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July/August 2004

Five Days in Fallujah
by Robert D. Kaplan

I had just poured water into the heating filter for a Captain Country Chicken MRE, and was preparing to remove some layers of clothing beneath my flak vest … when RPG and small-arms fire rattled the scrap iron that formed the roof of the filthy garage headquarters …

Smith did not have to order his Marines straight into the direction of the fire; it was a collective impulse—a phenomenon I would see again and again over the coming days. The idea that Marines are trained to break down doors, to seize beachheads and other territory, was an abstraction until I was there to experience it. Running into fire rather than seeking cover from it goes counter to every human survival instinct—trust me. I was sweating as much from fear as from the layers of clothing I still had on from the night before, to the degree that it felt as if pure salt were running into my eyes from my forehead. As the weeks had rolled on, and I had gotten to know the [battalion] as the individuals they were, I had started deluding myself that they weren’t much different from me. They had soft spots, they got sick, they complained. But in one flash, as we charged across [the road] amid whistling incoming shots, I realized that they were not like me; they were Marines.

Vol. 294, No. 1, pp. 116–126

Read the full article here.