By JESSE HAMILTON, The Hartford Courant

FALLUJAH, IRAQ -- It's easy to think the
Marines' time here is a scorecard of attacks and
raids, wounds and worse. Compared to most other
spots in the world, the violence and danger here can
seem unrelenting from the outside.

But measuring the experience of Connecticut's
Marines by gun battles and bombings misses the
truth, like evaluating music only by its notes and
not the spaces in between.
Patrols with no troubles. Convoys to bases far
from the fighting. Days of base security, sitting
posts and watching normal people on the streets,
living their lives. And waiting, waiting, waiting for
the next patrol or operation, to do anything but
stare at the walls and breathe air-conditioned dust.

They search for things to break the time. Chow hall
for the one hot meal a day, brought in pre-cooked
from a safer place. Movies and video-game
tournaments. The gym. A scratchy call home for a
few minutes before the next guy needs to make his.

They spend hours ribbing each other, nothing
sacred, nothing too profane. And practical jokes,
too, such as spraying adhesive on a squadmate's
pillow.

The Marines call it Groundhog Day, like the movie
starring Bill Murray about a man cursed to live the
same day over and over.

So little of the day is memorable, like the highlight
reel from a football game. This isn't a frontline war,
where shots are fired every day across the frontier
between two forces. It's instead a war where
battles are fought in an instant, between a handful
of men. Things happen to Charlie Company in the
space of a few thudding heartbeats, sometimes
after a wait of several days.

Their challenge is to be ready for it through all
those hours, the frequent downtime without any
true ease. The sign on the front door of their
building puts it simply: "Complacency Kills."
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