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Coping With Death in Iraq, One Marine's Story

Updated on September 15, 2014

Sorry, I realize there are spelling and grammatical errors. The hub right now is not letting me edit or take it down. This is what it should be:

I was in Iraq a few years ago, a year that saw the most deaths of United States service members. I am a Marine, and I unfortunately, saw the deaths of many of my close friends. No amount of words can explain the unreal amount of pain a Marine feels when a fellow Marine and comrade dies right in front of them. The pain is absolutely insurmountable.

Every time I or my husband deploys, the commanding officer always makes the same empty promise to the Marines and family members as the platoon boards the place heading for war. This is almost verbatim what all the commanding officers says, "Marines and beloved family members, we are on the eve of war. We are going to come across many hard times ahead of us. but we are leaving this base as a unit, and we will come back with every single Marine". They have never kept their promise. I see in the eyes of the older Marines and myself that we know this is just a line to make families and the younger Marines feel better. We know what is really going to happen; Marines are going to die, and it doesn't matter what flowery speech the commanding officer gives, people will die. A synonym of was is death, and it always has been, and it always will be.

Growing up, I saw a lot of horror movies, and I saw many deaths on screen, and they seemed so realistic; Iraq was not like that at all. I even remember talking to a friend after we saw a very gruesome body and saying "It seems so much realer in the movies". The only thing that made me really believe everything I saw was the smell. Even if I live to be 100-years old, I will never be able to get that smell out of my head.

When a particularly good friend had died, I was very distraught. For some reason I was inexplicably mad at him, and I kept thinking "Come on, just get up and fight". When a Marine unit is under heavy artillery, we are forced to deal with that initially. One of the things that is different between Marines and other branches is we go back for our dead. Sadly, sometimes we have to come back later after regrouping then send a special party of Marines to go back for the body. We are brave, not suicidal.

When I was in Iraq, I was still 17 (but I did turn 18 there). It actually mortared all day on my birthday, I would have preferred candles instead of deadly fireworks, oh well. Since my time in Iraq (the first time), I have earned a degree in psychology. The reason why I went for a psychology degree is because I wanted to know why I felt the way I did in Iraq. I now know why I saw Iraq different from people who are let's say 25. Individuals up to the age of 21 do not have a fully formed frontal lobe of the brain. These individuals, which I was, do not fully understand the consequences of death; this is why teens think they are immortal.

While a lot of bad things happened in Iraq, I am glad I went, even though I was not even old enough to vote (and it was an election year, and everyone voted but me), or buy a pack of cigarettes. Deploying to Iraq has defined and shaped me to be the person and Marine I am today. I could never be sorry that I am a Marine, because the Marines are my family.


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    • Alli Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Alli Rose Smith 

      4 years ago from Washington, DC

      Thank you so much.

    • Alli Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Alli Rose Smith 

      4 years ago from Washington, DC

      Thanks do much, it's hard to write stuff like that, but it's cathartic. Thanks for reading!

    • Alli Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Alli Rose Smith 

      4 years ago from Washington, DC

      Thanks, I go to a weekly PTSD support group at the Vets center. The thing that makes it a little weird is I am the only female. I think people, even service personnel have a hard time imagining a 17-year old girl returning fire. But I have the videos and pics to prove it. Plus, I don't know if you can see it, in old pics verses the new ones, I have had 3 plastic surgeries to my eyes and eye lids, after shrapnel pierced the truck. If I hadn't closed my eyes at the moment of impact, I would be for sure blind or dead. I am very blessed.

      Thanks for reading!

    • Alli Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Alli Rose Smith 

      4 years ago from Washington, DC

      Thank you so much for your kind words.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      4 years ago

      Thanks for sharing such a deep personal story of courage. I don't know if I could do what you do. Losing a dear friend is a great sorrow. Glad bless you and keep you.

    • Alli Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Alli Rose Smith 

      4 years ago from Washington, DC

      Thank you, I appreciate your concern the best way to cope with all the trauma is just talking one-on-one with our buddies. But a trauma counselor can help. Thank you so much

    • rebelogilbert profile image

      Gilbert Arevalo 

      4 years ago from Hacienda Heights, California

      Stay strong Allison. It's good you're concerned about mental health. God knows so many enlisted soldiers have suffered from post traumatic stress. I get the impression you would be a great councilor.

    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 

      4 years ago from Philippines

      This is a beautiful and poignant story. Thank you for sharing your precious feelings, thoughts and experience in Iraq. God bless you, keep you strong, and give you a wonderful life.

    • vkwok profile image

      Victor W. Kwok 

      4 years ago from Hawaii

      Thanks for sharing this deep, meaningful story, Alli.

    • sanathara profile image


      4 years ago

      War is always sad..don't have words to express your service and sacrifice..I can feel your sorrow when you had lost your friends.. Waiting for the day when there will be peace everywhere and no war! Interesting Hub!

    • Rhonda Lytle profile image

      Rhonda Lytle 

      4 years ago from Deep in the heart of Dixie

      This was really powerful. I can't imagine even though you explained it so well. I think it's a case of one can only really get if one lives it. I have to say thank you. Thank you for your sacrifice and I'm so sorry for your losses. Freedom only exists through the sacrifices of blood made by you and your fellows. God bless and keep you.

    • clivewilliams profile image

      Clive Williams 

      4 years ago from Jamaica

      Sad....war is always ugly

    • Sandra Eastman profile image

      Sandra Joy Eastman 

      4 years ago from Robbinsdale MN

      My ex was in Nam when he was 20 and it changed his entire life. He was never the same. Too many boys and girls in harms way for my liking. Your service is greatly appreciated. God bless you.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      4 years ago from Southern Illinois

      This was an interesting read. Bless you for your service. I can imagine the horror you've seen, but I know you had to be there to really know how bad it was. Thank you for sharing your story...

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Peace be upon you and in your waken and sleeping dreams. Thank you for your service.


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