By JESSE HAMILTON, The Hartford Courant

BAGHDAD, IRAQ -- We've come 6,000 miles to
tell a story.

It’s a story about people and hardship as much as
it’s a war story. As photographer Thomas Brown
and I chronicle the lives of the Marines from
Charlie Company — many of them husbands,
brothers and sons of Connecticut — we hope to
show something beyond the daily struggles of
these men on the sharp edge of a war.

We want to introduce you, also, to battered
Fallujah. And as we walk its streets with these
Plainville-based Marines, we hope to learn
something about the war that brought Charlie
Company’s parent unit, 1st Battalion, 25th
Marines, to Iraq.

The battalion of reservists known as New England’
s Own has been in Iraq almost two months. They
work with Iraqi security forces and conduct their
own patrols through the streets of Fallujah. Charlie
is just one of several companies, but it is the one
stationed in the heart of the city.


* * *


After more than three years of war, the names and
places of Iraq have been worn into some familiarity
for America, like the names on a Monopoly board,
even if one has never been on Boardwalk, Marvin
Gardens or Park Place. There are the Tigris and
Euphrates rivers, Mosul and Tikrit, Baghdad and
Fallujah.

From the jet space at 39,000 feet, the wrinkles of
Iraq’s mountainous north descend anonymously
into the vast flats of its deserts, where a quilt
pattern of irrigated lands is marshaled by the twin
ribbons of river. From such heights at dawn, the
living map unfolds in 100 soft shades of brown,
and white cities are painted against that brown
canvas.

But the nature of the country can’t be read from
high above in the tea leaves of its oil fields and
ancient kingdom dust. If they can be understood,
the truths of Iraq are more likely found by those
with boots on the ground.


* * *


These 6,000 miles from home have landed Charlie
Company not just on a different continent, but a
different world – one that operates on standards
and customs, sounds and smells, waves of heat that
make it an alien landscape seen through New
England eyes.

So far, it’s been a hostile landscape for the
Marines. They have been shot at or attacked with
roadside bombs almost every day. They have
suffered casualties and lived in difficult conditions.

And they have many, many more days to serve in
Iraq, some of which we will try to share with you.
.