A Marine's Letter From Iraq

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Sept. 9, 2004 12:33 p.m.

During the six weeks I was embedded with the Marines in Iraq last March and April, I met some incredibly impressive guys and made some lasting friendships.  One of the guys I've kept in touch with is Major Tom West, a Marine Reservist and a Beverly Hills Police Officer when he's not on active duty.  He went home to California late last summer, but went back to Iraq for another tour early this year.  He writes to friends and family on a regular basis with a "sitrep," or situation report, on how things are going for him and his Marines.

Tom is coming back to the States, and just sent out his final sitrep.  He gave me his permission to reprint it here:


Hello everyone, it has been awhile since I have put out a sitrep so I thought I would send out one final report. My team and I are doing very well and we are currently just waiting to get out of Iraq and on a plane headed home. Right now we are at a large camp outside of Fallujah. We left Camp Iskandariyah on the 3rd, after completing our turnover with Capt. Wright and his team from 4th CAG. We were busy up to the final days, orienting the new team leader and making our last rounds throughout the AO. The turnover was very thorough and complete, and it was very good to hand over all the current issues to Capt. Wright. It was so good leaving and starting the process to head home.

The last week we were at the camp, the place got mortared five days in a row. During one of those barrages, before we got our own concrete mortar bunker, my team and I were huddled up against a building, trying to make ourselves as small as possible. The rounds were coming in too fast to make the 30-meter dash to the nearest bunkers, so we hit the deck. The enemy mortar team was dialed in and they were walking the rounds across the base. Unfortunately, the rounds were getting closer and closer to us. As the detonations approached I was laying face down in the dirt, thinking about the odds of a mortar round landing close and ending everything. You feel helpless as the mortar rounds land since there is nothing you can do. For two deployments in Iraq, it was the first time I was really scared that my luck would not hold and I caught myself shaking. It was a moment I will never forget and it really reminded me what is important in life.

Fortunately our luck did not run out and the mortar attack passed. The next day we got a concrete bunker of our own and we soon reinforced it with sandbags and even seats inside. It was quite comfortable as far as bunkers go and we used it several times afterward.

The last weeks outside of the wire went smooth. Patrols from BLT 1/2 got hit occasionally, but we somehow missed the IED's and the ambushes. One patrol was hit on a route we had previously taken not more than few hours before. Looking back and considering how many missions we went on, I think we were charmed somehow.

Many Iraqis were sad to see us go and wished that we would return soon. We accomplished a lot, but there is so much more that needs to be done. The Iraqis have experienced more positive change than they have seen in 30 years, but they want more and they are very impatient, as most free people are. They do not understand how a nation as rich as ours cannot change things for everyone. Most are very ignorant and are easily swayed by the politics of the Middle East. The violence ebbs and flows, and each time it rises, it is less than the last time, but it will not go away. There are so many complex relationships between tribes, religions, political parties, and the rich and the poor that need to be worked out. Add in the "Inshallah" attitude so many Iraqis (and Arabs) have and you get one huge mess. The end result is not going to be exactly what we picture, but at least we are headed in the right direction. This struggle between Islam and the West is very real, and something has to be done about it. I praise President Bush for tackling the problems head-on and being a leader who will address the issues now and not later, but there is no simple fix, no silver bullet. I wish I had the answer, but I do know that doing something is better than doing nothing. And to blow this off to another generation would be a huge mistake.
Enough rambling. These days waiting to go home have been wonderful. There is actually a pool here and fully functional showers with potable water. We are sleeping on mattresses in a room chilled by a very effective A/C. The chow hall is outstanding and there are three gyms. It has been a great opportunity for some decompression.

The day before yesterday though three MEDEVAC helicopters flew in, one after another, a grim reminder that even as my team and I prepare to depart Iraq the war continues. It will continue until the Iraqi's get their elections and the new government takes charge. I am proud of my Marines and of their contributions and sacrifices. We are all proud of the fact that we participated in a monumental event in our nation's history.

