Dateline 0500Z: It was a dark, stormy night. The seas were a sea state two (moderate swells in open ocean). We launched from ship and headed to the Beach Landing Site (BLS). Fifteen Rigid Raiders screaming towards shore from over the horizon. We were approximately 20 miles from shore and following a compass in what I believe to be the roughest ride of my life in pitch black night at 4700 rpms (roughly 25 to 30 miles per hour). We had a time hack to meet.

Roughly four hours later (and even longer and sicker for the troops) we arrived just 1000 meters off shore. We slowly set up a cover in the event we got ambushed and started moving onto the beach. The first wave conducted a recon of the surf zone and BLS. We received the all clear and moved in. The assault and support waves moved in. We got all the boats turned around for a quick egress and carried out our mission. Roughly two hours later, the first explosion went off. The enemy lost their radar and their barracks were being cleared. It was over in a matter of seconds. There were a few fire fights, but fortunately our group was spared. The entire raid was a success. We completed our mission. We headed out!!! Back to the boats and counting heads. "All accounted for." The shock of our raid completely took the enemy by surprise and demoralized them. They didn't know what had happened and all of a sudden we were gone and they were blind.

We made it back to our boats and pulled out. As we got a few miles out to safety and out of range of enemy fire, we got head counts again. We were now missing two Marines.

Dammit, we never, NEVER leave our own behind!!! I emptied my boat and one other belonging to one of my outstanding Corporal's, and headed back ... full throttle. Daylight was breaking as the sun seemed like it wanted to come out. We didn't have much darkness left for cover or protection. Time was crucial.

As we were approaching land, I saw two objects in the water. I also saw an enemy patrol on the beach. We headed towards the objects in the water and saw that they were my two missing Marines who decided to drop back in case we needed cover. Go figure!!! We retrieved them and hauled a-- out of there. The enemy was taking pot-shots at us, but we escaped harm's way once again.

The seas were calm now, and we enjoyed a very fast ride back to ship. While we were enroute to the ship we saw the helicopter squadron carrying Marines to their objective. I thought to myself that they would never know that their lives depended on our success. Good enough for me. The the enemy was blind without any sort of radar to detect the in-bound helos. By the time they landed the enemy would only have enough time to change their underwear.

As we caught sight of the ship, we saw loaded amtraks dropping into the water heading to the beach. I knew at that moment I would sleep a little easier knowing that we did a damn good job. A symphony, so to speak. A Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) operating in harmony.

I know one thing: I am proud of the Marine that I was, and still am.

I look back at the days when I was a Marine and wonder to myself if operations have changed much. I know one thing: I am proud of the Marine that I was, and still am. For, once a Marine -- always a Marine! I hold my head high and say, "that's right, I was a Marine."

"That's right, I served this country and would have given my life for it." More importantly, I would have given my life for my fellow Marines! And, I have come close more than once! Semper Fi, Marines and ooooooooooooo-raaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh!!!

Semper Fi!