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The Colonel Speaks...

by Major Bill Donahue USMC Ret

September 25, 2001

He looked out his window to see the regiment falling into formation. He had dwelled quite a bit on what he should say to them. He'd been there. War. First, Korea, then, Vietnam. He knew some, if not many, might not come back home on their feet. He also knew that some of them were also battle-hardened veterans; they knew what was coming. And they had duly trained their charges accordingly. He'd seen to that. Taking a deep breath, he turned, put on his pack and helmet, and walked out the door of his office.

"Attennnnn HUT!" roared to command over the loudspeakers.

With one single "thruuuump", the regiment came to attention. Four reinforced battalions, specifically trained for the mission at hand. 
The Regimental Commander stepped up onto the make-shift platform. Feet spread and hands on his hips, he surveyed the more than 500 Marines standing at stiff attention - not a one showing the strain of the heavy ALICE packs on their backs. He didn't feel the one he was wearing either. It had an old, familiar feel and he was quite used to it.

"At Ease," the Colonel commanded over the loud-speakers.

The regiment relaxed. As much as they could. Or felt like it.

"Marines, you know what we are here for..." he began.

Every Marine in every platoon, company, and battalion knew of this officer. He had established a reputation as being tough, knowledgeable, capable, and, without a doubt - a leader that cared about his Marines. They knew that he'd earned his commission on the battlefields of Korea. A Staff Sergeant, he'd taken charge of his company after all it's officers and more senior staff non-commissioned officers had either been killed or seriously wounded. A legend in his own time, many had said. His presence was commanding indeed.

"...and you know what we are going for. So, if you are expecting some sort of high school football team pep-talk...forget it!" he spoke, in a forceful tone.

Continuing, he said, "We will be moving out within the hour..." The Marines had seen the convoy of trucks and other motor transports when they marched to the assembly area.

"...and there is no turning back. You will know soon enough just exactly where we are going. One thing is certain though.....this is not a drill." The Marines - to a man - were totally fixed on this leader of theirs.

"Our nation has been attacked." He paused a moment. "We have lost more than five thousand civilians, most of them our own citizens. And we have been called upon to avenge them." The noise of the flapping American flag behind him was all that could be heard except for some muffled rumblings far off in the distance as the artillery units were final-checking their guns. Not a whisper in the ranks of this highly trained Marine Regiment.

"And we will avenge them. Let there be no doubt about that...THIS regiment will avenge them." he emphasized the words "that" and "this".

"Let me be very clear about all this. We are going to find this enemy. We are going to flush this enemy out. We are going to kill this enemy. We are going to teach this enemy the true meaning of the word terror." The Regimental Commander was keenly aware that many of his Marines, standing in front of him, had heritage in the middle east. But he knew they were first and foremost, United States Marines...and American citizens.

"This enemy is not Arabic, not Islamic, not Muslim. This enemy is tough - he's smart - but most of all, he is a vicious killer of innocent men, women, and children. This situation has absolutely nothing to due with any religious belief that any of us would respect." He stopped and remembered something he had been taught several years back about addressing Marines on the eve of a combat mission. Humor. A touch of humor will often bring that proverbial "10 percent" back to his attention...if for nothing more than to suddenly ask the laughing Marine next to him, "what did he say?" Although he doubted there to be even .01 percent in this group.

"So, leave your peace symbols behind. No more ear-rings in your noses. And take the booze out of your ALICE packs before you mount out. Any hootch you might need will be carried along by our doc's." The humor had its intended effect, he could tell.

"Marines, get your heads screwed on straight...and hear me loud and clear on this: This is going to get bloody. We are marching into the mouth of the beast and he will try to chew us up." He paused a moment.

"Some of us may not be coming back home alive. (pause) That includes me as well. (pause) So, the only way for you to come back home alive is to fight like the warrior you've been trained to be. (pause) Follow your NCO's and officers. (pause) Keep these..." he continued, pointing the the American Flag patch sewed to his left shoulder sleeve, as they also wore "...moving forward." He held his finger on the red, white and blue patch as he continued......

"...Let nothing stand in your way!" he barked with a fierce intensity only a warrior with combat experience could muster up. "Let this small piece of hallowed cloth be our trumpet for victory!" 

Time was getting short. He had to wrap this up and let his junior commanders get their Marines to the movement vehicles.

"Hear this!" he barked loudly, "None of us in this regiment has ever been in this sort of fight before. It's a new kind of combat. (pause) But one thing is for certain........ (long pause) This enemy has wrought upon him the wrath of the United States Marines...and we are gonna eat his lunch. We are going to terrorize him to death. Anywhere and everywhere. He does not know the true meaning of the word 'terror'....yet" (he paused yet again) 

"We are going to teach him OUR kind of combat.......OUR kind of Terror.....but....(he paused a moment) " won't help him at all... because he will be dead once school is out. WHO IS THE TEACHER HERE, MARINES?"

The unrehearsed roar could be heard all across the base, "We Are, Sir! Ooh Rah!!" They were ready.

"Battalion Commanders - school is open. Take charge of your battalions!" he ordered

And it began...

Printer Version

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