaning.
Ping: Cleaning? All right then, um. Do you have any specialized training in anything?
Ryan: My specialized training was to be a welder. They taught me all the different versions of welding.
Ping. Um, ok so um. How was it like adapting to the lifestyle? Was it hard for you?
Ryan: It wasn’t hard for me to adapt to the lifestyle. It definitely is different, and some guys, yeah, it’s definitely hard to adapt to that lifestyle but I don’t know. I have kind of like this “I can do anything” sort of mentality, so I adapted pretty well.
Vivian: What was the hardest, like was there anything really difficult for you to adapt to?
Ryan: I don’t really like the “wake up at 4 a.m. and go run,” but other then that, you get used to it and it becomes like second nature.
Ping: What about homesickness? Any of that?
Ryan: Oh yeah, there’s a lot of that, especially when you’re in Iraq. You just want to be home and want to be around friends again but you get used to it and you deal with it. But yes, there is a little bit of homesickness.
Ping: Ok so can you tell us about your actual wartime service? Where exactly did you serve, and sort of the details of how it was like over there?
Ryan: Both tours I did I went to a base called Alteqada in Iraq. And it’s in the Alabambar providence. Between the triangle of Ramati, Flusia, and Habania, it’s right in the middle. So we did a lot of convoys through the cities, we improved roads, we built electrical lines, we started improving the whole area there, we did security convoys, two escorts, we ran QRF missions for armed forces missions, anything like that. My last tour, the helicopters got shut down. We had to respond and clean up and assist basically. Just repair heliopads, stuff like that.
Ping: Did you actually engage in combat?
Ryan: I did not.
Vivian: So was your main purpose there mainly like improving conditions and stuff?
Ryan: Yeah improving like conditions, special air bases, like a big flat line. Our unit is meant to support that line so they just have out unit there to support the flat line. And yeah just run convoys and support their role out there.
Ping: What about the people there? I mean, did they want you guys there? What was the reaction from them?
Ryan: I didn’t meet too many. The close courier people go out in the city and everything but we are hanging around the base. But I know the people think we are really nice, they’re happy we’re there.
Ping: Um, did you witness anything that’s actual um—so you didn’t engage in combat, but did you witness any of that? Or got even close to it?
Ryan: There was some action by our base a lot. Like we see missiles and rockets all around us.
Ping: As for actually being in there yourself you weren’t?
Ping: What about um, did you make any friends there?
Ryan: The camaraderie is great. It was a lot of fun to be a part of. It’s just, I don’t know—you just don’t get that anywhere else.
Ping: It’s kind of like, everyone has each other’s backs kind of?
Ryan: Yes. Pretty much so.
Ping: Are you still friends with them now? Do you still keep in contact?
Ryan: Yes, I still keep in contact with a couple guys from my unit down in San Diego.
Ping: How did you keep in contact with your family back when you were part of the service?
Ryan: In boot camp, all you really could do was write letters. So, that’s all you do. You get like only a few phone calls the whole time you’re there. We just basically wrote letters back and forth and it’s pretty quick. It’s pretty decent. And in Iraq, the first time I was just writing letters. But now if you go there, they have the internet so you can just email, you can call, you can use mail, whichever one. Pretty easy now.
Vivian: Were you ever sort of homesick?
Ping: We already asked that one hehe. And he was—a little. Did you get any videos from home? Like people in your town, or I guess our town, Arcadia. Because I know for the Red Cross Youth Corp we sent out a video for the Marines saying we support you guys.
Ryan: I don’t think we got a video, but we got care packages every once in a while. From different groups.
Ping: What about recreation? Like what did you do when you were off duty?
Ryan: Basically, you tried to sleep the time you had. So it’s usually sleep, work or eat.
Ping: I see. What did you eat?
Ryan: There’s a cafeteria there. So we had like, standard food. Just regular food.
Ping: What about like, on Thanksgiving or holidays? Did you get like anything fancy then or no?
Ryan: They tried to—but it was basically just regular food.
Ping: In the documentaries and films we see on Thanksgiving they would get you know, the turkey, the gravy, and all that.
Ryan: Well, we had turkey and gravy, but also, if you’re not there on time then it’s all gone.
Ping: Did you fall into a routine? Like was there a daily thing for you?
Ryan: There was sort of a schedule, but they try to not make it so much like a schedule because they don’t want you to get complacent. That way you will always be on your toes. But, there was usually a work schedule. We had a schedule that we kept up with in the maintenance unit. Like we had to get a certain amount of vehicles out. But we always ended up working extended hours, anyway.
Ping: And you usually woke up around 4, you said?
Ryan: Oh. Well that was during training. But we usually wake up 5, 6 in the morning, go exercise, and then get ready for the day.
Ping: And when did you—when did the day end for you?
Ryan: Some days we could work late, so it could be 9, 10 o’clock when we’re off work, at night. And then uh, go eat and go to bed. So usually our day was about 5 to midnight.
Ping: That’s pretty harsh. So when your term ended for you, and when you came back, how was it sort of like assimilating back to normal life?
Ryan: It’s different but it’s—if you know how to take it, it’s not that hard. Like I knew changes, like what it felt like, because it was like you went to sleep for a really long time and then you just wake up and kind of like, everything’s changed. Because that’s what it feels like. Like, you’re in a time warp when you’re there you know? Once you get back, everything’s changed: there’s different buildings, there’s new laws, everything changes while you’re gone. So you just get back and you just have to take it in slowly. If you try to overwhelm yourself, you’ll freak out.
Ping: The adjusting you know—it’s like all that action over there. And nothing much going on here right?
Ryan: Yeah. The adrenaline rushes don’t happen as much.
Ping: So what do you do now?
Ryan: Right now I work at a hospital as a security guard.
Ping: Are you thinking about re-enlisting or going back into that again?
Ryan: Um, if they need me to go back, I want to do college and then come back as an officer. But right now, I just want to do law enforcement.
Ping: You served two terms right? Was that by your own will? Or were there certain laws calling you back?
Ryan: No, that was just the schedule of deployment for my unit. I volunteered and tried to get on the other units that were basically considered sister units of my unit. I tried to volunteer to go to Iraq with them at other times but they didn’t need me.
Charissa: So do you have a favorite memory from your whole experience?
Ryan: Uh, not really.
Charissa: As in you like everything, or you don’t like everything?
Ryan: I liked most of it.
Ping: It’s like an experience to cherish forever kind of a thing right?
Ryan: Yes. I don’t regret any of it and I think everyone should serve at least one term in the military. But that’s just a personal belief of mine.
Ping: What can you tell us about the war now—how is it going, how do you feel about it?
Ryan: I just think the news only portrays everything that’s bad about that happens over there and they should try broadcasting all the good that all the other military units are doing out there. Like improving the roads, improving things over there that they didn’t have before.
Ping: I think they should show us what’s going on with the actual troops over there.
Charissa: Do you have any experiences with any of the Iraqi civilians?
Ryan: Not too much. It was pretty limited.
Ping: How has this affected your life? What did you learn from your time as a marine?
Ryan: Well, when I first joined I was really shy, really shy, really quiet. I was just—I basically kept to myself. Now I’m more eager, now I’m more confident in myself. Now I have the “I can do anything” mentality because I have leadership who gave that to me. I respect them for that and I think overall it has made me a better person.
Ping: Did you have any leadership skills? Like were you ever in charge?
Ryan: I was a squad leader. I was a corporal in the marines so I had a couple guys under me. And yeah I had all the security convoy training; that was one of my special duties. For my unit I had all the security training, all the weapon training, all the tactics. I learned tactical M-16 tactics and I was also instructor for that. So I trained my guys and lead them if we did have to go do something, if the job did call for it.
Vivian: So do you have to call for the promotion or do you just have to work your way up?
Ryan: You do things to rate the promotion. Like there’s MCI’s, which are books, and you basically take tests on them. And you turn them in, and you get so many points for doing them. And also how well you do on the PFT physical fitness test, it gives you a score. And that also determines if you get promoted. And then, if you do any special duties it gives you points.
Ping: What kind of physical training did you actually do? Like was there rope climbing?
Ryan: You do rope climbing in the beginning, but we didn’t really do it after we joined our unit or anything but the goal is to do twenty pull-ups, one hundred sit-ups in two minutes, and an eighteen minute three mile. That’s the goal. Not too many can do the eighteen minute three mile. Most people get the twenty pull-ups and the hundred-sit ups because it’s pretty easy.
Ping: Is it like a continual thing? Like you have to keep maintaining it?
Ryan: You have to score every six months. Twice a year you have to go for a score on it.
Vivian: So like what happens if you’re not able to reach the score?
Ryan: You go on a physical program—well actually a more intense program that you actually get watched. Well, it depends on what unit but you have to PT more (which is physical test).
Charissa: Were there any women in your unit?
Ryan: There was like two or three. I don’t know, there’s a handful of them I guess.
Charissa: And do they have to fulfill the same requirements?
Ryan: Theirs are a little different. Probably the same hundred sit-ups. I don’t know on the run, maybe not the eighteen minute three mile. But they don’t have to do the twenty pull-ups; they have to hold themselves up there for a certain amount of time. I forget what it is. Ninety-five seventy-five seconds or something.
Vivian: Do they have the same responsibilities as you?
Ping: You know I think, that’s really all we wanted to know right?
Vivian: If you were to recommend people who might join the army, what would you say to them?
Ryan: Well if they’re thinking about it, just go for it because it’s only four years. What are you going to do for four years? Maybe go to PCC, get a AA? Go to the marines. Get money for it. They’ll pay for you to go. And I’ll train you a lot better.
Charissa: What is the most valuable thing you think you got out of the whole experience?
Ryan: All the training, the leadership that I took from the good leaders we had. Well there’s good leaders and bad leaders but hopefully I didn’t take anything from the bad leaders. And, just yeah. All the camaraderie, all the—our creed is honesty, courage, and commitment so…yeah.
Charissa: As far as schooling, did they drill you mentally also?
Charissa: What types of things did you have to learn?
Ryan: They teach you everything: the history, code and conduct; they teach you everything you need to know to live in the marines. And they also emphasize that you should do schooling on the side after you finish training. And you should try if you can.
Vivian: This is sort of different, but say like, you don’t fulfill your responsibilities, what kinds of punishments did you guys have?
Ryan: It all depends. If you look it up there’s the UCMJ uniform code in military justice. Everybody follows under it. It doesn’t matter if you’re army, navy, marine, or whatever. It doesn’t matter. You fall under it so—kind of how bad it was, what it is, and a lot of it is up to the unit’s discretion, how far they want to take it.
Vivian: So can you sort of give us an example maybe?
Ryan: I don’t know what you want, like say if you’re late to work a lot there’s something called office hours where you basically have to show up for work after work hours and clean—do whatever needs to be done. And everyone else tells you what to do.
Charissa: Did you hear of any interesting stories of what happened to your squad while you were in Iraq?
Ryan: Uh, not really.
Ping: I guess that’s it for us. Right? Well, thank you so much.
US History Honors
Mr. O. Beckwith
16 May 2008
Veteran’s History Project Documentary Transcript: Officer Peralta
J: Jason Hsin
P: Officer Larry Peralta
*Note: “…” indicates slight Pauses
*Note: (No Audio) indicates foggy audio from the tape that cannot be heard.
*Note: “Continued” indicates when audio returns
J: We’re sitting here with Officer Peralta, so let’s begin with the…..some background information. What is your full name?
P: Larry Peralta
J: And how old are you?
P: I’m 32 years old.
J: And currently you work as a police officer for the Arcadia Police Office. So let’s begin with some background information, where did you grow up and how was life like?
P: I grew up in uhhhh Covina, California….about 25 minutes out of East L.A….. you know typical childhood. I grew up with a heavy interest in sports, you know, little league baseball, football, soccer..ummm went to a catholic high school and continued sports and became a wrestler there. I wrestled and was on the football team and uh just had a, you know, typical childhood…hanging out and being really active and uhhh play some computer games that are a lot different from now uhhhhh but uhhh mostly playing lots of sports and being active than staying inside
J: When did you decide to join the military and what branch were you in and what rank did you obtain?
P: I grew up always, you know, patriotic and always had a, you know, duty to serve and ummm once I got into college I was a bit bored. Not saying school’s bad but ummmmm I was a little bored and ummmm I was always I ummmm I grew up into team playing sports so I felt the need to be in part of a team or something like that so I found that through the marine corp. So I ended up in the marine corp reserve so I decided that I can continue in the marine corp reserve so I can continue my education as well. And ummmm went to school at the same time and I ended up serving 11 years in the reserves and became a staff sergeant
J: Uhhh just thought of just a side note uhhhh which college did you attend?
P: I went to Mt. Sac. at the time and met my associates from there and just recently I went back to get my bachelor’s degree.
J: And what was your degree in?
P: In Criminal Justice
J: Okay. Ummm while you were overseas in Iraq, how did you communicate with your friends and families back home and how often were you allowed to uhhh send letters or emails home?
