Afghan Dispatch #16: In Memoriam Continued… (Originally Sent on August 19th, 2012)

I don’t know what it is about flying.  It could be the empty seats, or
it could be the personal isolation induced by ambient noise. The
engine’s whine makes verbal communication nearly impossible.  Either
way, this is the time we are most vulnerable to contemplation of last
week’s events.

We’re sitting in the cargo hold of a C-130, on our way to Kandahar.
Underneath aquamarine lighting, I look over and see a Marine reaching
across the aisle to to give comfort to our Navy Corpsman, whose head
is bowed.  His shoulders move up and down, racked with sobs.  The
Marine next to him also places a hand on his back to show support.

He’s crying because he was in the gym that night. He was one of the
lucky ones.  He made it back inside, and instantly began to provide
treatment to a wounded Marine. That Marine gets to see his family
again.  He’s crying because he misses his friends.  He misses the
three that died.  In my previous dispatch, I didn’t talk about the
people that died because I needed some time to think.

Scott Dickinson was 29 years old when he died.  He smiled frequently
and was always eating candy.  Scott could eat whatever he wanted to
and never gain weight. We nicknamed him “Candy Man.”  He had a young
wife in Kaneohe Bay, HI.  He was a poster-boy for adult ADD.  He was
EXTREMELY east-going, and had a very particular gait.  We could spot
him in a crowd from several hundred meters away because of the way he
walked.  Because of his laid-back nature, he was universally loved,
and very easy to talk to.  As a member of our logistics section, Staff
Sergeant “Scottie-too-Hottie” Dickinson worked his ass off to make
things happen for us. His last big project was organizing our trip
home.

Richard Rivera was forever known as “Rivera Junior,” or “Richie.” He
was a supply guy, also from Kaneohe Bay. When he volunteered for this
deployment, he was so valued by his supply section that they did not
want to let him go.  I would say that he was a quiet professional, but
the quiet part would only be true if you weren’t one of his peers.  If
you knew him well, he wouldn’t stop talking.  Despite his proclivity
to pontificate, he did everything asked of him without complaint.  As
an emerging leader, he could best be described as motivated. Cpl
Rivera had been promoted to his current rank during this deployment
and had quickly established himself as a “Go-to” guy for tactical
operations.

Gregory Buckley preferred to be called “Buck.” As a matter of fact, I
had to sit him down and explain to him that he couldn’t sign rosters
that way.  Buck has been described as the “pulse” of the junior
Marines.  If Buckley was happy, then we knew that all the younger guys
were happy.  It’s of note that Buck was rarely sad.  The life of a
junior Marine can be kind of depressing, with all the work details and
fire-watch, etc, but he handled it with a peculiar kind of grace. When
Buck was up for promotion to Lance Corporal, we were in the middle of
the Mojave Desert, without away to print the warrant.  Scottie and I
hand-wrote one on the side of a cardboard box, and the Captain pinned
him right there in the desert. He was so proud of it, he mailed it to
his mother.  Buck had mentioned to his mother that he was scared to
come to Afghanistan. He might have been, but not once did he ever
shirk his duty. not once did he ever ask to stay back from a patrol,
or try to keep himself from harms’ way.  He not only did his duty, he
did it in spite of his qualms. This is true courage, and it is what
I’ll remember about Buck.

These men will forever be with me. Everytime I see a pack of Skittles,
I’ll think of my friend Scottie.  Everytime I give an order and hear a
motivated yell in response, I’ll think of Buck and Richie.  I can’t
read the news without seeing something about a “green-on-blue”
incident, and it kills me because I know that Marines and their
families are suffering as a result of trying to lift Afghanistan out
of the Third World.

When you read this, say a prayer for all the Adviser Teams that are
still embedded among the Afghans. Pray too, for the Afghans.  They
don’t get to go back to the States after a few months.  Their world is
shit, and they have to live in it.  Pray that their developing
competence and professionalism send the Taliban criminals running for
their lives.

DSCF0619

 

Buck is the one making the “aloha” gesture. Scottie is to the right of him, and Richie is kneeling.

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