For one former enlisted Marine and veteran of the war in Iraq, being a commissioned officer carries a great deal of personal weight.
During the summer of 2005, my brother Brian and I were serving together in Iraq with Weapons Company, 3d Battalion, 25th Marines. Words could never describe the immense pride I felt serving side by side with him in combat. Two brothers, childhood best friends that now shared the sacred title of Marine, fighting together in a cause for which we both had very deep convictions.
It truly was our finest moment in the context of our own personal history. We both proudly wore the eagle, globe, and anchor and strived to carry on the traditions of the Marines who had gone before us. Most important to us was excellence in combat. I could write pages about the great memories we shared together in Iraq, but that is not the purpose here.
On 1 August that summer, while conducting combat operations outside the city of Haditha, Lance Corporal Brian P. Montgomery was killed in action. I was destroyed. Never in my life had I felt like such a failure. What was I going to say to my parents? What would I tell Brian’s wife? To make things worse, I was immediately pulled from my platoon and sent home to attend Brian’s funeral. Not only had my brother been killed, but I felt like I was going home in defeat, as if I were retreating. His death did not become a reality for me until I was flying over the Atlantic Ocean back to the States, when a flight attendant handed me a copy of USA Today. On the front page was a story about Brian.