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booksbenji 11-14-2006 12:08 PM

A Marine's story:
Irritated, exhausted soldiers bouyed by reception

U. S. Marine Corps Cpl. Shaun Sanders

Midland Reporter-Telegram

In July of 2005, I was shipped home from Al Asad, Iraq.

Along the way, we had layovers in Kuwait, Ireland and Dallas. There were only about 20 of us on the flight home. When we arrived in Dallas, we were tired and weary from being overseas for seven months (this time), flying literally across the globe (again), and then having to go through the long and tedious line and inspection that is U.S. Customs.

We were irritated and exhausted, and wanted nothing to do with one another or anyone else. Mostly, all we really wanted was a hot shower and a decent bed. Upon completion of customs, we began walking to our next gate through a tunnel that opened up into a larger walkway, and that's when we saw them.

There were people everywhere, dressed in patriotic red, white and blue, holding signs, cheering and clapping. We were absolutely overwhelmed. There were other veterans from previous wars, as well, and one of them I will never forget. He was wearing a "Vietnam Veteran" baseball cap with the dates he'd served. I walked directly up to him and we shook hands and hugged one another.

He said, "Thank you, Marine" and I said the same. I then whispered into his ear, "Sir, I want you to know that our generation understands that you guys didn't get this kind of treatment when you came home from Vietnam. Thank you for being the better man." He cried, and I moved on through the rest of the people waiting to say thank you.

That's what it feels to be a veteran; when two complete strangers from two very different generations can shake one another's hand with a connection of experience and understanding.

Needless to say, all of the weariness and fatigue we'd been feeling had subsided. Hundreds of people had organized a welcome home ceremony in an airport for 20 Marines none of them even knew. Nowhere else in the world can you find people so supportive and caring. That's what it feels like, to me, to be a veteran. Semper Fidelis.

"To those who've fought for it, Freedom has a taste that the rest will never know."


Cpl. Sanders served in the U.S. Marines Corps from Aug. 12, 2001 to Aug. 12, 2005. His overseas deployments include Horn of Africa (Djibouti) from September to November 2003 (Operation Enduring Freedom); Qandahar & FOB Tarin Kowt, Afghanistan from April to August 2004 (Operation Enduring Freedom), Al Asad & FOB Korean Village, Iraq from January to July 2005 (Operation Iraqi Freedom). He reports receiving a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (NAM) for service in Afghanistan and Iraq.


MRT City editor reponse:

Midland Marine's heartwarming story brings watery eyes to readers

Shanna Sissom City Editor

Midland Reporter-Telegram


Midland's own U. S. Marine Corps Cpl. Shaun Sanders' account of what it means to serve his country was one that watered the eyes of many, mine included.

This fine young man, for our newspaper's Veteran's Day edition, was asked to write what it means to be a veteran, from the younger generation's perspective. He wrote about returning home from a tour in Iraq last year with about 20 exhausted comrades when they unexpectedly came across a crowd of strangers at a Dallas airport. The people were dressed in red, white and blue, cheering and clapping during a public display of gratitude for their military service.

Among those well-wishers were veterans of previous wars, including a Vietnam vet, with a cap identifying him as such, who shook Sanders' hand and thanked him. That's when the young Marine also thanked the elderly gentleman, saying he understood Vietnam vets didn't receive the same treatment the young men were enjoying that day.

That's when the old veteran cried, and at that point, so did almost everyone I've heard from who read the story.

What strikes me as remarkable is the unique and deep bond those who've fought in our nation's wars share. It matters not their age, rank or even branch of service. When it comes to fighting for our country, these men and women are tied in a sense of brotherhood, or sisterhood as the case may be.

This was apparent recently when I observed two young military men meet for the first time at a social gathering. When the subject of service came up, both were eager to share stories of their own overseas deployment.

And while there must certainly be exceptions, I've never personally come across anyone in the military resenting service or in any way critical of the war effort, not even when it comes to what many Americans now consider a mess in Iraq. I also know military reservists who, for various reasons since 9/11, have been called upon to leave their families and much higher-paying jobs for active duty. They do it without complaining, for it is out of that deep sense of duty they serve.

With the uncertainties in Iraq, an escalating number of Americans demanding a timely exit plan and a new political force taking the House and Senate, we are likely to see changes in how the overall war on terror is fought.

But what's comforting to know is there's a young generation of people like Sanders who boldly stand ready to leave home for the front lines, as we respectfully remember the many having already paid the ultimate price.

As Sanders shared with us: Semper Fidelis, the motto of the United States Marine Corps., which is Latin for "Always Faithful" to God, country, family and the Corps.

"To those who've fought for it, freedom has a taste that the rest will never know."


I remember that their was a saying like or this very one hung over the entrance to MCRDSD "DA BOOT" camp. Hope that it still hangs their!


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