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Saturday, November 06, 2004

US Marines of the 1st Division line up prior to a prayer

US Marines of the 1st Division line up prior to a prayer at their base outside Fallujah, Iraq Saturday, Nov. 6 , 2004. More than 10,000 U.S. troops have taken positions around the rebel-controlled city of Fallujah, bolstering the U.S. Marine units expected to lead a joint Army-Marine assault on the city. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)


Marines turn to God ahead of anticipated Fallujah battle
Sat Nov 06 2004 09:37:17 ET

NEAR FALLUJAH, Iraq, Nov 6 (AFP) - With US forces massing outside Fallujah, 35 marines swayed to Christian rock music and asked Jesus Christ to protect them in what could be the biggest battle since American troops invaded Iraq last year.

Men with buzzcuts and clad in their camouflage waved their hands in the air, M-16 assault rifles laying beside them, and chanted heavy metal-flavoured lyrics in praise of Christ late Friday in a yellow-brick chapel.

They counted among thousands of troops surrounding the city of Fallujah, seeking solace as they awaited Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's decision on whether or not to invade Fallujah.

"You are the sovereign. You're name is holy. You are the pure spotless lamb," a female voice cried out on the loudspeakers as the marines clapped their hands and closed their eyes, reflecting on what lay ahead for them.

The US military, with many soldiers coming from the conservative American south and midwest, has deep Christian roots.

In times that fighting looms, many soldiers draw on their evangelical or born-again heritage to help them face the battle.

"It's always comforting. Church attendance is always up before the big push," said First Sergeant Miles Thatford.

"Sometimes, all you've got is God."

Between the service's electric guitar religious tunes, marines stepped up on the chapel's small stage and recited a verse of scripture, meant to fortify them for war.

One spoke of their Old Testament hero, a shepherd who would become Israel's king, battling the Philistines some 3,000 years ago.

"Thus David prevailed over the Philistines," the marine said, reading from scripture, and the marines shouted back "Hoorah, King David," using their signature grunt of approval.

The marines drew parallels from the verse with their present situation, where they perceive themselves as warriors fighting barbaric men opposed to all that is good in the world.

"Victory belongs to the Lord," another young marine read.

Their chaplain, named Horne, told the worshippers they were stationed outside Fallujah to bring the Iraqis "freedom from oppression, rape, torture and murder ... We ask you God to bless us in that effort."

The marines then lined up and their chaplain blessed them with holy oil to protect them.

"God's people would be annointed with oil," the chaplain said, as he lightly dabbed oil on the marines' foreheads.

The crowd then followed him outside their small auditorium for a baptism of about a half-dozen marines who had just found Christ.

The young men lined up and at least three of them stripped down to their shorts.

The three laid down in a rubber dinghy filled with water and the chaplain's assistant, Navy corpsman Richard Vaughn, plunged their heads beneath the surface.

Smiling, Vaughn baptised them "in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit."

Dripping wet, Corporal Keith Arguelles beamed after his baptism.

"I just wanted to make sure I did this before I headed into the fight," he said on the military base not far from the city of Fallujah.


- "Serving God and Supporting Our Troops"

A Letter Down From Heaven
"The Heart of an American Soldier Who's in Heaven Now"
A Special Dedication to Lance Corporal Richard Slocum, who lost his life in Iraq on October 24, 2004
By: Norma E. Wright, Copyright 2004,,

I'm living up in Heaven now; this soldier made it home,
The scenery here is beautiful and I am not alone.

For I am now surrounded by the angels of the Lord,
And living in a mansion that the wealthy can't afford.

But just before I made it in, I walked through gates of pearl,
God's messengers had welcomed me into my brand new world.

And as I walked in through the gates, they greeted me by name,
They said, "You are a soldier and the Lord is glad you came".

"He saw you on the battlefield, the bloodshed and the wounds",
"And God said you were coming so we then prepared more room".

You must know I was overwhelmed at what the angels said,
For there I was in Heaven and my earthly body dead.

But mourn for me no more because I'm happy as can be,
I died to give you freedom; now the Lord has made me free.

And I do not regret the day I bled and died for you,
For I'm a U. S. Soldier; to this country I am true.

Much pain that I endured was long forgotten at the gate,
I suffered not in vain for you and the United States.

The ones who went before me and the ones who'll go one day,
Will not remember battle scars when they have seen God's face.

Our country's worth the fighting and was surely worth my death,
For we were called America to stand out from the rest.

Don't take this life for granted for my death has guaranteed,
That you can live as many can't, to live as you believe.

Support the ones I left behind, they'll fight at the command,
For next to God, they're your best friend, to lend a helping hand.

But really they're not lending, for in all they do they give,
And take attacks and shed their blood, so you, my friend, may live.

So if you're not a soldier, keep a soldier in your prayers,
A soldier needs to know that you're supporting them out there.

For dusty are the battlefields and hot is blazing sun,
But great is your reward when every soldier's race is run.

So be content and know that I am walking streets of gold,
And listening to the angels sing, and safe within God's fold.

My friend, this place is wonderful, a place I can't describe,
And I'll be waiting here for you the day that you arrive.

Now don't forget my soldier friends, as they must carry on,
Until the day their work is done and God has called them home.

