Fallujah Veterans Return Home

Larry Nicholas is a Navy Corpsman and an Iraq War veteran who fought in the Second Battle of Fallujah in 2004. He has written an amazing post in Tom Ricks’ Best Defense blog about Sailors and Marines returning from combat:

Larry Nicholas, Navy Corpsman and an Iraq War veteran, writes of Fallujah

The year was 2004. Our unit had been tasked with taking back the city of Fallujah from insurgents. We attacked the city, and after weeks of savage combat we succeeded. Several of our brothers were killed, many more severely injured, but in the end we accomplished our mission. We stayed in Iraq a little while longer, after which we went back to our duty station. Upon our return though, we were grasped by a surreal regard.

Everything around us was the same, except for the way people looked at us. They looked at us like we were superhuman. Everywhere we walked people would move out of our way, like Moses parting the Red Sea.

The Corporal was especially well regarded. He had a right to be. While I was proud of my part in the battle, it was nothing compared to what he had done. The tales that were told about his heroism were unbelievable, unimaginable, but they were true.

Shortly after coming back the Corporal started to have problems. He had taken to alcohol too readily, often becoming very drunk. During the Marine Corps Ball he was walking around his dress blues sloppily incoherent, intoxicated out of his mind. Seeing him like that was devastating. I felt as if I was watching him being slowly reduced to ash. I tried to talk to him for a little bit, hoping some sense would come though. He only said this to me, “I wish I was still the man I was in Fallujah.” I feared that the Corporal was becoming lost in his own anguish.

It is a sad story. Vets have to look after each other.

Crazy Military Veterans

I have always stressed to my guys the fact that we, in the military, are ambassadors wherever we go. Whether we are in uniform, where this is doubly true, or in civilian gear, we represent our service and country.

I once chatted with a Petty Officer First Class who vehemently disagreed with me. I don’t buy all that ambassador business, he told me. I whittled him down over the 2 years that I worked with him, sharing news of military people out in public. Both good and bad. I don’t think he ever came around to my way of thinking, but I think he opened his eyes a little. Truthfully, he did not need any behavior modification himself. He was a top performer and for a kid off the mean streets of Camden, he was a testament to strong parenting and good upbringing.

So when I encounter stories like this:

Benjamin Colton Barnes

A plane searching the slopes of Mount Rainier National Park for an Iraq War veteran suspected in the slaying of a park ranger found a body believed to be his lying face down in chest-deep snow Monday, authorities said.

It could be several hours before authorities reach the body. While they haven’t identified the body, they believe it is that of 24-year-old Benjamin Colton Barnes.

I shudder. Article after article I have searched, trying to figure out what this Benjamin Colton Barnes did in the military. Is he Army, Marine Corps? Navy or Air Force? Coast Guard? He has tattoos that say: Pride, Gluttony, Envy and Lust. Those read like standard military traits.

As for the incident:

Mt. Rainier

At Mount Rainier around 10:20 a.m. Sunday, the gunman had sped past a checkpoint to make sure vehicles have tire chains, which are sometimes necessary in snowy conditions, Bacher said.

One ranger began following him while Anderson, a 34-year-old mother of two young children who was married to another Mount Rainier park ranger, eventually blocked the road to stop the driver. Before fleeing, the gunman fired shots at both Anderson and the ranger that trailed him, but only Anderson was hit.

God bless Ranger Margaret Anderson and her family. She was killed in the line of duty and is a hero.

Oddly, Barnes is being described as having survivalist and weapons training, but how much of a survivalist was he if he was found facedown in the snow?

Standby for the crazy veteran meme. Not to mention the calls for gun control. . .

Update:

Meanwhile, officials at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, near the base of Mount Rainier, confirmed that Barnes served as a private first class with the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division in Iraq and was granted a general discharge under honorable conditions in November 2009 after facing criminal charges for driving under the influence and transporting a privately owned weapon improperly.