“The restless children sit and mourn the graves Of those they’ve never seen before. Will they be buried here among the dead? In the silent secret” -Coheed & Cambria

13 years ago, I came to Iraq with zero idea of what to expect. I had just celebrated my 21st birthday on ship, and had just picked up corporal. There really was no social media at the time and my exposure to the news was limited to what I saw in the chow hall. I figured I would be out “hookin’ and jabbin”’ with the Republican Guard in a conflict straight out of the manuals.

I was pretty much, totally wrong…

I found myself in a town called Fallujah. Our MEU was attached to about a billion other Marine and Army units tasked with taking the city back from the insurgency in what would be known as “Operation: Phantom Fury.”

75 days later, the US had suffered 95 killed, 560 wounded, and we had started moving civilians back in. The city was secure once again.


Fast forward to January 2014, ISIS militants seize the city of Fallujah.

At first, this struck a chord deep within my soul. I felt disgusted that the Iraqi military had pretty much given the city over after all of the sacrifice it took to claim the city in the first place. I had always felt that no matter what happened in Iraq, as long as Fallujah thrived, it would all be worth it.

However, in the last two years, I’ve had front row seats to Iraq’s descent into chaos. Blame who you want, but the SOFA didn’t get signed in 2011. In my unsolicited and ultimately meaningless opinion, if you look at it, the VPOTUS was in charge of negotiating that whole ordeal. With the fact that he and the rest of the bosses in DC wanted everyone out of Iraq ASAP, how hard do you think he worked to get that deal struck?

So, the years went by, with Maliki marginalizing the Sunnis and no one in the West really giving a shit.

Now it’s all come to a head again and all of the talking heads on both sides of the aisle are asking a question they are unqualified to answer: “was it all worth it?”

I see a lot of OIF vets hanging their heads and saying that all of their effort and sacrifice is a waste. That because ISIS came to town, set up shop, and is now throwing keggers in the cities we fought in, it was all for nothing.

I took the long way around the barn, but this is the point: what the government of Iraq allowed to happen in its own country, what our government turned a blind eye to the last three years, is NOT our problem. Brothers, this is not a warrior’s concern. WE did what WE were tasked to do. WE succeeded in every endeavor placed on our shoulders by those on high. WE did not hand this ground over to ISIS, we did not lose OUR fight. WE absolutely crushed our enemy and provided at least a little stability in Iraq at the time. The civilians I’ve talked to here appreciate what we did, they remember how life was after the surge and see how it is now. Make no mistake, every mission WE were given was accomplished. That being said, how could it not be worth it? If we had lost it all ourselves, THAT is when we should ask if it was worth it. The failure of the Maliki government is not OUR failure.

Therefore, don’t focus on the failures of others, but instead check your kit, clean your weapons, stretch your hamstrings, and say your prayers. Get ready for the next fight and OUR next victory.


Grifter is the progeny of the Marine Infantry, Reconnaissance, and Private Contracting communities. He also spent some downtime as a Paramedic and a firefighter. He’s and avid reader and a student of life. He’s dedicated his life to finding and promulgating truth in a society which sees only what it wants to see. Over the years, he’s filled passports, made lots of money, rolled his eyes at authority, broken hearts, poked bears, and flown in the face of tradition and status quo. Responsible for such titles as: Veteran Outrage Syndrome, Collateral Damage, and When the Music Stops, Grifter reflects on his observations of the masses with a critical eye towards group-think and identity politics. He currently lives in St. Louis with his wife and two dogs. He is also finishing his last year of school before moving on to become an attorney so he can charge people money to speak to him..and capitalize on a laundry list of personal character flaws. His favorite band is Every Time I Die and he can swim better than you.