Voice from the Commonwealth Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts
"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest for freedom, go home and leave us in peace. We seek not your council nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." - Samuel Adams
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"More than anything else, it was hot," said 20-year-old Marine Lance Cpl. Maurice Delmer of Berkeley, an artilleryman in M Battery, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.
"It topped 120 degrees every day. We filled our canteens from huge water tanks we called 'water buffaloes.' They were insulated, so they kept the water pretty cold. But five minutes after it was in our canteens, the water temperature would be over 100 degrees."
The enemy resistance collapsed so quickly, there was soon nothing left for Delmer and his team to fire at. After three weeks, they were converted into a rifle company and assigned to Baghdad to eliminate pockets of resistance and look for arms caches.
"It was just crazy," he said. "Like the L.A. riots. But it was selective; mostly, they went after government offices. And they helped us find a chemical plant and all kids of weapons: anti-aircraft guns, mortar rounds, AK-47s, even SCUD missiles."
There was a huge generation gap in the Iraqis' reaction to the Marines.
"The younger people, especially the kids, were really happy to see us," said Delmer. "They'd pull out an Iraqi dinar with Saddam's picture and spit on it."
He also made friends with young Iraqi soldiers who had melted back into the civilian population when the shooting started.
"They never wanted to fight. They told us the Fedayeen forced them to join the army by threatening to kill their children. So they ran away as soon as they could. I'm glad they did."
But he got a very different reception from older Iraqis.
"They just hated us. And the ones who hated us most were the women, especially the more religious ones -- you could tell because they were wearing burkas. They kept yelling (obscenities) at us."
On May 24, Delmer returned to the United States, landing at March Air Force Base in Southern California. Hauke flew there to meet him. A week later, they were back in Berkeley.
"It was a culture shock," Delmer said. "I was coming from a place were people have nothing to a place where they have everything."
He was also wondering what kind of reception to expect when he got here.
"I'd heard about all the anti-war stuff, and I was wondering if I'd get spit on," he said. "But people have been saying nothing but great things. Last night Pam and I were at this bar; and when the bartender found out I was in Iraq, he gave us drinks on the house. He didn't even card us. Better not print the name of the bar, though; I don't want to get them in trouble."
Delmer said his tour of duty gave him a new perspective on things.
"I feel more alive. I'm more aware of everything. I don't care what I look like anymore. And I used to hate being cold, but not anymore. I love these cold Bay Area summers!"
And would he do it again?
"Oh yes. Don't get me wrong; I'm not a killer. I want to go to college and be an architect. I've seen enough destruction; I want to build things. But I'm very proud I served my country."
And I'm proud that our contry produces such young men. I'd love to see him at career day back at Berkeley High.
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