P: Ummmm the first time in 2003 I uhhh…very difficult to get a hold of….uhhhh I had one phone call in the beginning and that’s because I got lucky and I knew somebody that had access to a phone so uhhhh 2003 all…most of our communication were through you know….good old fashioned mail…you know, had to write letters ummmm it’s been a while but ummmm in the beginning it took a few months to turn around time to send a letter and then getting a response back in 2-3 months ummm so that was different ummmmm the second time in 2005 I…ummm the bases had been established and everything so we had access to ummm… I’d call frequently and I had communicated by email and talked on a daily basis towards the end. About half way through ummmm I had access to uhhh the building. I had access to ummm wireless server and I actually had my laptop with me so I actually communicated back home uhhh through instant messaging. And umm I purchased a webcam so uhhhh, so I was able to communicate instantly and see uhhh my family members on a webcam, which is great because my uhhh me and my fiancé were expecting at the time so I was able to see the progress of her belly growing up with my son. That’s pretty neat.
J: So umm I’m curious here…how did you get the webcam uhhh because we know that it is hard to get anything unless it’s imported from ummm?
P: The bases were established ahead and there were stores opened there. Pretty much uhhh they had a lot of things that you can buy like…..you can buy TVs and DVD players you know uhhhh they had a lot of things that you can buy out there in stores. Actually, the webcam I bought online, though, it had it shipped to me out there.
J: So was that shipping price at a…like really, really ridiculous rate?
P: No, it was an average like umm original rate cause ummm it’s in the U.S. armed force.
J: Oh, okay, so you guys get a discount, sort of?
P: I’m not sure, I think it’s just regular price though to get it over…thought we were paying too much already. I also ummm bought one for my fiancé and sent it to her back to the States.
J: So ummm, how did you keep up with current events at home….did you watch TV or did you get it through just word of mouth?
P: The first time it was…ummm…very difficult I think ummm we were uhhh we were still in Kuwait on the way to Iraq and I had access to TV….. uh television there ummm we were umm able to see the TV a couple of times and we saw the uhhh uhhh British channel news you know because we were assigned to the British army so we watched British news and-and then once we went to Iraq, and we didn’t have any communication so it was pretty much word of mouth and that wasn’t, you know, very often and clear and rumors could spread easily out there. Uhhh second time we had the internet there and television too I got my news mostly through emails and looking at the internet
J: From what you saw, do you think the news broadcast accurately represents the situation that you experience? Is it over inflated or uh over exaggerated or understated in any sort of way?
P: I recall the first time in 2003, we didn’t get any access to news on there in Iraq and so we didn’t know what the media was like and when I came home ummm….I came home talking to family members they gave us an idea of what it was like and they told us you know that the news and media was overwhelming considering over there everyone were heroes and that nature. So that was good to know you know uhhh good feeling…the country support…I didn’t get that until I got back. And then uhhh but also what I got was watching the media myself and I started to, you know, paying attention to a lot of the negative things that was going on that may have went on out there. Negative images and things like that ….and that was a bit disheartening that how negative contact with the Iraqis and Iraqi population and it was awful. Uhh it was positive out there. To see that the media focused a lot on the negative and that’s about it.
J: When you were coming home, what was the process?
P: Umm coming home, we went through…we uh….in 2003, we drove about to Kuwait for processing and um just pretty much got carried away and things like that. And going through kinda…a medical check up and evaluation…general things like that, you know, throughout, we were lucky enough to find a commercial airline. We had a lay over. I don’t recall in 2003 that we had a lay over. We had an one stop in a foreign country, I don’t recall which one. Ummm it was Italy on the way there, but on the way back, I wasn’t sure. And then we landed and um in the States and we also landed in umm you know Riversides at the air force base and it was uhhh, it was pretty nice. They had the ummm base department with their vehicles and had sirens on it. ‘Cause it was a military base, so the public wasn’t allowed to trespass there, but ummm, I mean they also had the ummm Red Cross following. They kinda had their…they had their whole welcome committee and they were out there waving their flags. That was very nice….it was small, not a lot, but it was nice to have those people. And then uh, and then we had our bus back to the reserve depot which is in Long Beach and that was ummm kinda neat because we had a reserve officer that was a ummm Long Beach police officer and and our reserve was in Long Beach so we had umm a couple police cars waiting for us to get off the freeway and give us police escort to home and when we got home we ummm it was pretty wild and it was at night and we remember seeing a ton of people out there.
J: just on a random note here, have you ever been in a sandstorm?
P: I did encounter some. We had a lot even before we hit Kuwait where the sandstorms was umm is pretty thick. And you weren’t able to see like 20 feet in front of you and you weren’t able to see that much in front of you.
J: So how did you deal with that? By hiding in your Humvee or are there standard procedures for waiting out sandstorms?
P: Well…I don’t know if it’s standard procedure, but I recall one time we’re going and (no audio) Continued: someone had to walk out in front of our vehicle to make sure that we don’t drive off the road way because we couldn’t quite see it and it was right in front of us. Ummm so at that point we, we weren’t really operational functional. In combat we wouldn’t be able to see in front of us, so we turned back around and head back to work. We wouldn’t go because we wouldn’t be able to see anything.
J: How was the food?
P: The food….see, I was attached to the British army the first time so the rations or however you wanna call them and we liked them because the MRA’s are completely different meals. (No Audio) Continued: So when we traded them with the MRA’s because they were sick with their meals. They were happy and we were happy. That and ummm were pretty sigh it got pretty old after eating the same food…I mean it tasted all alike after awhile after ummm however our second time we were there it was established-the bases were established we were in our “chow halls,” as we would call them and the food was you know…typical cafeteria food and it was yea, I was impressed when I first got there but again after you’re there for a few months you get sick of the same food also, so yes, we had families send food over so we would have different food also. And they also had ummm by then they had ummm little snacks to buy there too.
J: Can you describe what sort of food is in a typical MRA or British ration and the amount they would give you per meal?
P: It was okay…I can’t remember, chicken breasts? Turkey dinner or urrrrh uhhh there was spaghetti and things like that and again. It was about tasting the same food over and over again. The MRA has plenty enough to eat. They’re packed with calories; they are a couple thousand calories per MRA. I think if you eat one you’d have enough calories to-to have enough energy for the day. So it was enough…we had enough. We didn’t get pushed forward so that’s why we didn’t run out of food I’ve heard a story where the guys were pushed forward and kinda ran out of supply for a little bit. We were fortunate enough to always have enough food…it didn’t taste great.
J: Do you get special meals on holidays?
P: Yeah, 2005 we did. Ummm Yeah, we had…for Thanksgiving dinner we had a turkey dinner and they would decorate the halls to whatever holiday it was We get a special dinner for the holidays for you know Thanksgiving and for Christmas, we get like a ham or turkey. I remember they even uhhh gave us steak and lobster tails a few times. Tasty and you know, I was cool with that. The first time, no, we just….actually I wasn’t there at all the first time. We wouldn’t have had any anyway.
J: Can you describe some of the activities that you can do during your free time on days because I’ve seen soldiers on Youtube with soldiers making music videos or playing guitars or having pool parties and what was that like for you and was that about right?
P: It depends on what base you’re on. Of course if you’re fortunate enough to be on an air base, they have the best luxuries because that’s where everything is flown into. And they have lots of fun stuff there. They have the best chow halls and ummm the best food there. They….they had the biggest stores. You can go buy a video camera if you want to…a laptop and things like that if you want. They have lots of supplies. Umm and then if you’re in a not so lucky….if you’re, you know, in a different base that’s not as established ummm not much of anything, you know? Just depends on what base you’re at. Things like that…I don’t remember seeing any pools there. I think they had maybe palaces, but I’ve never been into a palace before. My buddies in there did. They umm there were a lot of pools in the palaces and uhhh when we were in Kuwait.
J: How was your base like (No Audio)?
P: (No Audio) Continued: We were pretty much across from the base sooooooo when we needed the supplies, we basically just got it. We were criss-cross across a bridge to get into the air base. We’d go, you know, once a month or so. We’d go and get a good meal and ummm get what we needed and come back, but our base was pretty decent.
J: Where was your base uhhh located? Where was the nearest city?
J: Was that in Southern Iraq?
P: No, it was more of central Iraq. It’s between ummm it’s between Fallujaha and Ramadi…off the main road there so in between the two cities. Those are two major cities.
J: SO, while you were in Iraq, did the Marines assemble some sort of cultural assimilation for you to better understand people and get to know their language?
P: They did uhh they did uhhh not the first time because we just get up and go, but after that it was pretty much standard training uhhh and we learned some before we were deployed, including the most tactical training. Some of it was ummm it was like ummm (No Audio) Continued: One of them was put on by umm someone of the Muslim background umm and they kinda give you a cultural awareness…what to do and what not to do…like not to shake with your left hand or show your left hand. It’s disrespect to show the bottom of your foot. Just a few things like that off the top of my hands….off the top of my head. And they gave us a pamphlet with key words and phrases and greetings to say and also how to order “Put your hands up” or “Don’t Move” and things like that. Ummm I…and I don’t think of it too much as so I kind of lost touch with the words that I learned. (Other Language) I don’t know if I’m pronouncing it right, but ummm but I remember saying that.
J: Do you feel that if it was necessary for our country to bring back the draft? Would that be ethical?
P: Ummm, I don’t see that at this point that it is necessary at all. If at some point there are I think ummm they are dealing with the security and safety of our nation, then we need to ummm use force and use drafts. I don’t believe it’s unethical. No, I don’t. It would be an ethical thing if it were for the security of the country.
J: If you were to pick a different occupation other than to be a police officer, what would it be?
P: Ummm if I were to pick…uhhh before this job I was an EMT and I thought that was interesting, but you don’t make a lot being a paramedic. Probably a firefighter, that would be a good profession. Now my current career as a police officer…I’ve been closer with this school and ummm I think teaching would be a great profession. If something were to happen to me, I would be able to be ready physically, plus, I wouldn’t be able to be a paramedic…so I think teaching would be a great profession for me.
J: So in conclusion, what is your overall opinion on the experience in Iraq?
P: My overall opinion, ummmm, there were good days and bad days. Overall, I was very proud of my services and I’m glad I did it and I don’t regret anything I did there and I think it’s an experience of a life time. You can always look back to it and appreciate it. And that’s about it.
J: Okay, thank you for your time and we appreciate that you helped us in this project.
P: No problem, it’s my pleasure.
Iraq War 2004-2005
Born: April 3rd, 1973
Highest Rank: Sergeant
We are doing this project at the Veterans of Foreign War
Interviewer: Andy Hsiao
Assistants: Vicky Choi, Mandy Cheng
Interview Date: 4/17/08
We are doing this for Arcadia Veterans History Project
Hsiao: Would you like to tell us about your childhood and your early life?
Martinez: I am the oldest of one, oldest of three. I have one brother and one sister. Uh. My father was in the army from 66-71. Went to Vietnam, retired from the post office. My mother, she uh works as a processor. Right now uh I’m married. I have four kids, and I work for UPS, and I’m in the National Guard.
Hsiao: How did you get involved in the war?
Martinez: Well, I was called up, in uh 2004, with my else part of National Guard. We were called up in 2004 and I worked for the one sixteenth beginning combat team from Utah. And I was attached to the travel, the first of the all 140.
Hsiao: How were your experiences with the combat team?
Martinez: Uh, my experiences were good, Uh, when I got there I was a little bit nervous because I, I got attached to uh the other state. But the unit treated me good they brought me in.
Hsiao: So you were able to adapt really fast?
Martinez: Yeah, I was. The uh they brought me in, told me what I needed to do, told me what was going on and what needed to be done out there, and what my job was gonna be doing out there.
Hsiao: Can you tell us about your duty there with your combat team?
Martinez: When I first got into Iraq, my duty was uh mostly tower guard. We uh just went into the front gate and then uh (phone rings) and uh until the elections are over. Once the elections were over in 2005, beginning of 2005 we moved from Samara, we moved to Cookrook. At to Cookrook and we operated at a Sepals from there. And we conducted our controls and our operations..
Hsiao: Was there a lot of action going on?
Martinez: In Cookrook, most of it was them just rocketing the oil refineries so we have to sit up in the water two volts and watch the activities that were going on to make sure they did rocket the oil refineries.
Cheng: Did you make friends with any local people?
Martinez: Yeah, I have a lot of friends.. a lot of friends, uh that would come to the gate. The kids would always try to give us food. They would ask for stuff. They would sell us like blankets or because we weren’t allowed to..to walk through the markets or go to the cities so we would come to the gates and they would try to sell us stuff. So if we needed anything, just ask the person at the gate.
Hsiao: So, would you like to tell us about your meeting with the police chief?
Martinez: Yeah, we used to take the go take the commander to his living or we well see what is going on in the city. As far as what they needed. They built schools; they built, uh like water tower. So.. we would go to those meetings where the local people would see them with their issues so that they could see them. And we would on on a.. try to mediate the stuff between the villages because I was on a (phone rings) I was in a…this village.. their the arabs and the .. the part of the I was in .. part of Iraq I guess during the during the uhh personal war.. well they didn’t get along with the Parisians. Arabs didn’t get along with the Parisians. So a lot of Arabs moved up to Cookrook.
