CARLSBAD — Marine Cpl. Travis L. Casey shies away from fanfare when it comes to his military service in Iraq.
Casey did, however, answer questions from a group of youth at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Casey, who has received the Purple Heart, described himself as a ground pounder — first in, last out and a sniper and a weapons system expert who received some of his training in Okinawa.
He explained to the group that he and his fellow Marines were sent to Kuwait to get accustomed to the harsh climate. The weather didn’t waste any time. Upon arrival, a sandstorm with 110 mph winds kept them inside for several days.
“If you walk out in that stuff, you will lose serious skin,” Casey said.
Casey described the palm trees along the Euphrates River, which reminded him of California. Away from the river, sand stretches for miles and miles as far as the human eye can see. The thermometer can reach 145 degrees and the Marines wear full gear.
“The Iraqis think we are all on drugs. They had many myths about us,” Casey said.
One of the youths asked Casey if the Iraqi people wanted freedom.
“When we arrived, they were afraid to come out of their homes. They didn’t know Saddam Hussein was out of power. During the Gulf War, we told them we would come back to help them. It has taken a long time for them to trust us,” he said.
“There are good ones who do want freedom, and then there are the others who want power for themselves,” Casey added.
Casey was asked about the morale of the men.
“We do what we are told. You surround yourself with everyone for support. Leadership can’t sit down and gripe, and if you do, they just tell you to get over it. After a while you get over it,” he said.
Casey explained one of the goals of Americans is to gain the trust of the Iraqi people.
“When we arrived, no one came out to meet us. When we were leaving, the village elders came out asking that we not be replaced. They wanted us to stay because they trusted us,” Casey said.
He shared a sad story about a patrol with his squad. Two young boys, age 12 or 13, gave them drinks and candy early one day. Later that night, his squad came under fire. He sent a team to a high area as a “guardian angel” and then climbed a roof where a grenade was later tossed.
“We opened up (fire) on the two individuals. Killed were the two boys who had given us water,” he said.
When Casey was asked if they had the proper equipment, he laughed.
“We are underequipped and undermanned,” Casey said, adding he feels better now that they are finally getting armor on their vehicles.
Another youth asked him how it felt to get shot at.
“I trained for 3½ years for that first shot. You don’t know how high on an adrenalin rush you will get. It was a relief when that first shot came. Then I could do what I was supposed to do,” he said.
“You know it is going to happen — you just don’t know when,” he added, explaining a sergeant froze when they came under fire and an officer knocked him out and took over his position.
Casey described being trapped in a position without water and how it took the supply convoy a couple of days to get to them. After the first day, Casey kicked down a door and demanded water.
“We are the tip of the spear — the teeth of a dog. Everything behind is supply,” he said.
He added water is usually readily available. The Army will buy a water processing plant to supply that water, and convoys bring hot meals a couple times a day. However, if the convoys can’t make it through, they have MREs to eat.
Casey said Americans are now fighting a combination of Iraqis and insurgents. The city of Ramadi is a training ground for terrorists who hope to go up against the United States, he said.
He added Fallujah, a city bigger than Roswell, is a place his unit had to secure.
Casey spoke of the hard feelings between Christians and Muslims and how badly women are treated.
“If we were to shake a woman’s hand, they would kill her by stoning. When I left, they knew why we were there,” Casey said. “Girls there have no freedom and at age 10 they know who they will marry. Only very wealthy girls can go to school, but they figure out ways to teach themselves to read.”
“Every time I went on patrol, a little girl handed us lemons or candy. She has nothing and nothing to look forward to. If we can stop that, it is worth going back,” Casey said.
Casey shared a situation where his fellow Americans were severely wounded when one lost a leg. He described the first-aid pack all Marines carry and said he actually saved one man and assisted with injuries for about 22 others.
Casey went out with 45 men from his platoon. Ten of the Marines came back. He was wounded when a bullet traveled up his arm as he was pointing the direction for his men to go.
When asked how he felt about the men he serves with, he said, “If one of them called me needing help — no matter where they were — I would be there.”
“They are my brothers,” he added, explaining the closeness that develops when serving together in war.
He explained how they attended Warrior Transition and were told, “You have combat stress. You are not normal. You can’t jump back into life as if nothing happened.”
Casey explained to the group how a clap of thunder drops him to the ground and how lightening reminds him of a mortar attack.
Casey rejoins his unit at the end of October and may return to Iraq. He said it was his choice and one reason would be to teach younger Marines what to do and help save lives.
“I took a lot of stuff for granted, like just a shower. We (Americans) have so much. I want to go back and help give them (Iraqis) some of what we have,” he added. Carlsbad Handyman Services page