Afghanistan, U.S. Marine Corps
Dates of service: 2001- present
[Story edited by Sophie Rand and based on Douglas Webb's letters from March to November, 2011.]
”… if you could only watch the people of my current location walk through one day of life. I have watched these heroes get ignored and put to the side. I have witnessed my heroes’ lives fall apart in front of my eyes.“
-Douglas Webb, March 19, 2011
”In Afghanistan I saw the beginnings of the heroin trade - beautiful red poppy fields. The farmers and their children harvesting in the old fields looked like a idyllic site. How ironic that half my family died from this drug. The biggest memory that stands out is in Iraq, 2003. My section was briefed that the city we were to enter was a friendly city. We left at about 4am I guess to begin traveling to the city. I had not slept in about three days so I was dozing off in my gun turret but struggling to stay alive. I awoke to frantic voices on the radio and when I looked up, all I saw were two huge plumes of black smoke coming from the city. This was the beginning of a horrible day- ‘An Nasiriyah’.
”During my first tour in Afghanistan, I was speaking with a mid-level Taliban Commander who after four days had begun to cooperate. I was sitting with him and my interpreter and I asked him a question about a man that I was looking for. I asked the Commander, ‘If I wanted to pick this man out of a crowd, what distinguishing features would make him stand out?’ The way it was translated was if there were five men standing side by side, how would we know it was the man we were looking for? The Commander replied and simply said, ‘Just call his damn name.’ This caused my interpreter and I to break out in laughter leading to me actually falling on the floor in tears. Ask the right question dammnit.
”I remember right after I walked past the IED that blew me up I fell forward and heard a loud ringing. I looked around and thought this is just like in Saving Private Ryan all slowed down and euphoric. After the smoke cleared and we made our way back to the compound, I looked at my buddy Eric and said, ‘Man, you never feel more alive than when you are almost dead.’ He agreed and was all too familiar with the thought.
”One of the latest and most significant thoughts is at my recently deceased friend, Daygo’s memorial in Herat, Afghanistan. Prior to Daygo getting killed, he would always come by my tent at our base and would be smoking a cigarette and walking our captured dog, Lexi. He would peek in and tell me, “You look ridiculous.” This statement was directed at my ridiculous beard growing awkwardly on my face. During the memorial, all the Marines were paying respects and saying goodbye one final time to Daygo by honoring his shrine, which consisted of a pair of boots under an inverted rifle with a helmet mounted on top of the rifle. I grabbed Daygo’s dog tags that were hanging from the rifle handle and lightly mumbled the last words I would ever say to Daygo, ’Daygo, you look ridiculous.‘“