Thanks again for all of the love and support. There is no way we could have done it without all that you provided. We talked about home and the important things in life on a daily basis and shared stories of home all of the time. We are all looking to getting home and enjoying what is really important.

Thanks for everything and Semper Fi!

Hi Rick

Hope you got some well deserved sleep. Like everyone else I am huge FOX Fan ........love your bits with Shepo!

The other day I was watching you on TV and said, "Hey it's Rick and, look he is clean!" And just started to laugh.

Good Job Rick.............we need more RICK TV!

Hugs from Nevada


I am a smoker. I know how we get. However, no craving can substantiate getting behind the wheel in a category 3 Hurricane to get a pack of smokes.

With Warm Regards,


I have been keeping up with you on FOX News for quite some time now.  I think the coverage of Hurricane Frances has been impeccable.  But what I really wanted to say is that when the War in Iraq started you were there from the start and I watched you every day, you are an excellent person with a big heart and I just wanted to say thanks!! Way to go.
Ana in Atlanta

Thanks for your GREAT!!!! coverage on the hurricane!!! I have turned all my friends & family on to FOX News! They're hooked now! You did make us feel safe, informed and the humor was the most important. I loved watching Geraldo broadcast sideways..(lol) ha ha ha! It was nice also that everyone's family had the extra comfort to know they could constantly keep tabs on their familes in a small way.

— Audra (Clearwater, FL)

Love every broadcast .. from Iraq to Florida.. Awesome and inspiring to see someone tell it like it is.
I only watch FOX for the news anyway because of the fair broadcasting and you have given me another reason to tune in. Love it :) thank you so much.. Keep up the Great work.
Terena, Louisiana

Hi Rick,
Thank you so so so much for the coverage from Ft Lauderdale to Stuart Fl.  I am in Tennessee and a Faithful Fox Fan/ and a lot of my family are in Stuart, Ft Lauderdale area, and I was so happy you were there and brought us live coverage.

FOX & Rick friend for life!
Cinde Lee in Tennessee/tell Stuart & Florida we are praying for them!!!!

Rick- A big fan of FOX. We watched your coverage as you rode into Iraq (with a fellow Air Guardsman). My girlfriend and I awaited your segments, especially you and Shep ribbing eachother. You bring back the credibility the press deserves. Good luck and "Good on ya" (Air Force Term).
— Pete (Clinton, MS)

I want to thank you for your recent hurricane coverage in Florida.  I can't explain why, but watching you and your fellow reporters out there during the storm was comforting while branches flew past our windows and bounced off the roof.  You've done a wonderful job keeping us informed and glued to our TVs.  Thanks to your reporting, I now know that it's a horrible idea to go out for batteries and cigarettes while a hurricane is bearing down on the area.
PS - If Geraldo does give you the dashing yellow jumpsuit he wore during Frances, I would love to see you put that on.  Humor is always a welcome relief when you're consumed with thoughts like, "is my roof going to fly off?", and "how long before that tree falls on my car?"


Have you ever considered a safer line of work,  such as chasing Tornados across Oklahoma and Kansas?
Paul in Florida  (a displaced Oklahoma native)

It's refreshing to see someone reporting on the hurricane down here who doesn't look like a complete a** like every other local network. Ever since Andrew, we've been bombarded with non-stop local broadcasts of any storm, and most of the time, the coverage is redundant and frankly, comical.  FOX's coverage was much better than the local stations. You were able to give relevant and pertinent information that was worth watching instead of turning off.
You may as well stay in Florida to cover Ivan next week...hopefully that won't be the case but I'm keeping my shutters up.  Keep up your rambles - I'm usually at work when you're on the air, so it's the only way to "see" your commentary.
— Annmarie (Miami, FL)


By, the way... my family LOVES you!  We have since the Iraqi War began. Every time you came on it was like an 'old friend' had come on T.V. with everyone saying "Rick's on!"
Thanks for all you do.
Sherrie (Hurricane Hugo survivor too!)
Charleston, SC