Worth Reading

” I sought the Lord and He answered me.” Psalm 34:4

The Last Six Seconds

  One can hardly conceive of the enormous grief held quietly within General

  Kelly as he spoke.

  ____________

 

  On Nov 13, 2010, Lt General John Kelly, USMC gave a speech to the Semper

  Fi  Society of St. Louis , MO. This was 4 days after his son, Lt Robert Kelly,

  USMC was killed by an IED while on his 3rd Combat tour. During his

  speech, General Kelly spoke about the dedication and valor of our young men and

  women who step forward each and every day to protect us.

 

  During the speech, he never mentioned the loss of his own son. He closed

  the speech with the moving account of the last 6 seconds in the lives of 2

  young Marines who died with rifles blazing to protect their brother

  Marines.

 

 

  “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 brothers-in-arms.

 

  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 injuredsome seriously. One of the

  Iraqis elaborated andd 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 noo 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-stopthe truck’s windshield exploding intoo 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 harm.

 

  God Bless America , and SEMPER FIDELIS!”