From HolyCoast.com - June 2007
I mentioned a columnist that I enjoy that writes for the Register. Here is a piece that I did as a guest blogger last June.
Monday evening a group of ladies from our community (Palmia Women's Issues) invited Gordon Dillow to speak. He writes a column for The Orange County Register. Mr. Dillow is a Viet Nam Vet who was asked by the Register in 2003 to be an "embedded" correspondent going into Iraq with our troups at the start of the Iraq War. He was 51 years old at the time and jumped at the chance to be involved in that capacity.
This was the first time correspondents were attached to a group of our fighting men and women doing what they did, going where they went, experiencing whatever the group they were assigned to experience. Prior to this, the correspondents and photographers were marched to the front for a short time to get the feel of the place and then back to a comfortable place to write their stories. Not this time!
Mr. Dillow, along with Mark Avery (photographer), was assigned to Alpha company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines group and they were the first group, and he was the first correspondent, to cross over the border from Kuwait to Iraq. His group were the first to "bleed". They were assigned to capture and secure an oil pumping station. Iraq's finest waved anything white as they approached and said "no kill - no kill". One of the rules of engagement was that the troops couldn't fire on civilians. But who is a civilian? A car loaded with "civilians" approached the station and wouldn't stop when ordered. they all produced AK-47's and began firing. Needless to say, the car and the occupants were toast. One of the leaders told them before going into battle, if one bullet comes your way, send 1,000 back! There was one of our guys killed -- the platoon leader.
He could report anything he wanted except the following: no names of casualities since the families need to be notified first, where you are today or going tomorrow (you can say where you were yesterday), and no drawing maps in the sand (Geraldo). Otherwise he had free reign to report what he saw or felt. One of the things everyone had to do was to dig foxholes every night for their protection. He had to dig his own. Sometimes the sand was very hard and he said he probably would die from a heart attack digging a foxhole before being killed by the enemy!
Gordon Dillow just returned (June 2007) from his 3rd tour in Iraq and reports that the morale is very high. There were some marines whose enlistments were over that stayed on for 5 or more weeks "because they couldn't leave their buddies" - stayed on until their unit left. If you want to find out what is going on in Iraq, ask someone who has been there. The papers won't report "good" news - only news that bleeds. There are a lot of good things happening in Iraq but that is not reported. If you have a chance to hear Mr. Dillow speak, you will find him candid and interesting.