Hsiao: So did you guys end up having a combat with them?
Martinez: Well, they had a fighting between the first Arabs so we would have to mediate and send patrols up.
Hsiao: So did you guys end up resolving it or anything?
Martinez: Yeah. Well our job was there was to make sure Iraqi police and Iraqi army that they did all that themselves plus… we were just there to assist them.
Hsiao: Would you like to tell us about an insignificant battle before you came back from the war?
Martinez: A lot of the battles we had were mostly IDs. We had one soldier that was killed in my unit and one person who lost his foot and the other one is had some strap metal from an ID. We had an ID during an escort… from Kuwait to Cookrook.
Cheng: Did you witness their death or wound?
Martinez: Uh… I wasn’t there when they got injured.
Cheng: What was your first reaction when you heard about it?
Martinez: we were upset because they bought the body back to the base and we all had to see the body and give our last respects to the body. So it was pretty uh hard. Uh.
Hsiao: So. Uh. about the bomb you told us earlier, like before you came back from the war? Like can you tell us your feelings about that?
Martinez: It was pretty upsetting because uh we were driving on a route. It was supposed to be clear. The bomb came off. Nothing happened. We had a window that messed up but we had some stranded along with the door. We drove about 200 meters down. There was an Iraqi checkpoint. They said they knew nothing about uh the roadside bomb. They said they had cleared the route before us too. So I was pretty upset because I feel like uh they should have clear it better and should’ve monitored the roads better. That’s just the way it goes.
Hsiao: What do you first do when you came back from the war?
Martinez: When we came back we do a lot of debriefing school. We go do a little bit… they give you like classes, they ask you questions. They send you to.. you talk to counselors. They ask you how you feel. They give you psychiatry not the psychiatry but the uh counseling. And then you come back for 90 days and then report back to well for me I reported back to my National Guard in 90 days.
Hsiao: So was it hard for you to adjust?
Martinez: In the beginning it was. You are used to driving fast over there and then you come back home, you have to uh learn to drive at speed limit (phone rings) your family… you’re not use to talking to your family because uh. You really don’t want to talk to them about what really went on in the beginning.
Hsiao: So it must have been hard for you.
Martinez: Cause no one really understand… Sleeping is harder only some night.
Hsiao: Do you have like any sort of weird dreams?
Martinez: You know the beginning I did. But not as part, but as far as, if I want to go back. What if I wanted to go back or this is it. Cause I reenlisted… soon as I got back reenlisted I was wondering if I wanted to go back because this is it.
Hsiao: Are you still worried about that today?
Martinez: A little bit because I have 4 more years left in National Guard.
Cheng: Did you keep in touch with your family during the war?
Martinez: Yeah, they have computers, they have phones, they could write letters. When I went back to patrols, I made sure I called my family. Make sure I call my wife so she’d know I was back.
Hsiao: Did you tell them anything about the war? Like when you communicate with them.
Martinez: Oh, no…no. Cause you can’t really talk about that now cause there is like security issues.
Choi: Did your military experiences influence your thinking about the war or the military in general?
Martinez: No, not really because I knew when I signed up… that I just been.
Choi: Was it what you expected?
Martinez: In the beginning I thought it was, but towards the end the war it drains you, so and then you see, in the beginning you want to go there and kill the bad people, but then you find out there some good people. So it’s really like really mixed feelings.
Choi: Did those experiences affect your life?
Martinez: Yeah, because I think about the people and I think about the people that are still back there. I think about the people I met, as far as the Iraqi there are some good people.
Hsiao: So now after you came back from the war, what do you do for a living?
Martinez: …I still work at UPS. I still do National Guard.
Hsiao: That’s it oh thank you for..your interviewing with you and thank you for accepting our interview and this has been a great experience for us and a valuable gift to the country and later generations. Thank you very much.
Honors U.S. History
Greg Bell Transcript
Where and and when were you born?
I was born September 1964 Los Angeles, CA in a little bitty hospital called queen of angels that is now owned by a cult AHAHAHAHAAH. Uhhhhh If you drive down the 101 freeway and uh go north out of downtown LA there’s a big white building on the right side
What were your parent’s occupations and what was the number and gender of your siblings
My dads and attorney my moms a nurse. She’s also a flight instructor and an l8ibrarain over the years. Uhhh let me see I've got four brothers and one sister. And uhhh got one older brother I'm second and then everybody else is younger
What were doing before you entered the service?
Uhhhhh just you know a whole lot of nothing I was managing a burger king and uuhh you know when I turned 21 you know what am I doing with my life and said you know lets go figure out what I want to do and figured out military was what I would like to do
Uhhhh were there any other family members that served in the military
Yeah umm my dad was a marine uhh back in 50 or 61 uhh my brother Bryan was an infantrymen with the first Calvary division and served in the gulf war
Alright and uhh how did you enter the service?
By raising my hand and saying I solemnly swear. I went down to the recruiters office in Covina uhhh Saturday and place looked deserted the person that was in there was a captain and I was like can I join the army and he says yeah sure turned out he has never enlisted anybody before and I actu8ally got him his recruiters badge hahahaha
Umm if you were enlisted why were you chosen for the specific branch of your service
Say that again
Why did you…
Why did I choose the army?
Because they could guarantee me a job.
As opposed to the other services you know you so through boot camp and they tell you what you’re gonna do and you pick your job upfront uhhh they also offered more college money uhhh umm enlistment bonus and I got to pick my duty station upfront.
Alright, how was the departure for training camp and the early days of training?
Ummmm I left Los Angeles in September of 1985 and yah know LA is fairly dry at that time. It’s about 90 degrees and wheeze and the humidity was just unbelievable. They shove us yah know a couple hundred guys on a bunch of buses and it was dark out but it was still 90 degrees out and it’s 10 o’ clock at night and uhhh the windows in the buses were just running with water from all the condensation. Ummmm they drove us down to Fort Benning which is about two hours south of Columbus, Georgia and took us to a reception station where uh you’re gonna get your hair cut and your shots, issue you your uniform and that’s about five days before basic training. When they move you over to the basic training unit and yeah that’s a shock umm I’m an infantry man and it’s a bit different from the experience guys have if they’re going to be a supply clerk or yah know going to be a uhhh an Arabic linguist or the Air Force it’s a little bit more laidback uhhh they took us all outside loaded us up on buses uh three men to a seat, your bags piled up on top of you. We pulled up in front of the barracks for basic training, doors opened and this guy, this drill sergeant, a big black man, about 6’7”, 270 pounds, sticks his head in the bus, “You motherfuckers got about five seconds to get off my bus and four of them are gone!” and it was just a mad rush to get out and everybody’s got their crap out on top of them and everybody jams the aisle ways. Guys are diving out the windows and stuff like that, bags get thrown out the windows, and emergency exits got pushed open. We got off, they put us into a formation and they dropped us and we did push-ups for about the nest 45 minutes. Welcome to the army
Was there any specialized training at your boot camp that you underwent?
Uhhh yeah actually I was part of an experiment that took back in the eighties the uhh cohort? Program and cohort did was you take a company of soldiers and they did this with infantry battalions uhh you take an entire battalions worth of soldiers and you put them through basic training and infantry training together and then you move that whole unit and it becomes a regular army battalion and then you drop in the NCOs and officers who are already in place and move you lock, stock, and barrel, and keep them together for three years. The problem is that about 90% get out after three years and then you have to do it again with a unit that doesn’t know each other. We were light infantry and that’s interesting because we literally had to walk everywhere. For miles. All we had were LPCs yah know it was just A LOT of walking. It took 20 miles to get there, it took 20 miles to get back and we walked. But hey, I was in the best shape of my life.
Alright well adapting to military life, how was daily life?
Living in the barracks is kinda interesting. Well in general it was a shock because it’s you and 64 guys in a room, one giant room and you either fit in or they make you. You get to know guys really well and there is only one locker for your life to fit into. No privacy, no large personal belongings. It creates for some amazing cohesion between soldiers and camaraderie. Absolutely nothing is your and private, the only thing that’s private is your head because everything else is just open game. Food, I came in as cautious, started phasing out starting with MREs and they were absolutely horrible. Nothing could be worse. They did not only bad taste but fatal, they had dehydrated beef and pork patties. If you eat it dry it’ll suck all the moisture out of your body. A marine had died from dehydration because his last meal was a MRE
So the food was bad but the mess hall was a mess hall. Breakfast was great and lunch and dinner were a hit or miss.
So the comradery was good?
Oh yeah it was amazing. Some of the best friends I ever had. Down at Ft. Benning, Ga. There was a group of us who saw a concert and ended up becoming a makeshift family to this group of girls we tried to pick up on. Ya know it was great to have that creature comfort of a family that was there for you when you’re umm far from any real family that you have. So yeah the comradery was great.
Now where did you serve?
I was stationed in Ft. Benning. Got out in1988 joined the National Guard took at will time post during the war on drugs watching the borders in 1989 – 1990. I then spent the next three years in Germany and missed the Gulf war and went to Germany and lived in the snow. I was in charge of training guys that had been dispatched out but had gotten called back to active duty. Our job was to ready these guys for departure to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. I was then transferred to Ft. Hood Texas. 194 I went to college and in 1988 moved back to Los Angeles and joined my old unit and have been with them ever since. I went to Philippines and went to Iraq and I am going back in the summer.
Was there any action you witnessed and were there and duties on the frontlines?
I was an infantrymen specifically a moratarmen. My unit first battalion one eighty fifth-armor headquarters company. We were just south of Iscandio, Iraq and we were bombarded continuously because of the way the camp was set up. Uhhh there were four towers on each corner each of which you could see for miles because the terrain was so flat. Uhh umm because of this it made us an easy target and day in day out we relentlessly were being shot at by insurgents until I had finally spotted where these fuckers were and I was giving the order to fire upon them. Umm the coordinates . . . the ones we had inputted to suspect the closest proximity were so uhh precise that the first mortar shell landed about a foot away from the first Iraqi insurgent. Anyway our post at one point had been under Hussein regime as a radio outpost. When we arrived at the outpost we had relived a company that was camped there previously. I stayed here until I was shipped or umm transferred to convoy support center outside Diwahen. I had kept saying that these towers were an ugly eyesore target and somebody is gonna get killed. They kept saying we had to leave them up until one day the Iraqis aiming was dead on and killed four men from our company. The next day the towers got taken down by direct orders. May 25th 2004 was the day that those young men had dies. They died because someone had made the genius decision to keep the towers up as aiming points for the Iraqis and our question of “does somebody have to die before we take the towers down and you know what we got our answer. And ya know it leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. Once I finally made it to Scundi I was living the good life . . . great food, nice chow hall, Internet, insulation, ice cream, air conditioning. The job of mortar men is unique . . . uhh when rounds are being fired at your position everyone drops and takes cover except for us. We uhh stand up and try to locate the threat so we can eliminate it. Doing that has quite, what we call the pucker factor. A very high pucker factor. It makes your asshole tense up real tight. But nothing really happened and we came home in February 2nd 2005.
How did you stay in touch with your family back at home?
HAHA! Well I'm an IT guy in my civilian life. So at Fobkatsu I, well me and about three other guys set up and paid for a broadband Internet connection. SO it was very easy to stay in touch. On Christmas Day 2004 I called my mom from my bunk. Haha so yeah we stayed in touch pretty easily. Uhh letters. Letters were important. Being in the Armed services and on active duty you can send anything for free without any postage. Se we would write on a napkin about a sentence and an address and it’ll get sent out. But just about every camp had Internet, cell phones, satellite. So we were living the tough life out there.
How was the readjustment to civilian life?
Did you know that a late model Honda accord when you slam the door sounds a lot like a mortar round hitting the ground? I came back in February 20054 and got my hearing checked. So I got it checked and when I cam to Bob Hope airport and I remember grabbing my duffel bag, stepped out of the terminal and hear “THUMP” and I just hit the ground in front of about eight hundred people. So yeah it was kinda embarrassing at first but I eventually got used to it. So yeah it took some getting used to. Noises get to your head when people were trying to kill you. Adjusting to overall civilian world is difficult. Uhhh you know you never really realize what you take for granted when you have to fight for you life. It’s amazing to see what some people waste and discard and you know just plain not care about daily necessities that are commonplace for us but luxuries to most everyone else in the world. I’m not married. I don’t have kids so I didn’t have to go through what a lot of guys had to go through dealing with that. So it could be worse.
How did the wartime experiences affect your life?
Well I’m about to go back but uhh so far so good. We’ll see what this next deployment has to offer umm yeah it’s put some strain on my relationship with my girlfriend. It’s hard to say goodbye and dismiss that all on command. But ya know it’s just something you have to just deal with. Personally it’s messed up to think that in this day and age we’ve gotten ourselves into a war we can’t get out of. And uhh something’s gotta change cause there are other threats. There are other countries that pose a real threat to us like those with nukes like INDIA, CHINA, N. KOREA, PAKISTAN and so on. Each one could literally destroy us with a push of a button.
