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Paying the Price
By Corporal Jesse G. Odom

     My friends back home call me Jesse but to my fellow marines I am Corporal Odom. Over the past two years Americans have been affected by the tragedy that happened on September 11th, 2001, either directly or indirectly. Like all others I have been affected in some way. On March 20th, 2003, I blamed the September 11th terrorist attack directly to the cause of war in Iraq. Like the victims of September 11th, many others paid the price of living in a free country and will remain to do so for many years to come.

     I can still remember every detail; I can smell the burning oil and white phosphorous in the air. I can hear the thunderous explosions from the artillery and my heart beating uncontrollably. I remember the fear of the unknown and fear of the night sky dense with thick smoke. Alpha Company Marines were moving into Iraq in the effort to find weapons of mass destruction. After being the first company in the coalition forces to enter Iraq we were met with a heavy opposing force. We immediately destroyed the enemy tanks and continued fighting through the night toward our first objective, an oil pumping station. As we moved through the oil fields I remember the feeling when I laid my eyes on a dead Iraqi for the first time. Chills ran down my spine as I gazed into the eyes of the mangled man. As the sun came up on the 21st of March we arrived at the pumping station. After bombing around the compound we made our final approach to the fence that surrounded it. We scanned for enemy targets but only saw abandoned military equipment including fully functional weapons of all sorts.

     The Iraqis did not want to fight us. That thought ran through the minds of all of us and poisoned our brains. We were not alert, as before; some of us were too complacent. Just moments later a fellow marine stepped on a land mine and shortly after my Platoon Commander was shot and killed a couple feet from where I stood. Seven if I remember correctly; seven Iraqi soldiers were packed in a pickup truck spraying bullets at us. They moved at least seventy miles an hour. They headed right for us, but we did not just stand there. We returned an overwhelming amount of firepower. The truck still moved; the driver was still alive by some miracle. He came closer and closer. He had ducked down in the seat and amazingly stayed on the road that lay perpendicular to us. I moved behind a wall because I still heard bullets ping off of scrap metal and our assault vehicle. I pulled the trigger a few more times as the bloody truck passed by. Less than a hundred meters after it passed me the vehicle came to a stop. Marines still viciously shot at the stooped truck, but my mind was somewhere else. I yelled, "Get the corpsman" as I ran to him. "He's shot," "Lieutenant Childers has been shot." I got to my knees and began to remove the chemical protective suit and his combat fighting gear. I then saw that he had stopped breathing. I tilted his head back and gave him a breath of air. He started to breathe again on my first try. "Sir your going to be Ok." As I noticed his wound the corpsman arrived to assist me. He had been shot in the stomach. I applied pressure to the oozing wound as the corpsman prepared some gauze. It was at this time Childers would speak his last words on earth. "It hurts" was the words that will haunt me forever. All of a sudden I heard a crack and then another. Machine guns were now going off as another hostile vehicle moved down the same road. We were going to get shot or hit by the vehicle if we did not move. I grabbed Childers by the shoulders and slung him over my back. I ran for cover.

     We were now safe from the car. I looked at Childers and knew he was about to go. His eyes glazed over as a single teardrop came from the corner of his eye. He died a painful death. I was hurt not only because I saw a father type figure go before me, but to see a grown man cry and urinate his pants hit me hard. Childers was the first American to get killed in the war. As we moved to Baghdad I was always wondering who would be the next to get shot or shot and killed. I knew that none of us were immune to death. At any given moment a pull of the trigger could change the life of anyone of us. We all lived in suspense. It would take almost two weeks until the suspense would end.

     Never in my life will I forget the day that death seemed inevitable. Marines in Alpha Company will never forget April 10th, 2003. We were in a firefight for nine hours that resulted in another death and ninety-two marines to get shot or receive shrapnel. A man should never have to kill another but I damn Saddam for putting us in that situation. Should I feel guilty? I was defending my life wasn't I. Will I pay for my in humane act for the rest of my life? I believe I will always feel guilty but I could not have it any other way, otherwise I would have been the victim. As we moved through the streets shooting everything I was put in the situation to kill or be killed. He jumped from around the corner and before I could get off a round he had fired many. If my bullets were not accurate he would have eventually shot me. I remember the panic when he jumped out; I froze for a split second. My heart rushed as I fired the first round and then he fell to the ground. I had a fear that he would get up and try to kill me again so I put several more rounds in his body. When he finally stopped moving I started to feel the feeling that still lies within me.

     Bullets and rockets flew from every direction. Bodies were lying on the street sides. Blood was everywhere. Some of my close friends were shot and another one of my role models was killed before my eyes. Another scene that will haunt my dreams forever. I kept thinking to myself; when will this end? Will I get to see my fiancée again? Before I knew the time had came, we were finished fighting. We did not have to fear death from gun shot wounds anymore. We can now take advantage of all the things we take for granted like hot showers and talking to our loved ones on the telephone. We were back In America. We were fortunate because we only stayed in Iraq for four months and in Kuwait for one month. Some are still over there feeling fear and hopelessness. I can only hope the best for my fellow service members. We have all sacrificed more than anyone could imagine. We have sacrificed our once pure conscience. Americans are concerned for our heroes. Some Americans ask conflicting questions now. How much must we pay? How many American Lives will be lost in order to achieve our goals? Well my answer to them is to ask us troops are we willing to die for our country. The majority would answer yes. The question we need to ask ourselves is losing life in Iraq considered dying for our country. Some will say yes and others will say no.

     Will fighting in Iraq or any other countries prevent another September 11th? I say that is the price we have to pay. Adam Mayblum writer of "The Price We Pay" answered this question best by saying: "If you want to make us stronger, attack and we unite. This is the ultimate failure of terrorism against the United States and the ultimate price we pay to be free"(39). The war in Iraq is proof of these words. We have become stronger, we have united and we are all willing to pay the price of our freedoms. Mayblum writes, ".....Democracy won....."(39), yes democracy did win but remember those who paid the price.

     In reality the war in Iraq is over for me, but emotionally the war will never end. There will be a sight or smell that will bring me back to the battlefield. There will be a picture or word that will bring me back to a conversation with Childers. I should not feel sad, I only feel sad for myself. My friends are in a better place now and I know they got there the way they wanted to. Even knowing this, I still know it was the events on September 11th, 2003, that indirectly caused so many people to die In Iraq. I damn the terrorist for all of the hate, fear and sadness that happened since that day. I need to move on; I need to live my life; I need to finish college to become an officer in the military so I can strive to be the officer Childers was.


Corporal Jesse G. Odom