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Making a difference

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- President Ronald Reagan once said, "Some people spend their entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference. The Marines don't have that problem."

When I was younger I always toyed with the thought of joining the military. On Sept. 11, upon returning home from school I turned on the news and all I saw were people all around the world cheering and burning American flags. That's when it hit me and I knew I was going to be a Marine. Two years later I joined the Marine Corps not really knowing what I would be a part of, all I knew is I wanted to make a difference in the world.

I was sent to Aviation Radar Repairman School at Twenty-nine Palms, Calif. Upon graduating I was sent here, to Marine Air Control Squadron 23.

At first I didn't think I would be making much of a difference just working on radars, until our group commander came to our unit and asked for volunteers to go to Iraq. I was one of the first to raise my hand and volunteer.

After four months of extensive training with the 4th Civil Affairs Group in Washington, D.C., I found myself in Iraq. My team consisted of a captain, gunnery sergeant, staff sergeant, corpsman, and three lance corporals. We worked along with Army infantry and civil affairs units to conduct our missions in the city of Ramadi. My team worked with Sheikh Sattar who was a very influential leader in the Al Anbar providence of Iraq to create what is now referred to as the Anbar Awakening.

The Anbar Awakening was a gathering of Sheikhs from all over Iraq who chose to work with the U.S. to oust Al Qaeda from the Al Anbar province. I never knew how big the Anbar Awakening really was until I got home from that deployment. One day while watching the news, President George W. Bush came on the TV and talked about the Anbar Awakening and how much it was affecting the fight in Iraq. Just listening to that speech gave me chills because I finally realized I made a difference in the world.

Last July I deployed with MACS-23 to Al Asad, Iraq. On this deployment I was performing my primary duty as an Aviation Radar Repairman. This deployment was much different from my first tour because my primary focus was radar maintenance.

Around the base you could tell that the combat operational tempo had decreased significantly. One day while reading the Marine Corps Times, I came across an article discussing that Marines were conducting patrols without their body armor and helmet. This came as a surprise to me because only two years earlier we would never think about doing that. Within a short time frame the Al Anbar province had turned around completely because of the Anbar Awakening that I was a part of.

Eight years ago when the events of Sept. 11 transpired, I was wondering what I could do for my country to make a difference. Little did I know then, that eight years later the fight in Iraq would change my life completely. Even the little things that we are a part of can make a big difference.