Do you . . . Were there any life lessons you learned being in the service?
Never get involved in a land war in Asia. Haha sorry I love the movie the princess bride ok life lessons yeah . . .anything you do, anything you don’t do can get you killed. Umm if your time comes it comes and if it doesn’t it doesn’t. Umm your life is the mindset that everything is a mission and must get completed period. You can’t get too worried about the little things. Camels are stupid stupid animals. Seriously though appreciate your family and those that take care of you and love you. Tell people that you love them. No matter what do something to show that you love those that you care about because you never know what is coming for you.
O. Beckwth Period 3
Junior Honors U.S. History
May 18 2008
Arcadia High School Veterans History Project
Interview #2: S. Sgt. Catrina Clifford
S. Sgt. Catrina Zielinski
There are programs for each military branch, but they’re all different so I can tell you the ones that we have, but I can’t really go in-depth on what the other ones have. I know one program that the army has is going in as a junior, between your junior and senior year that summer, going to boot camp. We don’t do that. You have to graduate high school, ‘cus what do we do if you’d go between your junior and senior year and you decide to drop out?
They’re always talking about they- they fund your college—
—like the Platoon Leaders Course.
The Platoon Leaders Course is a program where you join as a reservist, where the part time- the one week in a month, 2 weeks in the summer—and you, while you’re training you do in that one week, you go to school so that the two weeks that’s in the summer are between your semesters, so you’re not missing any college, but they’re going to send you a check every month for that. And I think write now it’s two hundred and seventy-eight dollars a month, which isn’t a lot but it’s more than what you have if you’re not working. So it kind of helps out a little bit.
You said something for National Guard, which is like sixty thousand, and you can take two years of college. That’s a pretty big deal.
Sound like a good deal.
Honestly some things that sound to good to be true usually aren’t. *laughter* Just so you know.
Yeah, ‘cus my brother’s friend actually went to the air force, and there’s no program like that for the air force, so he found that out later, like “oh, the army has a program that pay for your full college,” and then they send you in, he’s like “I got screwed!”
Christine, it’s a privilege to be in the Air Force and— and drive- have—
The Air Force is—
—he’s not exactly, like, in the Air Force.
The Air Force won’t take Marines.
If you’re prior marines they look very, very hard before they will accept you to leave the Marines to come in the Air Force, ‘cus they think we’re crazy.
Sgt. Nikoline Clifford
The Air Force is like civilians in uniform.
But we love them anyway.
They’re very chill.
Now one thing that you were talking about in the college. Now I’m active duty and I work, in depending on the week doing the job that I do now as a recruiter, I work anywhere from-from twelve to twenty-one hours a day. From the time I get up, drive to work, work all day, and drive home ‘cus I live forty-four miles away, and I still am taking an online class, but because I’m active duty they pay for the whole thing. So, they’ve put about eight thousand dollars into my college so far, and I haven’t had to pay for any of it. All I have to do is maintain a C and continue to work.
And then when I get out I have another thirty-seven thousand—right now it’s thirty seven thousand, it goes up every year, but it’s thirty-seven thousand right now and I have up to ten years after I get out to use for school again.
Are we done? Okay.
Today is April twenty-five, two thousand and eight. We are interviewing Sergeant Katrina salinzki, an Iraq war veteran. Born on May third, nineteen seventy-nine. My name is Wesley Chen and I am doing this interview at arcadia high school with the help of Lawrence Cheung, Christine Chen, and Nina Castro. This interview is being conducted for the veteran’s history project for the library of congress.
Miss Zielinski, could you please tell me about your, uh, background and your heritage, where you were born, and your family?
Okay. Um, I’m originally from Kansas, and I was born in Newton, Kansas. Um, I have my mom and my sister as my immediate family; my— the rest of my family were pretty big on my dad’s side, and we have a few military members— none on my mom’s side, actually, that’s not true, we have two, uh, Air Force people on my mom’s side, so there’s a military history there. We have, um, my three nieces now, so we’re very family oriented and I keep in touch with them and they’re all wondering what I do and, you know, where I’m at different times.
Um, I’ve bee a marine for almost eleven years, and I absolutely love passing in the area.
When did you first decide that you wanted to be a marine?
I was, let’s see; I graduated in ninety-seven, so it was in ninety-six I joined in august of ninety-six, and it was in the late entry program, as the program that I went into as I joined before I graduated high school , and so that whole period from ninety-six to June of ninety-seven in that program I would exercise and get ready for boot camp, and then in June of ninety-seven I left and went to boot camp for three months . Left my family and my friends, and everything behind.
Why the Marines?
They’re the best. My, um, I found out after I graduated boot camp that my grandfather was a marine and actually fought in Iwojima, and, um, was awarded two purple hearts and sigh penantinion. Up until the day he died he never talked about it. He lived through all of that and never told me he was a marine.
You went to boot camp at Parris Island?
Was there any experiences over at boot camp that really impacted your life? Changed your life?
I think the whole boot camp experience changes your life, because you’re going in without, the marines are the only branch that’s separates their males and females for training. Um, other than gym class, where you can kind of hide yourself, that’s probably the first time in my life that I’ve ever had to change: get naked, take a shower, do everything in front of 15 other girls, and knowing that they’re from different backgrounds, different ethnicities, different religions, different races, and taking them all and putting them into a melting pot to get along and teach everybody to work as a team is definitely a life changing experience.
Was there ever any, um, disputes between marines? Because you said you took all these different races together; and did you ever have any conflicts?
There’s-- it doesn’t matter what you do or where you go there’s always going to be conflict with some people, and one thing about, even at boot camp before you’re actually marines, and even after boot camp when you’re a marine working with other marines. Um, there’s conflict, but you—it’s a love-love relationship. You can dislike the person for one reason or another, but, but because you know what they’ve been through you’re still gonna get along, and It’s the same thing in boot camp: because you know what everybody’s going through, everybody has an opinion, and people clash sometimes, but you still find the happy medium where you get along with everybody.
After Parris Island, where did you go?
After parries island i was actually stationed in Jacksonville, North Carolina. I went to camp Geiger for marine combat training, and that was throwing grenades and firing the big weapons, and that was probably the most fun that I had. And after that I went to camp Johnson for my job school, which is also an—it’s an administrative clerk, which is the, um, kind of office job. A lot of people think that an office job is just “bluh, it’s just an office job,” but it—but its public relations, records, pay, so it’s kinda cool.
And then you were relocated at
Port Hueneme, California—Indian Princess. Port Hueneme, do you know where that’s at?
It’s in California.
Do you know where Ventura or Oxford are?
I think I know w Ventura—
—Northwest. About an hour and a half.
Um, it was named after an Indian princess—it’s actually an inspector/instructor unit, and for the longest time I wouldn’t figure out how to pronounce it.
But I finally figured it out, and had to relay into my family, and I’m gonna tell you a little story how I got my grandma to remember how to say that:
She said, “How do you say it?”
I said, “Hueneme.”
She says “how the heck am I going to remember that!?”
I say, “Hue-ne-me, I didn’t do it!”
She goes, “ah, I got it!”
So that’s kind of—I like to tell that story ‘cus I’m an association-type girl, so she’s like, “aw, I can remember that!” But that was actually the command that I was at when nine eleven hit. It was about six o’clock in the morning. I come into the office and they have the news on, and I look, I went, “that’s fake!,” and I look again and, “crap, that’s not fake,” and we sat there watching the news for about thirty minutes, and it turns out that that unit—that reservist that was actually one of the first unit to mobilize to train to go to Iraq, and so I had to get a hundred and eighty marines ready with the rest of my staff, with all the gear. I’m getting paid because there’s extra money that comes between reserve and active duty, so I had to make sure that they were paid right, I had to make sure that all of their family members were in their record, um, get all their gear, issue weapons, um, find transportation down to camp Pendleton where they train for six months before going over to Iraq, so they were down actually—and we do this everywhere, it doesn’t matter what we do where we’re going, you always train first. Safety is paramount. Everywhere. So, we go down to camp Pendleton and train them for six months to make sure they know exactly what they do in any situation. And that was February fifth, two thousand and two.
And was there anything that you did that was out of the ordinary? Any experience that changed your life?
Um, I would have to say the one thing that I did at Port Hueneme had absolutely nothing to do with the actual marine core. Um, I volunteered my time for the young marines for the whole three years and that’s actually what this ribbon is for, an Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal. Did graduations, barbeques, um, teaching them how to march, mark there uniforms, teach the girls how to put there hair up; definitely, definitely a unique experience.
You also have other medals, um, one medal for world war on terrorism service medal. Could you explain that one?
There’s actually for, um, for the Iraq campaign, there’s actually two. The one that I have, the service medal, is saying that I was at the service at the time that happened and the on that—the other one is for the actual campaign over in that area. So the one that I have is just saying that I was in the service at that time and have no been over there.
You have one where—merits unit citation?
Meritorious Unit Citation. It is something—it is an award that they give out to a unit, granted a given period of time. Mine was actually for, um, recruiter’s assistance. So was helping my recruiter put people into the marine core.
And how do you achieve your rank of sergeant?
I achieved my rank of sergeant with time. Time…it’s—we have a—we have a time period that we go through the ranks, but once you hit a certain rank it goes, it’s different. So from, from the first rank of private to PFC—Private first Class—is six months, after that six months and you put on private first class, you know nine months later you’re gonna come out lance corporal. Then from tat point you look at the rightful score of the physical fitness test, um, we have what we call MCI, it’s correspondence courses that are actually with college credits. Um everything tat we do as a marine is looked at and given on a point system, and that point system, headquarters marine core will look at how many people they need; they’ll look at your scores and say “we’re going to promote up—this is going to be the score because we’re going to need this many people, this is how many have it,” and that’s how they do it for corporal and sergeant, and once you pick up sergeant, trying to pick up staff sergeant, you actually have a group of board members that looks at every sergeant in the Marine Corp for every different job and picks out the ones they think are most qualified for that.
Going back on the medal, you have one for Navy Unit Commendation. How did you earn that one?
The—the Navy Unit Commendation is also the unit medal that’s given to the whole unit by the secretary of the navy, and…I can’t really remember what I did for it ‘cus it’s been a long time, but, um—sorry *laughter* sometimes there’s a lot going on and you get into—I don’t want to say complacent—but you own ‘em for so long and you just forget what they were for until you think really hard back on it
Let’s help you remember. Has the marine—has the Marine Corp. unit you’ve been with ever, um, interacted with the army or any other branches of the navy?
The station in Port Hueneme was actually—it’s a—it’s actually a navel base, and it’s mostly see seaweeds, which are construction workers, the builders. So what they do is, when we go in deployments…so deployments are when several different, you know, all-live branches go on a ship and go somewhere and those guys practice settin’ up on the showers and the little Quonset huts, and put in the air conditioners while we’re sitting out there sweatin’ on a little field exercise. So that’s what they do, they—we, the seaweeds—is who I worked with up there…very closely.
And because the navel base—did they treat you women any different?
The…they treat us different because we earn a different rank, we carry ourselves differently and earn a different type of respect. So when—if I was to walk through the exchange in my uniform, in what I’m wearing now, people would actually move out of my way, and open the middle so I can walk down the middle.
Um, elaborate. Out of respect? Out of—
Out of respect for me being a marine because everybody knows the uniform. Being a marine knowing that I’ve done the longest boot camp, it doesn’t matter how long I’ve been in it just matters that they know what I stand for and how I carry myself and the pride that I have in myself that it’s kind of, uh, and awestruck-look, and like—and like “oh, let me move over so she can get through.”
Does that clarify?
Um, yes. Thank you.
Is there some sort of personal feeling behind being a marine and just walking through? I mean, you’ve what all the other marines could generically feel but—about their personal experiences, anything you want to reflect on?
My personal experience, my personal feelings on being a marine is that I would never, ever change anything that I’ve done as a marine. Um, I have a very, very, um—I don’t want to say I’m cocky, but I’m very confident, and that’s—that’s something that sets us apart. I mean you’ve got the other branches; I’ve got two cousins that are in the army that have both been to Iraq twice and are getting ready to go back. Um…it’s a—they even give me a different kind of respect because they know what I stand for and they know how I feel about it, they know that I love serving my country and that doesn’t matter where I go or what I do, I’m here for my country
Um, under special duties you have inspector instructor staff, what is that?
Inspector instructor staff is the reserve unit in Port Hueneme, and basically what I was is I was the active duty staff for the reserves when they came in one week in a month and two weeks in the summer, so I made sure that if they moved, if, um, if they were missin’ pay, when they came in a drill that they got paid, that everything was running smoothly while they were not there.
And has anything ever happened? Any problems?
A problem with…?
Just someone not getting their pay, getting frustrated, taking their problems to you?
