The end is near for war-weary 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines.
Numerous media reports within the last week note that one of the hardest battalion deployments in the history of the nine-year war in Afghanistan will come to a close at some point soon. The Camp Pendleton, Calif.-based unit will be replaced by 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Gretal Kovach of the San Diego Union-Tribune has been embedded with 3/5 this month. In a dispatch posted Saturday, she shares the sad stories of a few Marines in the unit:
Whether it is words written in a journal or the memory of a friend or something they tuck into their flak jackets before heading into battle, these things they carry in hand or mind have helped the Marines finish what has been a very difficult mission in Sangin. Over at Patrol Base Fires in the violent “green zone” of tree-lined fields flanking the river, Sgt. Philip McCulloch keeps a picture of his girlfriend in his shirt pocket, and a rifle shell from the 21-gun salute that honored his friend Sgt. Jason Peto killed Dec. 8.
Along with his own dog tags, one from a buddy who died, and a cross, Lance Cpl. John Torres kept a ring hanging from his neck that his girlfriend gave him before he left Camp Pendleton. He learned she had moved on when he saw a picture of her kissing another man. When Torres got in touch with her he said: “My friends were dying here. I was going through some horrible s*,” and you couldn’t even write me a a Dear John letter? “And my name’s John!” Torres fumed. Now that the girl is gone, he still wears the ring. It’s gotten him through countless firefights alive. Taking it off now might break his luck. But on that last flight out of Sangin, he plans to hurl it out the back of the helicopter. “I’m going to leave it in Afghanistan,” he said. The thought seemed to cheer him.
That’s resiliency. We’ll be keeping 3/5 and 1/5 in our thoughts going forward.