Today is the 9th anniversary of the ambush of 2/4 Marines, Echo Company, in which 12 brave Americans lost their lives, and the lives of their family members was forever changed. The names of the fallen, as read by Gold Star father John Wroblewski at the ambush site during a 6 Mar 2008 memorial service are as follows:
"LCpl Benjamin Carman, LCpl Marcus Cherry, PFC Christopher Cobb, LCpl Kyle Crowley, PFC Deryk Hallal, PFC Ryan Jerabek, PFC Moises Langhorst, LCpl Travis Layfield, HM3 Fernandez Mendez-Aceves, LCpl Anthony Roberts, SSgt Allan Walker, and my hero, 2Lt John Thomas Wroblewski."
The details of the actual ambush have been well documented by David Swanson, now a staff photographer with the Philadelphia Inquirer, who was embedded with 2/4 Marines prior to, during, and after the ambush. Mr. Swanson has created a video, "Echoes of War" which richly illustrates the time he spent with "The Magnificent Bastards" of 2/4 Marines during his embed. I highly encourage anyone interested to view his website to see his amazing images: http://photoswanson.photoshelter.com
We must never forget the sacrifices of these young men and their families. Regardless of how you feel about armed conflict, they had volunteered to serve our country by joining the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Navy, and lost their lives doing so. They lived alongside their Marine brothers and fought not for flag and country, but for those fellow Marines that are their brothers for life. The survivors mourn the loss of those brothers and friends to this day.
These families' lives have been forever changed by the loss of their sons. No amount of kind words, any number of blog posts, or memorials will bring these men back to their families. However, by remembering their sacrifice and loss, we can try, in some way, to keep them alive through our collective memories, and let their loved ones know that their sons will never be forgotten.
The father of one of these Marines was determined to see and experience what his son saw while in Iraq, and to visit the site of the ambush to perform a memorial service for the fallen of 2/4. John Wroblewski met journalist Martha Zoller in Crawford, Texas during a "Support our Troops" rally. Martha had come up with the idea to take John to Iraq to try and reach the ambush site. John dearly missed his beloved son, 2Lt. J.T. "Ski" Wroblewski, and wanted to do something to honor him and the rest of the fallen.
Martha Zoller hired me to be her photographer to document the embed in January 2007, and this is how I met John Wroblewski. Unfortunately, our January 2007 embed mission was unsuccessful due to combat and heavy sniper fire in Ramadi. A Marine helicopter crew chief refused to board our group on a CH-53, telling us, "I need these seats for Marines. I don't want to be responsible for you getting killed out there." Perhaps he saved one or more of our lives - we will never know.
When John finished speaking the names of the fallen, he asked PSD Company and Major General John Kelly to give a loud "Oo-rah" in honor of these men. This raw, heartfelt cheer echoed throughout the alleyway and surrounding houses, bringing chills to my spine, before it faded into the palm groves surrounding us.