Yes there has. Um, one in particular is, um—he’s out now, he’s medically retired. This young man, um, I told him, I said “do not close your bank account,” because when we have the opportunity to—whenever we want—we have to have direct deposit, because everything goes directly into our accounts. So he had one account open and wanted to change it to a different bank. Rule of thumb for administration: if you open another account, you wait to check those in there before you close the old one. It took me a month to find that paycheck and he kep—he called me every day, “Did you find it? Did you find it?” and I’m like, “you’re the stupid one that closed the account!” He works up at Port Hueneme now as one of the gate guards and we get him pretty good. So that—it wasn’t just a bad experience, it actually brought us closed together, not only as marines but as friends.
Um, you said that, um, you were very confident, um, do you feel that, like, what has the marines brought to you? How have you changed because of it? Like, there’s anything, like, besides you changing for the marines or, did—providing something before that you also brought to your position?
One, one thing that has definitely—that brought out my courage and, and my confidence is boot camp. Um, the things that we dot here, you know, the swim qualification, you know, you have on full gear, um, rubber rifle on your shoulder, you do things that, you know—I didn’t know my pack would float, so I learned that as long as my pack is on my back, and I lean back it’s going to float, so all I got to do is move my arms and get half way across the pool where I need to go. Um, jumping off a repel tower, I had—I’m scared of death of heights. I would probably shake—shake the screws right out from where their hooked in, but I did it. They have to actually: the one where you walk backwards down the wall, and the other one is the heel; it’s kind of like bungy jumping but not as high up, and that actually gave me the courage to go out and actually bungy jump; I’ve done that twice since then. Um, have you heard of the crucible?
The, the crucible is the—is the final test of being a marine, and it’s only been around for, um, almost eleven years. I was the second female platoon to go through it. So, to know that I can accomplish working with a small or a large group of people and go through food deprivations, sleep deprivations for fifty-two hours and still do everything that I have to do, and still work as s team and get along is a great accomplishment. It gives you confidence that you can do anything.
Was there anybody close to you that couldn’t get past the crucible?
The one thing about the crucible is because it is the, the final test on team work, you don’t leave anybody behind. One thing about the marines is whoever you came with you’re taking home. So the, the few that didn’t have the strength to go on, ‘cus I mean the—the last portion is a nine mile hike back. That’s a long hike. And I know I’m always dragging a thirty pound pack on my back, and—and I actually got to me the commandant at that time, John Krulak and the people that start to fall back, you-you take their—one takes their rifle, another girl takes the pack, and another girl will put their arms around them and will help them into the end. As long as they finish, you know that you’re a team and you can work together with anyone.
In—you, um, said that people take each others packs and is that just a cooperative team work effort, or is there ever some sort of bragging rights that accompany taking on another.
Um we don’t really do bragging rights it’s—it’s a team work thing. It’s, um, if I can’t…if I can’t carry my pack because I’ve got blisters on my feet and I can barely carry my own weight, then one I of my other marines would carry it for me, but maybe next time they’re going to have blisters and I have to carry theirs. So, it’s a whole team work thing where we work together, in asset to finish what we have to do.
And on the crucible you said you met…
How was that experience for you?
That was a very, very good experience. Um, the nine mile hike on the crucible is the, when you finish, that’s the first time they put the Eagle, Globe and Anchor in your hand, and…the eagle globe and anchor is our symbol, so they—that’s the first time you get it ‘cus at boot camp you don’t wear a name tag, you don’t wear any sadirons, you don’t wear anything. So you do the nine mile hike, they put the Eagle, Globe and Anchor in your hand, and that’s the first time they call you a marine. So mine actually came a little bit earlier. Um, I had no idea who he was, ‘cus I had never seen a picture or anything. Um, I had blisters on my feet carrying a thirty pound pack, carrying a weapon, trying to help people out, and I was draggin’, I was draggin’ hard, and he was probably about five foot three, five foot four, and I’m five eight. So, I’m draggin’ and I feel this hand come up over my shoulder, from my left side up to my right, and he says, “come on, you’re almost there marine,” so I got a couple miles earlier there than all the rest of them, so it was kind of interesting, and he has since retired. So that’s history. Been through, round the third—third commandant since then.
Did you have any other concierges with him down the road?
No sir I didn’t—I didn’t *laughter* those are the—we have the enlisted side and the officer side; the enlisted side usually sticks with the enlisted for any personal reasons, and the officers hang out with the officers unless it’s business, then we’ll interact.
Oh, the name of your symbol, I forgot exactly what it was called again, um, where did it come from—like the origin of it? Like why—how did the marines choose that?
Well we have, um, we have some cadences that we—when we run cadences, or when you run you sing, that have their stories, but I don’t think they’re true. *laughter* Um, the eagle is, um…oh, crap, I forgo what all of it meant too—the anchor is because we’re actually a department of the navy, and the—the globe is for world wide service, the eagle I’m forgetting right now, and I can’t—
The nation…to symbolize the nation. Yay!
Okay, thank you Miss Zeilinski.
18 May 2008
Officer Luis Vicuna
Interviewer: Jason Hsin [denoted by J]
Interviewee: Luis Vicuna [denoted by L]
J: So we’re sitting here with Officer Vicuna, um, let’s begin with some basic background information. Can you tell us a bit about yourself, um, what your full name is, how old you are, your hometown and what was life like?
L: Um, my name is Luis Vicuna, I’m 29 years old, I originally grew up in San Gabriel then moved to Arcadia and then when I was ten moved out East into Upland and uh graduated from Upland in 1996and uh about two years later I enlisted in the Marine Corps.
J: Okay. Uhh was there any certain particular events that inspired you to enlist in the military?
L: For me it was uh a lot of different things then I realized I wanted to become a police officer which luckily worked out, uh, I wasn’t really being productive as far as going to college and getting grades up [inaudible] yet and giving me some time to get away, um, save some money, and uh, kinda put me back on the right track.
J: So when you joined the marines, uh, what was your rank, your role as a soldier, and where were you assigned?
L: Um, I was assigned to the 4th Armored Reconnaissance Battalion in Camp Pendleton, California, I did [inaudible] Marine Corps, [inaudible] the rank of Sergeant, … [rest of section is inaudible]
J: Um just keep going. Um okay let’s try that again then.
J: Ahem. Through your career in the Marines, uh, what was your highest rank attained?
L: The highest rank that I attained was Sergeant.
J: And uh what was your role as a Sergeant?
L: I was uh a light armored vehicle commander assigned to the uh 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion. And what we did was we either did combat patrol, or we would do route security, or we would do, um, reconnaissance missions which meant going forward to forward lines into unknown areas and uh and find out where the enemy is at and report back in.
J: When were you deployed overseas to Iraq?
L: I got the initial call June – I’m sorry – January 30th of 2003 and I had to be back on base in two and a half days and I think I got back on base February 1st [inaudible] together and [inaudible] got everybody together and left [inaudible].
J: Can you describe the day that you [inaudible] was it very emotional what – was your entire family there, what was the scene like in general?
L: Uh it was an emotional day for I think for a lot of people but wasn’t really for me, uh, it was kind of, well it was what we always trained uh to do and finally you know the ultimate culmination when war broke out and we were able to go out and um you know find a practical application for what we had been trained to do. Uh my entire family was there my two brothers my mother my father my girlfriend uh everybody was there and you know they were sad because they didn’t know what to expect and we didn’t know what to expect but we were excited uh to go out and put boots on the ground.
J: Did you believe in the cause of the war that you were fighting in?
L: What was the cause that we were fighting for … because; you know that’s up for debate. Um, at the time you know there were weapons of mass destruction and there was also the want to get Saddam Hussein out of power and you know I was all for getting Saddam Hussein out of power it’s obvious that some form of weapons of mass destruction were used obviously uh I think it was in 1993 or 1995. Saddam uh used mustard gas in Northern areas against the Kurds so he did have the capability of using weapons of mass destruction so in regards to all of that yea I believe in the [inaudible] of the war.
J: Describe daily life while deployed [inaudible]. For instance, how different was living on base from home?
L: Being deployed we didn’t have a base, um, well initially we arrived in Iraq on February 19th that was about a 23 hour flight and uh we left late on the 17th we had a layover and stuff like that so we got there on the 19th. We moved into a, uh, a camp, uh assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5 and we stayed there for approximately a month you know doing training and you know whether it was training with the vehicles, physical training, you know mental preparations, ah, but once the war actually kicked off and we crossed the line of departure into Iraq uh the only thing that we had as a base was our vehicle and we ate slept and did everything with the vehicle. We didn’t have any kind of shelter or anything like that that we could create ourselves.
J: When you were initially shipped overseas um where was your first destination?
L: First destination was Kuwait um we were assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5 and uh [inaudible] approximately 40 kilometers south of the Kuwait and Iraq border.
J: Okay. So what was your role as a Sergeant over there um in Kuwait?
L: Well when we went overseas I was actually a corporal, and uh my assignment was I was a light armored vehicle gunner and at times whenever the platoon sergeant was the LAV commander … was ultimately responsible for 23 different marines, and all our missions consisted either of combat missions or route security missions, or reconnaissance missions. Um, at any given time you know like I said you know I was in direction of – I should say direct command of 23 marines and If we went out on you know some type of reconnaissance mission we would go out and find out where the enemy was at, report back. If it was a route security mission if pretty much putting some people in front of the convoy, in the middle and in the back of the convoy, and making sure that any time we came under fire, that uh, we were the people that went out and engaged the enemy. And um… [nods].
J: Have you ever trained with uh Iraqi soldiers?
L: No we never did. The… in the initial part of the war and then eventually what turned into what we called the [inaudible] military operations other than war uh we started working with uh the Navy SEALS and doing some uh, doing some intelligence work and stuff like that. But I never really worked with the Iraqi soldiers.
J: So what was the most traumatizing experience that you saw while deployed in Iraq?