I'm glad that I am with the Lord, for He makes life worth living,
Just know a soldier sent to you a letter down from Heaven.

- "Serving God and Supporting Our Troops"

Loris Man Answers Battle Cry

Editors Note: This is the second part of a two part series detailing Lance Cpl. Shaun Suggs' service in Iraq.
It was still dark outside when Lance Cpl. Shaun Suggs and his unit embarked on the long trip through the desert.
Leaving the Kuwait-Iraq border at 5 a.m., the Loris native clenched his .50 caliber machine gun as he surveyed the vast Iraqi landscape, a desolate expanse of sun baked sand and sporadic vegetation.
Suggs maintained his composure as he and detachments from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) began their 20-hour trek to Kasul, Iraq.
At first the trip began uneventfully, with his convoy successfully passing through two checkpoints, pausing to refuel at each one.
But after the second stop, tranquility soon gave way to turmoil when a group of mock Iraqi militants apparently started shelling Suggs' unit with mortar rounds in a live fire simulation.
"About 10 miles down the road, we started getting fire," Suggs said in a July 29, 2003 letter to his father, John Suggs. "There were a lot of them."
One of the attackers made a beeline for Lance Cpl. Suggs and the truck he was riding in. Torn between duty and adrenaline, duty took over.
"I was most concerned about the car that was coming right for the convoy, so I lit him up," Suggs wrote. "I shot about 25 rounds off the turret and blew him all to hell."
The live fire exercise helped prepare the 21-year-old officer for what lay ahead.
Within 30 minutes of arriving in Kasul, the Iraqis attacked again. This time, the explosions were real.
Suggs' base camp was shelled by 40 mm rounds, about 10 of them, for several minutes.
Over the next two weeks, the mortar rounds persisted at regular intervals. In each attack, the Loris native escaped unscathed.
For his actions in those engagements, Suggs was awarded with a combat action ribbon (C.A.R.). It's a feat that carries special meaning for the Loris native.
"I got my C.A.R., first one in the family," Suggs wrote to his father. "Tell everyone I said 'hey' and I love them.
"Don't be worrying about me either, Dad," he continued. "I will be fine."
Lance Cpl. Suggs' account to his father was relayed during his first tour of duty in Iraq, which ended later that summer. He's now in the middle of his second tour.
The 21-year-old combat engineer mainly performs reconnaissance missions and is an expert at detecting and defusing landmines and explosives.
He completed five mine clearing missions during his first tour, locating and removing more than 4,100 live rounds from tanks and 155 mm Howitzer turrets.
About two months ago, he was also part of a team that captured two Iraqi militants and confiscated a large weapons cache, Suggs said during a telephone interview last week.
Speaking from his base camp in Iraq, Suggs said the mission started as a routine search of an Iraqi home, but the circumstances suddenly changed when its occupants opened fire.
"We went in and started receiving small arms fire," he said. "From that point, we went in and [captured them]."
The work didn't stop there.
"We had sweep teams with mine detectors and swept the area, trying to pick up any kind of ammunition," Suggs said. cont

Loris Scene
Iraq War News
Palestinian prime minister visits Gaza: "Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia made a rare visit to the Gaza Strip on Saturday for talks with rival Palestinian groups aimed at preserving calm in the face of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's dire condition."

In Seattle Post-Intelligencer: War on Iraq

Rebel attacks in Samarra kill 33: "At least 33 people are killed in multiple car bomb attacks in Samarra, as US forces bombard Falluja."

In BBC: Conflict with Iraq

20 killed in insurgent attack in Iraq: "Insurgents set off at least two car bombs and attacked a police station Saturday in the central Iraqi town of Samarra, killing at least 20 people and wounding 23 in what could be an effort to take pressure off Fallujah."

In Seattle Post-Intelligencer: War on Iraq

Convoy Attack Wounds 20 U.S. Marines in Iraq (Reuters): "Reuters - An attack on a U.S. military convoy wounded 20 Marines in western Iraq on Saturday, a Marine spokesman said."

In Yahoo! News: Iraq

Iraq's Falluja Finds Devastation After U.S. Raids (Reuters): "Reuters - The fiercest U.S. air and artillery bombardment of Falluja in months destroyed a hospital, a medical warehouse and dozens of homes overnight, residents said on Saturday."

In Yahoo! News: Iraq

At least 33 dead as fourth car bomb rocks Samarra: hospital, police (AFP): "AFP - At least 33 people were killed and 48 wounded, including a local police chief, as four car bombs and clashes rocked the restive Iraqi city of Samarra, north of Baghdad, medics and police said."

In Yahoo! News: Iraq

Prepping For Fallujah Fight: "Troops were massing, and rehearsing, even as U.S. planes continued to pound suspected insurgent targets. Elsewhere, 20 U.S. servicemen were hurt in Ramadi. And at least 20 Iraqis were killed and some two dozen injured by rebel assaults in Samarra."

In CBS News: Iraq Crisis

U.S. Bombs Rain on Falluja, Rebels Attack in Samarra: "U.S. forces poised to assaultFalluja bombarded the rebel stronghold on Saturday, whileinsurgents launched deadly attacks that killed 34 people inSamarra, another city in Iraq's Sunni Muslim heartland. (Reuters)"

In Yahoo! News: War with Iraq