Thursday, February 15, 2007

What hath Murtha wrought?

John Murtha: NO WORSE ENEMY!
Justin Sharratt - My Son
by Darryl Sharratt

I am the father of L/Cpl Justin Sharratt. On August16th, 2003 the dreams of a little boy became reality. My son Justin enlisted in the United States Marine Corps after high school graduation. Since the age of six, Justin dreamed of a military career. The combat boots, camouflage fatigues and helmet he wore as a child would soon become his uniform of the day as a United States Marine. To serve and protect the United States of America from all enemies both domestic and foreign; a duty he did not take lightly.

Justin’s first combat tour of duty was the city of Fallujah, Iraq. It was here, in the heat of the Iraqi desert, a boy became a man. Sharratt, Stone, Mitchell, Stevens and Wolf soon became ‘brothers by different mothers.’ In a battle known as “Hell House” they fought toe to toe with Iraqi insurgents bent on the destruction of U. S. Marines. They formed a bond forged in the furnace of combat; a bond that will last a lifetime. Semper Fidelis.

Upon his return from Iraq Justin joined us while on leave. He was transformed into the man all fathers dream and hope they will be. While on leave, Justin broke his ankle and was put on medical leave. It was at this time I realized what it meant to him to be an infantry rifleman, a grunt. He stared me in the eyes and said “Dad, all I want to do is get my ankle healed. I have to return to Iraq with 3-1 Kilo Company. The guys are counting on me to cover their six and I will never let them down.” Discussion ended—my son the warrior.

The city of Haditha, Iraq was the destination of 3-1 Kilo Company on Justin’s second deployment. Known to be a hot bed of Iraqi insurgency, the Marines of 3-1 Kilo Company could only envision what to expect. Seasoned from their tour in Fallujah, most of the Marines were on their second Operation Iraqi Freedom deployment, many their third. They were experienced combat veterans, drilled on the Rules of Engagement yet sensitive to their alien environment and the Iraqi populace.

On November 19, 2005, a convoy of four Marine humvees was ambushed on a city street in Haditha. A massive IED explosion ripped the fourth humvee in the column apart. One Marine was killed and two were seriously wounded. 3rd platoon, 3-1 Kilo Company, my son’s unit, was now in a firefight for their lives. There was no time for rage or revenge. Justin needed to apply his Marine Corps training and experience to preserve the lives of his fellow Marines. All the Marines in 3rd platoon responded in like manner- to preserve the lives of fellow Marines. Reinforcements were called in and an ambulance was needed to attend the wounded. Marines were positioned to defend their precarious position and a comm link was established to FOB Sparta. All done in the best of Marine Corps tradition and training while taking enemy fire.

In the aftermath of this engagement, 24 Iraqis were killed. A U.S. Congressman has called these Marines murderers. Time magazine has enlisted the propaganda of foreign journalists to sell its political agenda. Iraqi civilians have been schooled in making false statements. An Iraqi girl missed a day of school because she was afraid the bomb blast would injure her. Interesting reading, but I truly believe the American people can see through this barrage of media conjecture. I ask you not to prejudge my son, not to prejudge these Marines. They have served this country with honor, truth and diligence. I say unto you. the Few, the Proud, the Marines………..

War is a tragic thing. The enemy we are fighting has had centuries to prepare. They wear no uniforms, fight by no Rules of Engagement or follow the Geneva Convention. Using civilians as human shields is a common practice and their hatred for non-Islamic cultures is endemic.

The United States government has taken 12 months and spent millions of dollars and countless man-hours investigating the Haditha engagement. On December 21st, 2006, four NCOs and four officers were charged with violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. My son, LCpl Justin Sharratt faces three counts of unpremeditated murder. This is not the forum to discuss these charges but my son stands strong in the fact he followed the Rules of Engagement, protected his fellow Marines and did nothing wrong. All of these men are innocent of these charges. In the aftermath of 9-11, these men have risen to honorably serve their country. Some have given a lifetime of dedicated service, others were just beginning. They have demonstrated to the world there is “No better friend, No worse enemy” than a U.S. Marine.

For now, the handshakes will be tighter, the hugs will be longer and the tears sliding down my face are not a sign of weakness- they affirm a father’s love for his Marine son.

Darryl Sharratt Canonsburg, Pa.
Never forget. Always remember.