L: Uh, when we crossed over into Iraq, uh, we crossed over in the second day of war as we were waiting for some other equipment to come over to um you know get enough supplies to sustain ourselves so what happened was we crossed over the second day and we caught up to the unit we were attached to which was First Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, um, at that point we got attached to them, we started doing different types of combat missions and we had no place to sleep. You know, um, I remember one night, [inaudible] we call them [inaudible] we dug our own graves, and [inaudible] went down about six to eight inches about 3 inches wider to 6 inches wider than your body and about 6 inches longer than the height of your body. And uh there was one night when we were sleeping in our little holes and uh we started getting mortared and the idea was – well, we’re underground, you know, as – as these mortars are exploding and shrapnel’s flying above us, you know, we’re safer. You know, staying in place than actually popping up and trying to receive different types of cover. Um, and, eventually as we continued pushing forward, you know, different missions change engagements change sometimes we’re in the front sometimes we’re in the back sometimes we’re in the middle – and uh, I remember taking my first shower; if you can call it a shower. 27 days into being – into Iraq. The shower consisted of a 5 gallon orange bucket with one gallon of water and some shampoo and I just shampooed my face and my hair and I felt like a new man! Um, and that was the first time I really attempted to clean any part … you know, in detail of my body and then I think it wasn’t until … um, I’d say almost two months into that that we actually came across a facility that actually had showers and I remember you know they told us, “Hey, it’s a three minute shower,” and the next thing you know you have a bunch of naked marines in there for like five, ten minutes just enjoying the fact that hey, you know we don’t have to clean ourselves out of a bucket anymore there’s actually, you know, running water, you’re not just reusing the dirty water that you just took off your body to now clean another part of your body, you know? So, um, I’d say more or less the first two months were on the road, finally in early May … we got placed in a place called Dogtown uh that we deemed Dogtown just because the place was full of stray dogs and you know they’d come over and we’d feed them stuff that we weren’t eating and uh this was about five kilometers west of the Iran/Iraq border, and it was just our area of operation and where we had to patrol. And then we ended up losing a guy – it was in this driving accident; we were going down a highway, trying to provide water and uh fix the uh generator for this uh small town uh north of Al Qud. An uh, on our way other there the – I can’t really explain it, it’s kinda like a semi truck but instead of having a pivot point it’s a hydraulic pivot so as the vehicles would turn left, you know, they would fold [makes hand gestures], but in this case it started to fishtail in the back and eventually jackknifed and went down an embankment. And uh, I was the first vehicle behind it, and I as I saw it start to fishtail I bumped my vehicle commander and said “Hey look, you know, this vehicle’s gonna lose it,” um, probably within five seconds the vehicle jackknifes and goes down the embankment 25, 30 feet, hits the ground, jumps up, does a – and it was weird seeing this humongous truck in this flip, hit the ground and explode. Now the problem was, uh, there was two marines inside that vehicle so we knew, hey, potentially we have two casualties you know and to what extent who knows. And, the worst part about it was one of the guys that was inside that vehicle was attached to our headquarters and supply company, and his brother-in-law was in my platoon, um, and he had not gone on … on this mission that we were going on for the day. He was back at camp, so, we knew we had to find him because, this was actually the day where, this was actually May 18th 2003, and May 17th 2003 for the first time uh since we got in Iraq these guys had actually caught up and they had spent a couple nights together and you know exchanged stories back and forth and the next morning they went uh, ah, the guy in my platoon took [inaudible] uh, the guy in my platoon went to bed a bit later than his brother-in-law, because he had to be up early. And uh, they just said “Hey we’ll see you tomorrow,” and, you know, carried on with their business for the rest of the day. So next morning when we went out he ends up … dying in this accident and luckily for us when the truck exploded at some point either when it first hit or when it came down the second time, it launched the two marines out. The … first marine’s head that we found uh was pretty much - it was around to about right here [draws arc around face to indicate area] this huge trauma that dented his head to about right here [completes arc on other side of head]. His eye socket was down below his nose and you know we had to cover up the rest of his face. Although I knew that there was probably nothing that we could do to save him due to the trauma to his head, you know we still got out there and did uh, we did CPR on him. You know stabilize his neck and start giving him rescue breaths; he was bleeding internally and you could hear him gargling on his blood and stuff like that and uh but you know we do what we could until the doc got there and you know when the doc got there he [inaudible] him which he stuck a tube down his throat and I remember the doc telling me “Alright, keep doing chest compressions, and I will uh, and I’ll blow.” He blows two breaths and I go in there and start doing some chest compressions, and he goes to blow the second time and … and he blows in the first breath, comes back out, and I see out of the tube that’s coming out of the marine’s throat, it’s this bloody froth, and it’s just erupting you know like a volcano would. But at the same time the doc is now spitting out this bloody froth. When the air went in it built some type of pressure and all this blood had shot back into the doc’s mouth and was shooting out, out of the uh tube at the same time. So, I kinda had to turn away because it was so disgusting I thought I was going to throw up, but then my immediate thought was “Hey this marine needs me right now” so I turn back around and it’s still erupting out of the tube that you think, you know, “Take a deep breath here, this marine needs you right now, his life is dependent on you.” And uh, got back to doing chest compressions and the doc pulled out the tube and realized it had probably gone down the wrong hole but you know we couldn’t really do much to move him because you know he had such, such uh massive trauma to his head that we didn’t want to move his neck you know, end up killing him ourselves. So he eventually got the right way in there uh with the uh with the tube and started doing his breaths and uh I continued my compressions until I was relieved - and uh, by somebody who was a little better trained than I was. And then I was tasked with: “Hey uh, go look for uh for the other marine.” And something that I haven’t mentioned before: this truck was full of water bottles, and uh, bullets, and tools. What happened when this truck caught fire was the ammunition started cooking off so they started shooting off, you know, and uh here we are doing CPR and I remember bullets impacting all over us but, we weren’t ready to move the marine, you know to get him to a safer place because you know, we’re still, we already sent someone out to get uh a makeshift stretcher so we can move him without damaging him anymore. And uh finally we got the stretcher and we moved him and then uh, and then I came back down looking for the other marine. And on the side of the road lay there a puddle of water it was probably about an inch or or, maybe two inches deep. But the marine had landed face first and uh he we ended up finding out later that he got a broken collar bone, a broken femur, head trauma, uh, some broken ribs. And he was trying now like every now and then like roll out of the water to get a breath, you know he was probably in there, five, ten minutes you know barely breathing out the sides of his – the side of his mouth. When I got there I rolled him over, you know, place him in a C-spine, got another stretcher, and we ended up bringing him back out onto the roadway. Once we were on the road we had made some shelter for him you know using uh camouflage netting and stuff like that because you know the average temperature by now was about 125 to 130 degrees. And uh one of our guys was also a paramedic in the civilian world so he had brought all his equipment and he ended up working on both of the guys simultaneously with the doc and they’d trade back, back and forth. The first marine that we had found ended up dying. And uh the second one ended up … ended up living but I believe the, the biggest scene that impacted my life just seeing that hey, you know, this is, this is one of us. They got hurt, and this is, this is the first guy that had gotten hurt. Um, alter on throughout the war we had six guys get hurt in explosions. Three of them lost an eye, and uh the other three just received shrapnel injuries and stuff like that but that’s the end of the story. [nods head]
J: Have certain events changed your uh view on life? Are you more grateful and appreciative for being alive?
L: I think, I think Iraq in general kinda changed my point of view on life. Uh, before it was, you know, what else could I do? You know, for the future, always living for the future and uh, retirement and what I was going to do for work. I stopped kinda living for … for the day and I think Iraq and experiences like that just explained, you know, seeing friends getting hurt or shot … helped me to, not only still [inaudible] and prepare for the future, but appreciate today. I remember when I first got back, I went to a party and everybody was having a good time and you know it was at one of my buddy’s dad’s house. And uh he had this nice view of the valley and you know, pool, with the grotto and game room and there was a bunch of people there and I remember I disappeared for a little while looking down the hill about five or ten feet just so nobody can see me but uh I could still see the valley and I began to appreciate you know the landscape and the fact that we have electricity and we pay taxes to keep the road you know without potholes. That uh I can walk down the street you know without worrying about some guy from another clan or something like that you know pickin’ on me or the fact that if a cop car rolled by that nobody was trying to shoot at it, or that a bomb was about to go off at the side of the road. You look at all the other things that other people have, or don’t have in other civilizations and uh, you know we’re so grateful here in the United States. I remember the exact night that I got back which was September 13th 2003. My buddy Andy was having a party at his house and I walked in there. And I wasn’t – I wasn’t like “Hey look at me I’m going to war,” so when I came back a lot of people didn’t know that I was going to war, not to mention that I had gotten the two and a half day notice on “Hey, you know, pack your stuff, we’re going.” Um, so I remember coming back and my buddy Mike asking me, “Hey what’s up Lu, where’ve you been? I haven’t seen ya in a couple of months.” And uh, I just didn’t answer him and I didn’t wanna tell him anything because, here his biggest concern was who he was gonna drink with that night and who he was gonna get laid by. While you know there’s other young men and women deployed on foreign shores and risking their skin every single day. And this is still when everybody was supporting all the troops in uh, a major way and I’m thinking the peers that I have here in California – they weren’t feeling really certain about it, and maybe people think – do people really care about what we’re doing – do people really care about, who’s dying, or who’s losing their arm or their eyes or their legs or losing their sons or their daughters or their brothers or their dad. And uh, in Iraq, it can go in a lot of positive and negative ways. It made me realize that what I have and made me realize how disgusting some people are who don’t appreciate what they have. My girlfriend, when I came back, my girlfriend at the time, said “You know, it’s kinda weird. You’ve changed a lot. But you’ve changed in a good way because, um, things that don’t really matter are not a big deal, and things that are important by principle, are.” And I noticed that, you know, if it doesn’t matter, why fight for it? But in the opposite side of the spectrum if it does matter then it’s something you’d really want to fight for. Um, so Iraq was a huge, huge change in experience to be honest with you, my friends think I’m a better person, and at the time when I was still with my ex-girlfriend she said, “Hey, you’ve become a better person, you’ve grown up, you’re more mature, you’re calm, and I think personally it was a positive change.”
J: So how do you feel now that you are home? Do you believe that Americans take their freedoms for granted?
L: Absolutely. And I’ll think back to personal experiences. When I was a senior in high school there was a girl, Kendra Nelson, when everybody else would stand up in our government class, and we would to the pledge of allegiance, they would just stand there, hand not over their heart, you know just looking around like “This is B.S. The government forces us to do this. So you know we’re rebelling against the government.” And I didn’t understand until I got back from Iraq that they should put their hands over their hearts, they should say the pledge of allegiance because it’s the freedom that they have to not say the pledge of allegiance and to go out and rebel that makes this country great. It’s that freedom that they have to say that the U.S. is a terrible country that should inspire them to say “I pledge allegiance to the flag.”
L: You know I can talk some more about that. Look at the high school issues that people have. You know, it’s – who’s got what iPod, who is dating who, and who’s you know, friends with who, and what clothes are other people wearing, you know, what does that matter in the grand scheme of life? When September 11th happened, everybody thought to themselves, “This is a terrorist attack on the U.S.,” we’re all Americans but today, almost six and a half years after the incident, and how many people out there think about September the 11th every single day? Outside of the people who lost a family member, um, can you say you think about it? Or anyone else thinks about it? I think about September 11th you know, on average, about two to five times a week. Because it ultimately changed my life. I went to Iraq! Through trickle down effects, I went to Iraq because of September 11th. So you know I think about everybody we lost and – it’s – September 11th is something that’s going to happen again. You have, in effect,m like uh, the Bezlan School in Russia: where a bunch of terrorists overtook a school, and ultimately 300 kids and parents were killed, you know, and over a thousand other people were wounded, you know, that’s going to happen in the U.S. Some type of terrorist activity will culminate and, and, you know, destroy a lot of hearts and a lot of lives and a lot of families, you know just like September 11th did. I think about that every single day. I think to myself, “You have here young American kids, adults, senior citizens that are still worried about some of this stuff that doesn’t matter,” and what does matter is “How are we going to keep our kids safe?” And that’s why I work with the schools now. People ask me “Why are you a cop?” And I tell them pretty much, “Because bad things – not might happen – but will happen.” I’ve put myself in the position for where the day that it does, whether I’m on duty or off duty, because I can carry a gun, the day that somebody shoots up the school that I work at, I’m gonna be the first guy to go out there and engage him, or her. No matter what age, whether they’re ten years old or whether they’re trying to kill kids, or they’re 50 year olds and trying to kill kids. Or, when I want to have a family. I can be 45 years old and I’ll be dropping my kids off at school and I’m ready for someone to come onto campus with a gun and I’m ready to engage them if they try to hurt my kids or my kids’ friends. If you look at instances like in Israel, in 1972 a group of terrorists came over and I think killed about 25 kids, since then, they haven’t lost one student to school violence because now they have uhhh I believe one soldier, one Israeli soldier per every ten students on every single campus in every single part of Israel. And additionally they have a parental patrol where different parents from each school they are assigned one day a week to patrol the school to ensure that that spot’s safe. If you look at the past 25 years here in America, how many kids have died because of school violence? I believe in 1998 it was Columbine and you had 12 students get killed and you know there’s Jonesboro and other school shootings like Virginia Tech. And what do we practice when we practice active shooter scenarios to where teachers respond in the correct way and students are trained to respond in a correct way to an active shooter scenario. Do we practice that, or do we practice fire drills? Fire drills are mandated once a month. You guys have to do fire drills. You know, how many active shooter drills are you doing per month? Or per school year? How many kids have died in the past 25 years because of a school fire? Zero [makes hand gesture]. Yet, we practice that once a month. How many kids have died in school violence? And how much do we practice that?
J: Can you describe the day of September 11th? Where were you, what were you doing, and what was your initial reaction?
L: It’s actually uh I remember very clearly. I was um, if I remember correctly it was a Wednesday [it was actually Tuesday]. Um, I was sleeping when I get a phone call, and I look at my caller ID and it says it’s Sgt. Merlin Micken, and uh, I answer the phone and I say, “Hey what’s up sarge?” And he says uh, “Put on the news right now. We’re going to war.” And I said, “Why, what happened?” And he said, “Everything will be explained just turn on the news.” And I had school that day – and I uh, I turned on, I turned on the TV and saw that one of the twin towers was on fire. And uh as things were developing I asked him, “What happened?” He goes, “This is a terrorist attack.” This is probably within the first five minutes, and he had already recognized this as a terrorist attack, not some accident where a plane flew into a building. And we continued to watch, and sure enough, later here comes the second plane and it crashes into the building and you know it’s not a coincidence at that point. I asked him, “What do I need to start doing right now? Are we going to be called soon?” And he just told me to relax , wait for the word, and obviously uh things were cancelled, uh, school was cancelled, because they didn’t know what other things were going on, and I’ll say that’s probably one of the biggest changes of my life because so much stemmed out from that day that has affected my life.
J: Were you attending college at the time? And where were you attending college?
L: I was going to Mt. Sac and [inaudible] Antonio College in Walnut.
J: Can you describe a typical mission that you would be sent out on?
L: I’d say uh a typical mission that we went out on … let’s say, a convoy security – what we would is we get intel from our chain of command. ‘Hey uh this bunch of stuff needs to be moved over to this area. These are the people moving it. These are the personnel. These are the types of weapons they have or they don’t have. And uh they need convoy security.” So depending on if we have one platoon of infantry Marines or two or three platoons, or if the entire company was going to be assisting the move of this convoy we would take up tactile positions throughout the column to make sure that if we got into an engagement we were able to break off – initially to engage and break off if we have to continue the engagement and um until the threat was terminated. That would be route security. We were just uh on line with everybody else. There were certain times in Iraq that we were moving so fast and our movement had surpassed the army’s movement that we were put on a stand-down, we were forced to stand down and stop moving forward, and wait for the other parts, other flanks for them to catch up. And specifically the West side. So those, you wouldn’t see action for a week or something like that. And then next thing we knew for the next 14 or 17 days in a row we got fired at every single day. It just became one of this like, okay, well, they’re shooting again. So, if they cross into my field of fire, you know, I’ll engage them, and if they don’t then you know I’m not going to get some today. Maybe I’ll get some tomorrow. Specifically I remember we were in line and there was uh three different companies and I was because we were in First Platoon we were on the Northeastern part of the column and right outside we had gotten intel a bus had just dropped off about 50 different soldiers and u I should say Iraqi soldiers or insurgents or whatever and they were moving Southwest into our area and into my field of fire and you know then the first vehicle in my platoon engages them and then the second vehicle comes up and you know here I am in the third vehicle thinking “Okay, as soon as you start seeing people…” it was at night and we were using thermal sights on a 25 millimeter bushmaster chain gun and I had a little coaxial mounted machine gun… and um….
