Monday, December 20, 2010

Last 6 Seconds - LtGen Kelly

My husband received this email today from our son, LCpl Reece Lodder. It speaks for itself.

Hey Dad,

Please pass this on to the family. I don't have everyone's addresses on my 
Marine Corps email. This is a goosebump-inducing testament to why Marines, 
sailors, soldiers and airman fight for the U.S. and each other.

Semper fidelis,

    Sent: 12/5/2010 8:00:45 P.M. Pacific Standard Time

     The last half of a speech given by LtGen Kelly to the Semper Fi Society of 
St. Louis MO on 13 November. As always around the birthday of the Marine Corps, 
November 10, it is common to highlight the legacy of the Marine Corps through 
the actions of those who bravely defended the country, or as Admiral Nimitz said 
after Iwo Jima, “Uncommon Valor was a Common Virtue.”
    As you probably know General Kelly’s son died 4 days before this speech by 
an IED in Afghanistan while on his 3d combat tour. He was a second lieutenant 
doing what lieutenants and NCO’s do – leading from the front and forward into 
the enemy. His name was Robert Kelly. 

    Where do we get such people?  We are most fortunate they walk among us and 
protect us.   Baker, surgeon

    "I will leave you with a story about the kind of people they are…about the 
quality of the steel in their backs…about the kind of dedication they bring to 
our country while they serve in uniform and forever after as veterans.  Two 
years ago when I was the Commander of all U.S. and Iraqi forces, in fact, the 
22nd of April 2008, two Marine infantry battalions, 1/9 “The Walking Dead,” and 
2/8 were switching out in Ramadi.  One battalion in the closing days of their 
deployment going home very soon, the other just starting its seven-month combat 
tour. Two Marines, Corporal Jonathan Yale and Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter, 22 
and 20 years old respectively, one from each battalion, were assuming the watch 
together at the entrance gate of an outpost that contained a makeshift barracks 
housing 50 Marines.  The same broken down ramshackle building was also home to 
100 Iraqi police, also my men and our allies in the fight against the terrorists 
in Ramadi, a city until recently the most dangerous city on earth and owned by 
Al Qaeda.  Yale was a dirt poor mixed-race kid from Virginia with a wife and 
daughter, and a mother and sister who lived with him and he supported as well.  
He did this on a yearly salary of less than $23,000.  Haerter, on the other 
hand, was a middle class white kid from Long Island.  They were from two 
completely different worlds.  Had they not joined the Marines they would never 
have met each other, or understood that multiple America’s exist simultaneously 
depending on one’s race, education level, economic status, and where you might 
have been born.  But they were Marines, combat Marines, forged in the same 
crucible of Marine training, and because of this bond they were brothers as 
close, or closer, than if they were born of the same woman.
    The mission orders they received from the sergeant squad leader I am sure 
went something like: “Okay you two clowns, stand this post and let no 
unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass.”  “You clear?”  I am also sure Yale and 
Haerter then rolled their eyes and said in unison something like: “Yes 
Sergeant,” with just enough attitude that made the point without saying the 
words, “No kidding sweetheart, we know what we’re doing.”  They then relieved 
two other Marines on watch and took up their post at the entry control point of 
Joint Security Station Nasser, in the Sophia section of Ramadi, Al Anbar, Iraq.
    A few minutes later a large blue truck turned down the alley way-perhaps 
60-70 yards in length-and sped its way through the serpentine of concrete jersey 
walls.  The truck stopped just short of where the two were posted and detonated, 
killing them both catastrophically. Twenty-four brick masonry houses were 
damaged or destroyed.  A mosque 100 yards away collapsed.  The truck’s engine 
came to rest two hundred yards away knocking most of a house down before it 
stopped.  Our explosive experts reckoned the blast was made of 2,000 pounds of 
explosives.  Two died, and because these two young infantrymen didn’t have it in 
their DNA to run from danger, they saved 150 of their Iraqi and American 
    When I read the situation report about the incident a few hours after it 
happened I called the regimental commander for details as something about this 
struck me as different.  Marines dying or being seriously wounded is commonplace 
in combat.  We expect Marines regardless of rank or MOS to stand their ground 
and do their duty, and even die in the process, if that is what the mission 
takes.  But this just seemed different.  The regimental commander had just 
returned from the site and he agreed, but reported that there were no American 
witnesses to the event-just Iraqi police.  I figured if there was any chance of 
finding out what actually happened and then to decorate the two Marines to 
