Monday, November 15, 2004

Update from the LtCol.

I had this passed to me on Sunday.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Smith LtCol Mark A"
Sent: Sunday, November 14, 2004
Subject: Update 14 November 2004

It is with the heaviest of hearts and a tormented soul that I must report to you the deaths of the following two Heroes:

Corporal Peter J. Giannopoulos, Weapons Co, 2nd Bn, 24th Marines, USMC

Corporal Brian R. Prening, Co F, 2nd Bn, 24th Marines, USMC

Both of these Marines were killed in action while engaged in a direct fire battle with enemy forces, Cpl Giannopoulos, vicinity of Lutayfiyah, Iraq; and Cpl Prening, Yusufiyah, Iraq. In both cases, these Marines made the conscious decision to expose themselves to enemy fire in an attempt to cover their fellow Marines and ensure their survival, giving their lives in the process. In both engagements, the units of 2/24 UTTERLY destroyed the enemy forces, and the bravery and ferocity of these two heroes was inspirational and pivotal to the ultimate success.

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 I ask all to reflect on what kind of a man it takes to expose themselves to hostile fire? For the average man, when steel is flying through the air, every ounce of your being calls for you to duck and cover. These Marines, and their brothers, run to the fire, not from it. And, when sensing it is necessary, they willingly leave the cover of armored vehicles and concrete buildings to assist their fellow Marines by ensuring a high volume of accurate fire against the enemy forces. The answer to what kind of man does that is men like Cpl Giannopoulos and Cpl Prening. These two Marines selflessly gave their lives that their fellow Marines would live. I, and every Marine in this Battalion stands in awe of these Warriors!

This has been a tough week for the Marines of 2/24. We have said goodbye and wished God's grace on six of our brothers. All of them died heroically in the stoic accomplishment of their assigned task. THEY WILL NOT BE FORGOTTEN! Every subsequent battle has them forefront on our minds. We seek justice, not vengenance, but we will continue to unleash righteous fury on the EVIL and COWARDLY enemy that we face. To demonstrate the cowardice of the enemy we face, let me relay one event from the battle that occurred on Friday, 12 November. During the enemy attack of one of our units, engaged elements of the unit observed several of the enemy run into a building in an attempt to take cover from the deadly Marine fire. An adjust fire mission of artillery was called and cleared and after the first round fell, adjustments were called in. Immediately prior to the subsequent mission, which would have ensured the destruction of the enemy personnel, an immediate CHECK FIRE was called by the Unit Cmdr, which ensures the mission is not fired. I immediately asked for the reason of the check fire, and was advised that a woman and child ran into the building. Now, we have seen enough of this enemy to know that THEY SUMMONED THE WOMAN AND CHILD INTO THE BUILDING UNDER THREAT OF DEATH, KNOWING THAT WE WOULD NO LONGER FIRE. That may seem frustrating, and it is. But, it is right and proper, and demonstrates the level of professionalism and compassion of these amazing Marines! And, it shows the cowardly and evil nature of the enemy. They run to Mosques, hospitals and houses every time the engagement begins to get away from them, as it always does when they challenge the ferocity of the Mad Ghosts.

Another one of their favorite techniques is to set up road blocks on rural roads, and attempt to identify anyone that works for the government. If they find them, they kidnap them, torture them, and often kill them. That's right, get killed for being a census worker, or a water plant worker. Pretty solid soldiering, huh? NOT. This is EVIL, pure and simple. It is contrasted by the unbelievable and unshakeable humanity and decency of your Marines. No matter how angry, no matter how frustrated, they take the fight to the enemy, and the enemy only. They are amazing in their tactical skill, and in their compassion.

I pray that we have seen the last of our fallen heroes, and that all my weekly udpates from here forward will be on Thursdays as planned, and that I will always have positive news. But, we are fighting an insurgency, and like all insurgencies, the principle characteristics that will bear victory are patience and persistence. And, a few good men!

I give thanks to the Lord for having known Cpl Giannopoulos and Cpl Prening. The world is a darker place for their absence, but heaven shines a little brighter as two of her most favored sons have come home. That they stand in the presence of God and be always pleased with their brothers in this Battalion is our hope. That their families will bear the grief and find the Lord's peace is our prayer.


Yours in profound sadness and on behalf of all the Marines of 2/24

LtCol Mark A. Smith

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