J: Just on a sidenote here, what type of vehicle were you in?
L: It’s called the light armored vehicle 25, it kinda looks like a tank, it’s got a turret with a cannon that sticks out, and it’s got a light armored hull but instead of having tracks it’s got four tires on each side. That’s the Marine Corps light armored vehicle. Eventually the Army came out with the Stryker which is more or less a copy of the LAV 25. But like I was saying, the first vehicle starts getting some, the second vehicle starts getting some, and I’m having RPG explosions to the front of my vehicle in my field of fire, but nobody crosses over. They ended up killing everybody within the other company that was next to us which was the first two vehicles. So you know here I was getting shot at for probably 15, 20 minutes and then it’s all over. Your adrenaline’s pumping and I got myself amped. And nobody came into my field of fire. So, you know, I would say that would be a typical thing that you would go out for some time and you would never know when you would be getting your next engagement. And next thing you know you were working every day.
J: was it rare for you to actually be engaged in a firefight?
L: I’d say it was more rare for me to be engaged in the firefight than it was for me to be in the firefight. Um, because, you know they were taking potshots at every vehicle that passed by and you know if it’s just pot shots we’re not gonna commit the platoon or commit the first half of the column out to engage two or three guys you know in a hilltop or in a bush. We would always keep driving. And if we didn’t have any RPGs or you know at the time they were using roadside bombs and stuff like that so, we’d just march right on through.
J: Can you quickly describe the rules of engagement?
L: The rules of engagement were … if anybody, whether they were in uniform or not, who had, uh something you could identify to be a weapon and that weapon could be an RPQ, a mortar tube, you know, um, uh, AK-47s, Dragunovs, you know, any type of weapon whether it be individual or [inaudible] type of weapon that could be used against us and if this person was engaging you ran out of rounds and threw his hands up and said “Okay fellas I’m done,” then technically you can no longer engage him. You can only either take him into custody or continue to deal with the other people you’re engaged with. So it was, actually this was one of my biggest regrets because there was an engagement that we got into where I probably should have killed a bunch of people, but I didn’t identify any weapons and you know, didn’t want to ruin my Marine Corps career and tarnish myself by killing a bunch of innocent individuals, which would have affected me as a police officer. But uh there was one night, in we called the Thunderdome, we were inside a compound where we found a lot of evidence where they attempted to manufacture weapons of mass destruction. And there was also a torture area where they were trying different chemical agents on people. Anyway, we occupy the compound, and we send out some scouts on patrol of the perimeter to make sure nobody was there to engage us. Um, as we were starting to get ready to go in and set up security – well as soon as the eight man patrol goes outside, they close the gate behind them and probably within fifteen yards um there’s three or four houses across the street and we start taking heavy gunfire. So immediately, because we were the, we just came out of a 24 hour patrol, we jumped in our vehicles and went right back out there because we were the most equipped and we start engaging these three or four houses. First two vehicles are engaging the houses right here, then uh we had about 15 meters of dispersion between us, and I’m covering the open field in the back of these houses will lead out into. But about 400 yards down, there’s a berm. And this was right at nightfall so we had our thermal sights going. And we had been briefed earlier initially that anybody within 18 to 35 years of age, male, wearing dark clothing is gonna be who we’re looking for. And we are now in Saddam City and these are going to be Saddam’s Fedayeen. Well sure enough we see a bunch of people retreating and crossing into my field of fire across the berm but the berm went up to about their shoulders and I had high explosive rounds and you know it would’ve just been like a bunch of little grenades going off a hundred yards away but I tell my vehicle commander, “Hey look I got 20 guys running behind the berm,” and he says, “Alright, well engage them if you see weapons,” and I don’t see anything. Because they’re behind a berm. And it was just west of where these people had retreated out to and I kinda lost sight of them for a second, but you know looking back on it now it was probably the people that had just engaged us and had just attempted to kill my Marines. I think it was. It’s one of those things I kick myself in the ass for. I should have killed a lot of people that day. And I’m sure those guys at some point or another went out another day to fight another fight. And maybe they were successful in killing marines or soldiers or airmen on another day but… [sigh]. I gotta say that’s one of my biggest regrets.
Today is April 25, 20 um08 we are interviewing staff sergeant Clifford, from the marines, an Iraq war veteran born on May 8, 1982
My name is Wesley Chen and I’m and I’m doing this interview at arcadia high school with the help of Lawrance Chung, Christine Chen, and Nina Castro. This interview is being conducted for the veteran’s history project of the library of congress.
So miss Clifford, please tell me a little bit about your heritage or your family and where you were born.
Well I was born in Manila, Philippines I lived there until I was about five years old. Afterwards, my family and I we moved to Torrance, California and I pretty much went to you know, junior high, well elementary, junior high, high school. Graduated from Irvine High school back in 2000 I did about a semester of college at El Camino over in Torrance. Afterwards, I went I joined the United States Marine Corps. In February 2001 and then I went to the boot camp in April in 2001
When did you first decide that you wanted to join the Marines?
I’ve always had uh military influences throughout my life. My father, he was in the army, and the coast guard. So, that was always there, but it wasn’t something I was willing to jump right into after high school. I kind of wanted to check out the whole college thing first but then I decided to hey I’ll check out all the branches and see what the military has to offer. And I just felt like the marine corps was the best one for me. I wanted the challenge. I felt like it was the branch that was really going to challenge me the most. Especially, the Marine Corps being known to be the elite, out of all the branches and I felt like if I did a successful tour in the Marine Corps, there’s nothing that can get in my way.
You trained at Camp Pendleton, correct?
Well initially, Camp Pendleton was my first duty station.
For females our boot camp is in Paris Island, South Carolina. Afterwards, which I went to uh Camp Guyver, North Carolina for what we call Marine Corps combat training for three weeks. Afterwards, my job in the Marine Corps is actually administrations, basically translates to human resources. Out in the civilian world but I went to school at camp Johnson, North Carolina afterwards the first duty station over here in camp Pendleton California
Tell me about your experiences in boot camp …
In Boot Camp?
Or um… combat training. Which ever one is more influential in your life.
Well I hafta say.. everyone would probably say boot camp. At least for me it was.. the breaking of me the building of me as an individual as a marine it really I went there not knowing how to swim. It really challenged me and pushed me to my limitations. And of course it came down to swim qualifications and jumping off a 10 ft plank and, and all that good stuff I mean going in there and not knowing how to and accomplishing it was um was ah I was ecstatic about that that was the one main thing I was nervous about in boot camp Afterwards, um, I had a small fear of heights. We had the repel tower just looking down… looking down on it…it wasn’t so bad after all it kinda got rid of part of that fear for me and I thought some parts of boot camp was… fun
Could you please explain the repel tower?
The repel tower is about 70 ft high tower, um, you go up the stairs all the way to the very top and they show you how to repel down you’re kinda hanging off to the side and they say okay go and you just slide down it only last for a few seconds but it was a lot of fun
And after your training, where did you go?
To camp Pendleton
Uh.. uh.. after camp Pendleton or was there anything interesting in camp Pendleton or you wanna talk about?
You know it was, I did my normal basic job at camp Pendleton um
While I was at my um Marine occupation specialty school at camp Johnson, that’s when 9/11 occurred. So that’s when we all knew, especially being in the Marines you know we’re probably going to go to war soon and umm when I got to camp Pendleton shortly after That’s when we started uh gearing up and just started preparing for it.. you know for whatever it was to come
How did you feel when 9/11 happened?
I was devastated, I was pissed off um
It was it was a shocked that that would actually happened on American soil. Cuz I never would once think I would experience that in my life time
Then after camp Pendleton where did… where did you go?
Well while I was at uh at camp Pendleton I got uh sent to camp coyote in Kuwait over there cuz uh that’s when the president was give uh Sadam a time limit to .. to let go of the nuclear weapons or allow the inspectors to go in there so we went to …We got deployed to Kuwait and I was there for about a month and a half and that’s when we got the word from the president hey you guys are going to cross into Iraq and My job there at that time was, well, you know, I was doing convoys, so we were just sitting at the reach point just waiting for the word once we got the word we just entered into Iraq…
Was it difficult adjusting to Kuwait.. Being situated there?
It was it was a whole culture shock there was a lot of things we had to abide by Especially since us, you know, going into a foreign country. We need to spec…respect their cultural traditions um just dealing with the heat constantly, and the humidity. Well there was slight humidity there wasn’t that much…just living in these you know little cots three of us rounded into a tent for short periods of time…
And then you moved off from Kuwait?
Into Iraq, yes.
What did you do in Iraq
Well when we first got to Iraq when the was first started um our main thing was um was building up a base and a defense, a perimeter for us. ‘Cuz our job there my units job was to support all our infantry guys so while they were going in there we were trying to establish our base so that we were able to re-supply them a lot better and uh a lot of us brought medical and dental for us so that if anyone got injured. You know we, we took them in and took care of them and evacuated them out of the country.
Was anybody close to you injured?
I’ve been fortunate enough not to have anybody really close to me injured. But I've had my friends, friends get injured I’ve seen that happen.
Being in Iraq was there… was there a constant fear of being attacked?
There always was, um we always had to keep you know our defenses up. Cuz at any time you don’t you’re the entire country is a war zone. So at anytime we don’t know whose against you whose against you and we had certain procedures to follow um We allowed the Iraqis to walk around with AK’s At anytime they could point at you and start shooting but we weren’t allowed to engage we weren’t even allowed to hold our weapons at them unless if they pointed them at us.. or we feel we’re going to be threatened. Once we had our bases established especially when I went out on my second tour in Iraq they would just drive by our bases and shoot on the border so there was never anyway of telling..
What did you personally feel about this insecurity of being shot whenever?
Um I try not to think about it a lot I try to keep my defenses up. Besides that when it happens and you’ve already had training and you’ve already had drills so we all pretty much knew what to do. When that occurred ‘cuz part of my job was to take accountability for everybody I also did my job as administration out there. So when I was there anytime we got attacked. Hey did anybody get injured did anybody get attacked? Also part of my job if anyone did get injured that I did up a report of exactly what happened so I could notify the states so that they could tell that family. You know what occurred.
How did you maintain contact with your family?
Uh we were out there we actually has access to internet after a while and uh we were allowed phone calls we were allowed phone calls home.
Was any of your family members worried?
Especially my mom, in uh an only child so um she was uh glad she was pretty nervous
Was there .. uh any.. or … influential things your mom ..uh.. any said to you?
I normally kept in short and sweet um a lot of stuff that happened out there we couldn’t tell them where we were at and what we were doing because at the same time the enemy is trying to tap into the phone lines and to our internet systems. So we couldn’t give details of “hey this is what happened and hey we’re going to go do this now” mainly for security reasons. Or really tell them until we got back to the states. I already knew she was worried so I didn’t want to worry her too much.
Going back You said that no body you knew personally was ever uh threatened. Was your life threatened? At all?
I mean just with the whole borders but Luckily for us, they have bad aim so it always occurred at the end of the base where nobody is staying at cuz but my life has never been threatened.
How did you earn your rank staff sergeant
A lot of it is umm thus it was we compete against other marines. For me it was a matter of just excelling at my job uh just you know For getting a high physical fitness test score um just a matter of just being an overall good marine
How did you earn your medal for Marine corp. achievement?
I got that um My first one I have two, The first one I got it while I was out in Iraq actually its umm I was doing the job of with someone higher rank then me um a master sergeant at a time when I was just a sergeant and a corporal cuz at the time I went out there it was the first time I was a corporal my second term I picked up sergeant During that time frame I did the job of a master sergeant which is um Because I did above and beyond my job, that’s one reason why I got the second one.
And then your um Iraq campaign medal?
It’s for doing a tour in Iraq.
And your National Defense Medal?
National defense, I received it for being in the military during the time of war
And good conduct?
Just me staying out of trouble.
*Pause for a second*
Did you form any close relationship with any of the people you worked with?
Yes um a lot of the marines I work with I have became really close friends. We’re like brothers and sisters. And Even though some of my friends have gotten out of the marine corp. and continued on with other civilian jobs We still maintain contact with each other
So after Iraq they brought you back?
And you met your family again how did you feel?
To see my family?
To survive that experience of a tour in Iraq.
You know I was extremely happy to see my family, I was happy to be back at home.