acknowledge their bravery, I’d have to do it as a combat award that requires two 
eye-witnesses and we figured the bureaucrats back in Washington would never buy 
Iraqi statements.  If it had any chance at all, it had to come under the 
signature of a general officer.
    I traveled to Ramadi the next day and spoke individually to a half-dozen 
Iraqi police all of whom told the same story.  The blue truck turned down into 
the alley and immediately sped up as it made its way through the serpentine.  
They all said, “We knew immediately what was going on as soon as the two Marines 
began firing.”  The Iraqi police then related that some of them also fired, and 
then to a man, ran for safety just prior to the explosion.  All survived.  Many 
were injured…some seriously.  One of the Iraqis elaborated and with tears 
welling up said, “They’d run like any normal man would to save his life.”  “What 
he didn’t know until then,” he said, “and what he learned that very instant, was 
that Marines are not normal.”  Choking past the emotion he said, “Sir, in the 
name of God no sane man would have stood there and done what they did.”  “No 
sane man.”  “They saved us all.”
    What we didn’t know at the time, and only learned a couple of days later 
after I wrote a summary and submitted both Yale and Haerter for posthumous Navy 
Crosses, was that one of our security cameras, damaged initially in the blast, 
recorded some of the suicide attack.  It happened exactly as the Iraqis had 
described it.  It took exactly six seconds from when the truck entered the alley 
until it detonated.
    You can watch the last six seconds of their young lives.  Putting myself in 
their heads I supposed it took about a second for the two Marines to separately 
come to the same conclusion about what was going on once the truck came into 
their view at the far end of the alley.  Exactly no time to talk it over, or 
call the sergeant to ask what they should do.  Only enough time to take half an 
instant and think about what the sergeant told them to do only a few minutes 
before: “…let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass.”  The two Marines had 
about five seconds left to live.
    It took maybe another two seconds for them to present their weapons, take 
aim, and open up.  By this time the truck was half-way through the barriers and 
gaining speed the whole time.  Here, the recording shows a number of Iraqi 
police, some of whom had fired their AKs, now scattering like the normal and 
rational men they were-some running right past the Marines.  They had three 
seconds left to live.
    For about two seconds more, the recording shows the Marines’ weapons firing 
non-stop…the truck’s windshield exploding into shards of glass as their rounds 
take it apart and tore in to the body of the son-of-a-bitch who is trying to get 
past them to kill their brothers-American and Iraqi-bedded down in the barracks 
totally unaware of the fact that their lives at that moment depended entirely on 
two Marines standing their ground.  If they had been aware, they would have 
known they were safe…because two Marines stood between them and a crazed suicide 
bomber.  The recording shows the truck careening to a stop immediately in front 
of the two Marines.  In all of the instantaneous violence Yale and Haerter never 
hesitated.  By all reports and by the recording, they never stepped back.  They 
never even started to step aside.  They never even shifted their weight.  With 
their feet spread shoulder width apart, they leaned into the danger, firing as 
fast as they could work their weapons.  They had only one second left to live.
    The truck explodes.  The camera goes blank.  Two young men go to their God. 
Six seconds.  Not enough time to think about their families, their country, 
their flag, or about their lives or their deaths, but more than enough time for 
two very brave young men to do their duty…into eternity.  That is the kind of 
people who are on watch all over the world tonight-for you.
    We Marines believe that God gave America the greatest gift he could bestow 
to man while he lived on this earth-freedom.  We also believe he gave us another 
gift nearly as precious-our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Coast Guardsmen, and 
Marines-to safeguard that gift and guarantee no force on this earth can every 
steal it away.  It has been my distinct honor to have been with you here today.  
Rest assured our America, this experiment in democracy started over two 
centuries ago, will forever remain the “land of the free and home of the brave” 
so long as we never run out of tough young Americans who are willing to look 
beyond their own self-interest and comfortable lives, and go into the darkest 
and most dangerous places on earth to hunt down, and kill, those who would do us 
    God Bless America, and….SEMPER FIDELIS!"

    "A great leader can see farther than those around him, knows what is coming 
before it happens, and has a plan to implement before adversity arrives with 
shock and surprize"

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