The Hartford Courant  

FALLUJAH, Iraq -- Most of the Marines don't
seem to need a reason to be here beyond the fact
that they are Marines, and this is where the war is.
Most say their goal here is to make sure the other
guys in Charlie Company get home safe.

But dig deeper, and many of the Marines -- who all
volunteered for this -- reveal a true belief in the
big-picture mission. They have come in response
to the 9/11 attacks, and they are here to kill
terrorists so those terrorists won't hit America
again.

It doesn't matter how many books and articles have
been written to eat away the Bush administration's
claim that Saddam Hussein played host to Al
Qaeda. It doesn't matter that the terrorists who
attacked on Sept. 11, 2001, were not from Iraq, but
mostly from Saudi Arabia, America's Middle East
ally.

Many of the Marines believe that even if Saddam
didn't harbor terrorists, he was willing and able to.
And anyway, the Iraqi extremists and the foreign
fighters in Fallujah amount to pretty much the
same kind of people as those 9/11 terrorists, in
their thinking.

"Maybe Saddam was going to help them. Maybe
he wasn't," says Sgt. Jason Elsdon from Terryville.
But what he knows is Al Qaeda is "dead set on
fighting Americans," so it might as well be in
Fallujah instead of Terryville.

First Sgt. Ben Grainger doesn't hesitate to state his
preference for battling Islamist extremists in their
own backyard. "I'd rather kill them here any day
rather than give them the opportunity to do
another 9/11 in the States."

That attack put America into this war more than
the stated reasons of weapons of mass destruction
did, Grainger said. Like Elsdon, he said of Al
Qaeda, "I don't know if they were here before or
not."

Over Charlie Company's front door, beside the
horseshoe for luck, Grainger put images of the
World Trade Center and the aftermath of the
attack. And he affixed words next to them:

"Some people have forgotten why we are here. The
Marines and Sailors of Charlie Company, 1st
Battalion, 25th Marines have not."
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