Things were a little bit different cuz you go out with your friends and there’s these new songs you’ve never heard before and, and you’re like oh that’s good whose that and they’re like oh that’s been out for a while. About four to five months and I’m like oh okay. Cuz you have to try and kind of get back into the swing of things it the way you were living and the way things are. Things are different. It was just getting back to the swing of things.
Was adjusting difficult for you?
No it wasn’t.
Now I can say you will never lose that bond you never see each other for five or ten years and then once you see each other you’ll just reconnect just like that. so that’s one thing I can say when you go out there the people that you go out there with you form this really close bond. That’s it kind of its kind of really hard to explain. It easier to know it if you’ve experienced it. Um if you need their assistance even though they are three hours away they’ll drive down and help you. We form that close of a bond with each other.
Alright repeat that again.
Is there something that you can get from joining the Marine Corps that will be unique to your character that would be unlike anybody else’s experiences? Or has influenced you deeply in someway.
In joining the marine corps well joining the marine corp..
Or having served
Well I think doing both just joining the marine corps and having the deployment experience in Iraq Its really made me more mature well what I could say at the time in I turned 21 at the time I was 20 experiences in the marine corp. that it gives you and being in place of leadership positions. It really made me more mature beyond my years I felt like. Besides from that It made me a stronger person inside Its given me a lot more self confidence in myself cuz I never normally pictured doing things you know me doing you know like cuz before I worked at the mall working at Ann Taylor united women con selling women’s clothing. So I went from that to joining the Marine Corps which is the most elite branch And having doing a successful tour with the marine corps its it has given me a lot of self confidence. On this cause I know there’s nothing that I set my mind to I couldn’t accomplish.
Could you please elaborate on what has developed you leadership skills in Iraq?
Uh Being in charge of a small group of marines that I worked with um I was directly responsible for them anytime they went off base or did convoy Any time that we had gotten attacked I had to run around and make sure that they were okay um that they kept in contact with their families just those experiences. And plus on top of that I had to keep track of every marine in our unit which was 600 on where they were all at-at all times. Because our biggest thing out there was accountability we didn’t want to leave anybody behind we wanted to make sure that everyone got out there safely and came back safely
And some of these marines that actually had difficulty did you ever talk to them afterward?
Recover them after the fact they have been missing for a period of time.
Well there was um we’ve been fortunate not to have any uh marines missing uh because we’ve had a lot of protocols and guidelines set in place to just to make sure that no one was gone missing some of the marines just has difficulty just being away. Friends or family or a lot of the marines are married with kids and lucky we have chaplains there they are kind of like religious guides. You know to help them through you know talk to them and Help them overcome that because that was the biggest thing that a lot of people were going through
And it … it was counseling … can I call it that?
Its I mean I wouldn’t really say it was counseling it’s just you talking to a spiritual leader. You wouldn’t really call it counseling its more like advice.
I meant talking about the marines families and being away from, their wives, their spouse, their kids.
That’s counseling on your part right?
Um yea a lot of it wouldn’t really be entirely counseling. In my part it’s just basically it’s just um it’s just like being a big brother big sister.
Helping cope with the situation.
And did that in any way remind you of your family. And how did you miss your family?
I did miss my family I did miss my friends back home. But I’ve always been the type that’s focus at the task at hand and accomplishing it. And then getting back there safely making sure my fellow marines got back there alright.
Guys? Do you think you feel different from some other people? Since you’re a superior officer.
*mumbling, slight pausing*
You’re a high officer. A higher ranking officer and umm you’re a girl do you think guys and other marines do they treat you differently?
Um I don’t think they treat me any differently. After you’ve been in the marine corp. for some sort of time pretty much we’re so small there’s always someone that’s going to know you type of deal I’ve never had an issue with that.
Being with the marines have you ever like worked with the army with the navy and of the other branches.
Yes we do we’ve worked um with the army and the navy um with the navy. They The ones I’ve mainly dealt with is the medical side cuz with us being a support unit we would always have the navy corp. men attached with us and their infantry guys We would also have doctors and a dentists with us as well when I was out there, and a surgical team. With the army I haven’t worked that closely with them I’ve had brief encounters . With the army we had one army battery attached to my unit their whole job was They had these things called patriot missiles so if at any time when they launched a missile at us the patriot missile just intercepts that missile before it hits us.
Was there any close calls with the patriot missiles?
You know there was one close call um there was the day before we entered Iraq we they the Iraqis actually launched a missile at us and it flew about 6ft above our heads. It was close enough where you could see the writing on the missile and it landed right out side on of our other bases. But Since they launched it so low the way patriot missiles are designed you hafta set parameters for it and since they set they launched it below the radar it didn’t detect it on time. So luckily it hit outside the base and no one really got injured.
And how do you feel about that incident?
It was, uh…
It was—you know it was terrifying that it pludded that close and that you can actually see the writing on it, and you didn’t know at the time—we didn’t know if it was a nuclear or chemical, so we actually have, um, these—these chemical suits we had to put on and a put on our gas masks until we got the all clear from our MBC guys.
Did you tell your family about this incident?
When you were there in Iraq I know you must have been bored in such a hectic place, but, um, how would you try to get away from all of that? Just kind of, like, have time for yourself? Any leisure things you guys would do?
Yes, um, we actually bought these little mini DVD players, so *laughter* from the Iraqis, they would actually sell us bootleg DVDs, and we were watching those, you know, just to help entertain ourselves. Sometimes we would buy stuff, um, online, have it mailed out to us, and we have, um, fee access as to where we can buy different DVDs, and we would just sit there and watch, um, episodes of Fam—Family Guy, or Sex and the City, and we would have, um, you know, books we would read while we’re out there. Um, sometimes…later on, not when we first got into Iraq, but my second turn in Iraq since we actually had an actual base already set up, it was a couple times when they had a little salsa night.
Is the security tight when you’re trying to receive things from outside?
They are—it gets inspected by customs. So…
Have you ever had any trouble, or known anybody that has trouble receiving things?
*shakes head* mm-mm. No, we actually receive packages just fine.
Every day life, your routines you had to adapt to Iraq; could you elaborate on what kind of things you’ve had to adapt to? What conditions?
Alright First biggest condition out there was the heat Sometimes the weather got up to a hundred and twenty degrees. And you know your wearing full gear so you’re looking at your flak jacket was the, the plates inside to stop the bullets and that itself weighed about you know approximately 20 pounds on you. Plus canteens of water you have that and you have your m-16s and you know you wear your caviler. When you’re out there um my hours mainly when I was there was from seven in the morning to eight nine o clock at night.
Eating? Um, dining?
Eating well lunch was probably about 12 o’clock, breakfast, um, probably had it about eight o clock every morning we always had a meeting to discuss what was going on um the task at hand what needs to be accomplished. And then afterward you had lunch around noon then dinner probably around six or seven.
What did you have? It must have been different to transition from—did they give you something different for rations?
Well, when we first got out there um we ate MREs, Meals Ready to Eat, and it just comes in that little brown bag and you just which ever one you draw. That’s what you have um after a while we had what they call tray racks? Which tasted just like an MRE there’s really nothing difference to it. Later on we actually had um this British company, um, they actually you know had food set out but it was uh It wasn’t the greatest it was okay I mean but it was a good change from the MREs We would have eggs then powdered eggs you would see all the water its just okay you just put hot sauce and everything you just got use to it. Made it taste a lot better.
First got out to Iraq we didn’t have a parameter set up. So anytime you had to walk around far you had to put on your full gear cuz there was there was no wall no nothing around us it was just plain flatland—
Yeah we had vehicles but I mean they’ll only do so much, y’know…
The thing about—just to give you on how hot it was you have you’re driving your humvee, right, we didn’t have A.C. so the heat from the humvee actually pushes up against you plus it’s a hundred and twenty degrees outside and every time we drove around we wear flak jackets and Kevlar, its just necessary protection ‘cuz you never know what would happen out there. Now, with that your also sweating a lot, so one of the creative ways we did to actually have cold water at that time was, um, you would take a bottle water, um, you would take a white sock, wet it, put it over the bottle water and you would take a black sock, slip it over it, wet it—and then when we were driving we would hanging it outside of our humvee window, and then just let it fly, and then the window would kinda cool It off, and, uh, the black sock would kind of reflect the sun away from it, so you’d have some a lot of a cool water. And another thing that we did was we would dig a hole three fit into the ground where you could feel it’s nice and cool, you’d take an empty cardboard box, put it in there, you’d take a trash bag liner, put it inside the cardboard box fly it up with water, put some bottled water in there, and then just throw like a little cover on top, and then by the next day you’d have a nice cold water.
In the marines, was there anything you necessarily didn’t agree with? Something that affected your routine that you just had to find some way to deal with? Um, it can be a condition that was introduced that you didn’t have in your normal spilling one.
Um…that I didn’t agree with…
You felt a resentment towards, everybody had to go through these conditions, it’s just that you felt that, whatever it was, it was bothering you, or…
Yet there was never really nothing that I had to do that had resentment against, mainly because it’s just—everything that they have you do is for a reason, I don’t understand what’s the reasons behind it, that’s why I never really had any resentment behind it—behind any of the things.
And um, just for a second what about the media? Was there any media people there? News crews?
Oh yeah, they were really annoying. The media—one reason why we don’t like the media out there with us is because they become a liability. There out there—I know they’re trying to get the story and report back what’s going on, but half the time—half the stuff that they give back is half truth, so I understand everybody has a false impression sometimes what’s going on out there because they’re not getting the full truth from the media. The media likes to display death, destruction, and despair mainly because it’s what a lot of people read, but there was a lot a humanitarian work that was going on out there, um, that we did that no one really knows about because the media is not gonna portray that, and the news media that’s attached out there with us—you’re trying to take a shower, and they’re trying to ask you a question, and it’s like “look lady, I’ve had a long d and despair mainly because it’s what a lot of people read, but there was a lot a humanitarian work that was going on out there, um, that we did that no one really knows about because the media is not gonna portray that, and the news media that’s attached out there with us—you’re trying to take a shower, and they’re trying to ask you a question, and it’s like “look lady, I’ve had a long day, leave me alone right now!” Um, and some of my friends that are in infantry, um, went hey were—when they had media attached to them, it—when they got attacked, y’know, they’re trying to fight of the attackers, and you get this news guy, y’know, just running around trying to snap pictures at the same time you’re trying to tell them, “Hey! Stay down! You’re gonna get your ass shot”—I’m sorry, cursed—
“—you’re gonna get shot!” But, they don’t listen. So they become a lot of liability, ‘cuz you’re still trying to watch out for them, trying to keep them out of harms way, but not all the time they listen. And then the stories that a lot of them print is not always true, or if it’s a half truth.
So you’ve read these stories that they’ve reported?
We read them.
And have you had direct any direct experience with the media? Have they come up and asked you—
Well they’ve, I mean, they come up and try to ask me questions while I’m trying to take a shower, um, the female news ladies would, uh, y’know they would try to go to the female bathroom, and you’re there, y’know, trying to wind down from the day, trying to shower, and they’re trying to ask you a bunch of questions. It’s just—it was leave me alone.
And you talked earlier about humanitarian works?
Can you give me some—
Yeah, can you tell me about that?
Okay. My, some of the things that we do is, um, there’s a lo of farmy line out there, y’know, a lot of the people, unknown, farm their own crops, so some of the stuff we do, we give them farming tools, such as, y'know, a little pitch fork, y’know—I don’t know all of the names of the tools, but we give them farming tools to help them, y’know, farm their land and their crops, however the insurgents, or the people that are just really against the US, anybody that actually accepts what we give them to help them out, they will actually kill them. And so that’s one of the sad things that happens out there, um, we actually employ some of the Iraqis to help build, uh, furniture, y’know, for us to use while we’re out there. So that way we’re trying to help them
Get, y’know, money into the economy and help-and help them out with some jobs.
And these Iraqis were all of them welcome? Were they welcoming you guys?
Um, there were some that were and some that aren’t. You’re always going to have both. No t everybody’s going to like you.
And the ones that aren’t, do you just kind of ignore them?
You kind of have to—well the ones that aren’t are usually the ones that’s trying to—
Do you remember a story in which you’ve read that you were involved in and the media slandered the story?
Hmm…not one for me personally, it’s just some of my other friends. Aside from that the, the main thing that I get tired from reading from the media is just all they print about is all the bad stuff, they don’t print about all the good stuff that’s happening out there, all the humanitarian work that goes on, but you’ll see it in the military websites that we have that says, “oh, these marines have built a school” y’know, for the children, or, “hey we’ve got the water going again back in Bagdad,” stuff like that, pack supplies back up.
You remember a comment from one of the stories that really frustrated you annoyed you, just…
There’s a lot, I don’t—I can’t pin point to you exactly at this time an exact one, but I stopped reading the media after a while.
So currently, ho are you involved in the marines?
Currently right now I am a marine corp. recruiter. Um, the high schools that I have set up are Pasadena, Monrovia, Maranatha, and La Sal. Uh, right now my jobs, pretty much everybody is getting out of the marine corp., which I finding them they’re replacements.
Thank you Miss Clifford.
Aright, thank you.
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