On Feb. 13, 2010, Marines assaulted the Taliban hub of Marjah in Southern Afghanistan in what an effort coalition leaders would title Operation Moshtarak, from an Afghan Dari word meaning "together," or "joint." The attack would be the largest military operation since the start of the war in Afghanistan had begun nine years earlier. before. It would take longer than expected and take a greater toll in casualties than anticipated.
it would be more costly.
According to a tally compiled by Marjahveterans.com, some 78 U.S. and British troops would lose their lives in Marjah and in support of Operation Moshtarak. But the operation would also be a success: The Coalition forces ultimately flushed out insurgents from their stronghold and returned greater safety and stability to the region's population.
From the Battle of Marjah also came one of the Marine Corps' greatest stories of heroism out of Afghanistan. Medically retired Marine Cpl. Kyle Carpenter would receive the Medal of Honor for throwing himself on a grenade to shielding a friend and fellow Marine from the blast an enemy grenade while deployed to Marjah during the 2010 Marjah assault.
On the five-year anniversary of the launch of Operation Moshtarak, Carpenter addressed a group of several hundred Marjah veterans at the National Museum of the Marine Corps. Here, as accurately transcribed as possible from a recording, is his deeply moving and personal speech.
"With this short amount of time I have to speak to you tonight, I couldn't possibly sum up the historical battle of Marjah.
I am comforted, though, by the fact that the men in this room don't need a summary because you were right there beside me. You felt the incredible heat of a 100 percent humidity day and the cool waters of a muddy canal. You felt the weight of 100 pounds of gear, ammo and water at your back, the weight of knowing as Marines we are and forever will be the first line of defense for our loved ones, our nation and above all, freedom.
I stand here today extremely proud of you all. I'm proud of the job you did in the face of what most cannot even fathom. I am more than honored to call you friends, fellow Marines and brothers. You stand as an example for others and for what's best for not only our nation but the rest of the world.
The United States military member is a beacon of hope in dark places for suffering people around the world. Many have paid the ultimate sacrifice. Many gave their limbs to help people have lives free of oppression and full of freedom and prosperity.
Even though there are dark days and have been dark days since our deployment, and long nights, remember what Gen. [George S.] Patton said: 'It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died; rather, we should thank God that such men lived.'
Be proud of who you are. Be proud of what you did in that country. You are alive today and have been blessed with this opportunity of life. Don't waste it. Live a life worth living, full of meaning and purpose, and one that will make the fallen who are looking down on us proud.
For the families of the fallen, Blue Star families, active duty families, retired, and all military families and service members, I thank you for your service. You don't hear enough, 'I appreciate your sacrifice and what you go through here at home or half a world away deployed.'
To everyone here tonight, I thank you for having me. I'm extremely honored to stand in front of you and I'm very humbled that you wanted me to speak to you here tonight.
Marines, I'm proud to have worn the same uniform as you.
Never forget that when no one else would raise their right hand, you did. You sacrificed and became part of our nation's history and our Marine Corps legacy for taking part in the historical battleground of Marjah. Thank you so much. I really do appreciate it."
[Carpenter left the podium, but returned a moment later.]
"I really struggled with the idea that I would, not have to, but most likely be encouraged to wear my medal. And I say struggled because, let me just say that I don't want to wear this. I don't like wearing this.
But I do because, you know, if I can inform one person of what we do and what we're about, or what we sacrificed over there, I do it for that. I wear it for all of you.
And I just hope that you know that no matter where I'm wearing it, it's not because I want to. It's putting on a good face, trying to attach something good to the Marine Corps, to contribute and help people understand our side of life, what we go through, what we're about. And everything we've done from past generations until now, the great job we've done to keep our freedom, to keep our men alive.
So I wore it tonight for you. Feel free to come up after and touch it, whatever you like. It's your medal."