Monday, May 28, 2012

Six Seconds to Live - Memorial Day 2012


I felt that I would honor our fallen military members through this story from a previous post that I am compelled to share once again. Below is an excerpt from an American Legion eNewsletter article. 

Thank you to the American Legion eNewsletter and Lt. Gen. John Kelly for allowing me to borrow the article for this post. To read the entire article follow this link -


Illustration by Matt Hall

"A few minutes later, a large blue truck turned down the alleyway – perhaps 60 to 70 yards in length – and sped its way through the serpentine concrete Jersey walls. The truck stopped just short of where the two were posted and detonated, killing them both. Twenty-four brick masonry houses were damaged or destroyed. A mosque 100 yards away collapsed. The truck’s engine came to rest 200 yards away, knocking down most of a house down before it stopped. Our explosive experts reckoned the blast was caused by 2,000 pounds of explosive. 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 a few hours after it happened, I called the regimental commander for details. Something about this struck me as different. 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. 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, because a combat award requires two eyewitnesses, 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. They all said, “We knew immediately what was going on as soon as the two Marines began firing.”
The Iraqi police 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, 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. They saved us all.”
What we didn’t know at the time, and only learned after I submitted both Yale and Haerter for posthumous Navy Crosses, was that one of our security cameras recorded some of the attack. It happened exactly as the Iraqis 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.
I suppose 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. 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.”
It took maybe another two seconds for them to present their weapons, take aim, and open up. By this time, the truck was halfway through the barriers and gaining speed. 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, who had three seconds left to live.
For about two seconds more, the recording shows the Marines firing their weapons nonstop.  The truck’s windshield explodes into shards of glass as their rounds take it apart and tear into the body of the son of a ***** trying to get past them to kill their brothers – American and Iraqi – bedded down in the barracks, totally unaware that their lives at that moment depended entirely on two Marines standing their ground.
Yale and Haerter never hesitated. By all reports and by the recording, they never stepped back. They never even shifted their weight. With their feet spread shoulder-width apart, they leaned into the danger, firing as fast as they could. They had only one second left to live, and I think they knew.
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. Those are the kind of people who are on watch all over the world tonight for you, and as amazing as this selfless act of sacrifice may seem, it is the norm. "


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