By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
The men are conscious. The surgeons make their rounds. Among them are other wounded. A sergeant with an arm shattered by bullets; he's got two kids, he's going through a divorce back home in South Carolina. Another from West Philadelphia with flash burns to his eyes has almost a decade in the Marine Corps, with deployments to Somalia and East Timor. He only hopes he can stay in for life. Along with Weemer and Carlisle, there are two other 3/1 Marines. All of them were injured south of Balad, in Fallujah, less than a week after Nazario's team cleared the house along Phase Line Henry. An officer stands over them in pressed fatigues; they're shirtless, covered in drab wool blankets. He says to them, "All right, you know the Marine Corps way. Tell the story. Tell your story."
Weemer speaks. He's been off the battlefield in Fallujah for less than 24 hours.
You see enough stuff it's kind of like one big day,he begins. We were clearing buildings around a block, and [there were] three guys waiting inside for us in one of the houses. My team went inside.Weemer and his fellow soldiers burst through a door and found a fighter, alone. First guy was just kind of sitting in the corner. I think he was pretty stunned that we came in there ... We got him before he fired off a round. And went into the next room. By this time, I had a jam in my M-16 so I had my 9 mil ... There was a guy back in the corner just spraying an AK back and forth at me and my teammate. I shot 15 rounds out of my 9 mil at him. He had body armor and Kevlar — or some sort of helmet. All 15 rounds and he still didn't fall. I went back to the first room to get reloaded and I saw the guy fall in the doorway. So he finally did go down though.Weemer's team had to clear each room of the house, so they made their way toward the second floor. Got to the top. There was a guy up there. Shot down with an AK. And that's when I got peppered on my right leg. And, uh, that was it for me.
Weemer, who is Carlisle's fire-team leader, had surprised his friends and family back home in Hindsboro, Illinois, when he enlisted. He'd graduated at the top of his class at Oakland High School, was homecoming king and wrote poetry. The expectation was that he'd go to Eastern Illinois University to follow his interest in psychology and philosophy. Instead, he joined the Marine Corps, studied Close Quarters Combat.
I was looking for an adventure. Thrill, he says. Something.He says he has seven-and-a-half months left in his enlistment. Not sure whether he'll re-enlist. Or if he can.
Lance Corporal Carlisle speaks next. He used to be a carpenter, and is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He is from Tremonton, Utah, a 5,000-person town 15 miles south of the Great Salt Lake. Carlisle tells me he likes pingpong. He recalls his experience going into the same house with Weemer: I'm point man. I went in with me and my team. We rushed in and there was a guy sitting there with an AK. And so we lit him up. And then there were some more people inside the house. So we, uh, went to clear the next room and my team leader ran in and I ran in and we lit up another guy and he came running back in. So we went down the hallway again. Then we threw a grenade in there and we both rushed the room again. And as I rushed the room, one of the guys came out [of] the rooms and started firing. So I shot him. Killed him, but in the process he shot me in the femur. And then I sat there. The leg is broken. So. I sat there in the hallway ... I believe one of the guys upstairs was either reloading or preparing a grenade or something. But, uh, in that process he threw a grenade and it blew up about 10 feet from me. And, uh, it didn't harm me at all. And, after that, the guy upstairs just left again and I tried crawling over to Corporal Sanchez, where he reached out, he grabbed me, pulled me in that room ... But they couldn't get me out because we were basically pinned down.A Marine died, Carlisle explains, and several more were wounded in coordinating his rescue.
I am struck by how plainly both Weemer and Carlislerecount killing their enemy. So I ask Carlisle how he felt, as a Mormon, about killing the fighter that he "lit up." Carlisle considers the question. He wasn't a good person, he says, so I don't feel bad for him. Carlisle thinks about the future. 3/1's due back in January, he says. And I was gonna go snowboarding. Before he got shot, he'd been fighting for four days. To him it seemed more like a week. I seen a buddy go down, he remembers. First day was intense.