May 5, 2008

An eternal question 

The question that I think most Marines ask when they are awarded something for valor (or for any other reason, I suppose) is "do I deserve it?" Most will staunchly maintain that they were just doing their job. But many times, they are not the best judges of their own worthiness.

One such Staff Sergeant, who was part of my 2005 MEU, was acknowledged for his actions during Operation Steel Curtain. And he posed that very question to another Marine - the reporter.
"Now you tell me; do I deserve it?"

This is a serious question following a sincere conversation, but to understand its weight, you have to understand the context. It's May 15, 2007, and I'm sitting on a metal picnic bench across from Staff Sgt. Logan Cortes. Let's just say his doubt has begun to set in.

Two hours prior, he was presented with the Bronze Star with combat distinguishing device for actions Nov. 16, 2005, during Operation Iraqi Freedom in Anbar province with 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine regiment, then making up the battalion landing team for the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable).

At this point, the interview is almost over and the story has been laid bare; I have most of the general facts of what happened in New Ubaydi on that day during Operation Steel Curtain.

I'm going over the story again in my mind when Cortes repeats his question.

"Do I deserve it?"

He's talking about the medal. His Bronze Star.

This is a fairly heavy question to pose to a lance corporal who's never seen actual combat.

I think about it, and the evidence, and my reply takes less than two seconds to surface.

Yes. You do, staff sergeant.

And after a short pause, I explain why.

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