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Subject: A Quaker’s Letter to Marines and Marine Snipers ! ! ! !

  Dear Marines,

> I worked nights as a waitress, paying my way through college, in
> Honolulu during the early 80s. Between work and school, I didn’t have
> much time to meet other people, and my family was thousands of miles
> away. 

> Several Marines frequented the bar, and one GySgt. from a Marine sniper
> platoon, Larry Hatfield, sensed my shyness and invited me to participate
> in a lot of Marine recreational events. We became close friends, but I
> could never under-stand how a person could look through a scope and
> willingly kill another human being.
> As a Quaker, the very concept of a sniper troubled me. I was raised that
> killing is always wrong – period. I often told him, and the other guys
> in the sniper platoon, my opinion on this. They remained silent on the
> subject.

> As time went by, I lost contact with the Marines I knew from that sniper
> platoon, but I was privileged, later on, to be invited to produce tours
> as a volunteer (USO/AFE) for Marines on various bases overseas. Those of
> you who have met USO/AFE entertainers know that we are nowhere near the
> combat zones, and are in fact well-insulated from the horrors of war. We
> have fun entertaining you; we love eating with you at the mess halls or
> sitting out in the dirt and hearing your crazy jokes; we do our
> handshake tours of hospitals and PR tents and feel good and then are
> lucky enough to go home while you stay behind.

> But Iraq was different. For the first time I found myself weeping at
> night after I came back from doing handshake tours. I couldn’t adopt the
> USO maxim of looking the Marines in the eyes and shaking hands on the
> hospital tours, because there were teenage Marines with no hands and no
> eyes. A bomb at a well while I was there on my last tour left 200 women
> and children dead or injured at the hands of their own countrymen. The
> image of a Marine, badly wounded, struggling to carry a small 3 year old
> girl to safety is forever seared in my mind.

> I wondered – a lot – about the kind of sacrifice that it takes for a
> person to volunteer in the Corps and experience this kind of tragedy on
> a regular basis 

> Iraqi women refugees would tell me, through translators, about how the
> Kurdish women would throw their infants from trucks on their way to
> being executed by Saddam Hussein in the hope that strangers would raise
> the soon-to-be-orphaned children, and how often it was only the U.S.
> Marines and military units who would help them get medical care if they
> did survive the terrors inflicted upon them.

> This is what I have learned about war and the Marines: that I have never
> seen a U.S. senator cry while telling me about holding a dying friend in
> his arms, and there’s precious few Senators who come home from work
> missing a leg or two.

> That I have never heard a U.S. Congressman tell me what it’s like to
> pass out soccer balls and writing paper to children who have been denied
> an education since birth.

> That I have never heard any politician or corporate leader describe to
> me, as one Marine did after a show, that she wanted a better life for
> her child back home but wanted better lives for the children of Iraq,
> too.

> Marines are living – and sometimes dying – for Democracy, not just
> talking about it for the CNN cameras. They do their jobs, and come home,
> quietly, to go back to farming in Iowa or driving their trucks in
> Kentucky, and, for the most part, don’t talk about it. And God knows we
> civilians don’t get an accurate picture back home of what is going on.

> I still think killing is wrong, but I have come to understand that
> sometimes it is necessary and that lack of intervention, especially in
> humanitarian missions in oppressed nations, is tantamount to pulling the
> trigger on innocent civilians who only want what we want: a safe home
> for their children and food on the table and the right to be who they
> are.

> I’m not naive enough to think that most of our political leaders go to
> war for compassion (I think most of them want to protect corporate
> interests), but I do believe, from knowing the Marines I have been lucky
> enough to know, that Marines act from compassion, decency, and with
> hearts bigger than most people will ever experience.

> I understand now that a sniper – or any Marine, in any job supporting
> the ideals of the Corps – does what he or she does because the
> Constitution of the United States is not some remote piece of paper; the
> idea of freedom is real to a Marine.

> As one young lance corporal told me, as he guarded us during a show
> set-up in a particularly volatile area (after our show had been canceled
> the day before since terrorists had blown up another 27 kids nearby),
> “Don’t worry – we’ve got your back.”

> It shames me to think that I had to leave my country on these tours in
> order to understand what precious gifts I have as an American, that
> every day, somewhere in the world, a Marine is watching my back. 
> I never considered that a sniper, or any Marine, may be asked to kill in
> order to save innocent lives .. now I understand.

> So to all of you Marines out there, please accept this heartfelt thanks
> for what you do. To the guys from the sniper platoon in Kaneohe – this
> is a late apology for questioning you, and a thank you for what you have
> taught me, but I hope some of you read this. In our American culture, we
> don’t talk much about being noble, decent, loyal and honorable. I have
> yet to meet a Marine who did not possess all of those qualities. You are
> the big kids in high school who didn’t let the bullies hurt the little
> kids. 
> If you’re reading this from Afghanistan or Iraq or Camp Lejeune; or from
> a V.A. facility; if you are reading this from your home, know this: that
> what you do is important. When you are feeling weary and discouraged,
> remember that there are people in the world living in freedom because of
> you.
> Not only the refugees from war – but me, too.

> Sincerely, Laura Minor
> ——————————————–
> Saepius Exertus, Semper Fidelis, Frater Infinitas Often Tested, Always
> Faithful, Brothers Forever.



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