Through a Marine’s eyes

This was forwarded to me today, and I pass it on as I received it:

I was part of the Dateline NBC special program titled “Coming Home” that aired Sunday, May 25th. It is about the “cost of killing.” I live in South Carolina. My name is Jesse Odom and I am 25 years old. I served in the Marine Corps and fought in Iraq. Here is my story.  Thank you.

    People on both sides of the spectrum, those for the war in Iraq and those against the war in Iraq, for the most part, say that they support the troops.  That support is typically limited to putting yellow ribbons around trees or by placing some type of sticker on their cars, and of course, by verbally saying that they support our troops. People automatically assume that our troops will get the armor they need to protect themselves in combat, they will assume that they have decent living conditions here in the States and in our warzones, they assume that our men and women are getting all of the health benefits they need, they will assume that our men and women who have been in combat will get the proper mental health care they need in order to get back on a stable mental track. The list goes on. I am tired of our naïve approach to supporting our troops and I pledge to change that. 
    On March 20th, 2003, my unit (Alpha Company 1st Bn 5th Marines) was the very first group to cross the Kuwait-Iraq border. Shortly after, we were engaged in combat and I found myself holding a fatally wounded Marine in my arms, my friend and leader, Shane Childers. I watched him die and he spoke his last words to me. He was the very first American killed in the war. We fought our way to Baghdad, accidentally and unfortunately killing the innocent, constantly living in fear, and trying to stay alive. Once we made it to Baghdad we found ourselves in what many have said was the most violent and fierce firefight during Operation Iraqi Freedom. We fought for nine hours. Nearly a hundred men were wounded and I witnessed the death of another Marine that I looked up to. We raided Saddam’s palace and the Abu Hanifah mosque where Saddam had been sighted. We killed many men and captured others. We lived at the palace for a while and then moved back to southern Iraq and eventually back to the United States.
    Shortly after getting back to the United States I finished my enlistment while my friends in my unit went back to Iraq. I started to write a book when I got out of the Marine Corps. I didn’t plan to publish the book but I used it as a coping mechanism. I camped out at my computer night after night, putting my unit’s story into words. Throughout this process, I kept up with some of my other friends that also got out of the military. Many of them struggled, and some still do. My friend, Chip Wicks, could not handle his problems and hung himself in February of 2004. This put me on a path to try to change some things. I started talking to my other friends and many of these men also had, and still have, a difficult time coping with the fact that they had witnessed and did things that many in our country could never imagine. They have a hard time coping because they are good men with Christian beliefs and a moral conscious; even though many do not regret fighting in Iraq. Many of these men will not get help, but even those that do, have to fight tooth and nail to get the help they need.
     Some of our men are being asked to use their own money to get counseling for their PTSD. The list of faults is too long to list in this email.  The faults are not limited to mental health care. However, I have decided to focus my efforts on PTSD and the suicide epidemic among our combat veterans.  People read my manuscript and loved it. I was told I should get it published and eventually I took the steps to do this. In the book, I tell my unit’s unbelievable story. But, the story does not stop on the battlefield. The battlefield has followed us home. Also, I tell of the haunting aftermath of war. I describe some of the issues that our troops and veterans face today.  I use real examples.
    In this book, I follow my unit as we prepared for war, when we went to war, and now home, where we have been put on the back burner. I am devoted to support our troops and I am going to do what I can to make a difference.
    I set up a fund titled the Chip Wicks Fund in honor of my friend that took his own life.  I am donating 10 percent of my royalties from the book sales to this fund, and the publisher has agreed to contribute 10 percent of their net proceeds from this book to the fund.  I am also accepting donations on my website.  The fund will be used to seek out and help those that have problems adjusting back into the civilian world.  Those that have or may have PTSD.  I don’t want any more of my brothers and sisters to die due to depression (suicide) when they can be helped.  I want you to help me support the troops. Not by simply waiving a flag or putting a ribbon around a tree. I want you to put this story on the front page of your paper and help me change some things.  I am trying to get more support from our government, but that will take some public pressure. 
    My book is eye opening.  It is not written by a seasoned author, a ghost writer, a politician or journalist who went on a fact-finding tour in well protected areas in Iraq. This book was written by a Marine infantryman who went and served his country and is now asking our country to truly support our troops and our combat veterans. You can help me and our men and women in uniform (and veterans). I want people to read my book and see what is going on behind the scenes of our media. I want to sell books and raise money for an unresolved problem in our country. I want people to read the book so they can see the world through an enlisted man’s eyes. My efforts are not limited to the book and the fund, I am going to go to our politicians and demand change.
    My book is titled “Through Our Eyes” (Bella Rosa Books, June 2008, ISBN 978-1-933523-14-9).
    You can go to my website and copy anything on it you want to put in your newspaper article (excerpt, pictures, bio, etc). My website is — I want to open the public’s eye and this book will help do that.

Please support the troops.
Thank you,
Jesse Odom

Speaking of books. On a blog related to the Dateline NBC segment referenced above, a producer mentions one called "On Killing: The Psychological Cost Of Killing In War And Society" by Lt. Col. David Grossman. I’ve read much of it while drinking coffee on a couple of separate visits to Barnes & Noble. It is truly fascinating, and contains a lot of data I had not encountered before. For instance, I had known that a lot of soldiers never fire their weapons when in contact with the enemy, but an analysis of widely scattered battles through history demonstrated that a startling number of those who DO fire more or less intentionally MISS.

16 thoughts on “Through a Marine’s eyes

  1. Carroll

    Thanks for posting that, Brad. On Killing is a popular book among infantry Marines. Another book along those same lines that I enjoyed is called Odysseus in America, which compares the trials that Odysseus faces on his journey home to the challenges that war veterans from Vietnam faced when adjusting to life upon their return home.

  2. David

    War is hell. Always has been. The one in which we are presently engaged has not been any more costly in terms of blood and treasure worse than other wars we’ve fought. Even though it hasn’t been pleasant, improved technologies and strategy have made it less expensive than most others.
    Now, I appreciate what Jesse is attempting to do, and I am sure that his motives are good. But his book of anecdotes (horrible as they may be) shouldn’t be what convinces anybody that the present war is wrong. I certainly don’t think that is what he intends. David

  3. Jacob

    Thanks for posting this online. I agree with David, PTSD and the other horrible things in war (death, fear, etc) is not what people should use as the basis against the war. These things happen in any war, justified or not. However, Jesse does not do this. He is simply acknowledging that there are problems that we need to focus on with respect to supporting our troops (regardless of a person’s perspective or opinion on the war, Republican or Democrat, Righty or Lefty).

  4. Brad Warthen

    I take your point, David. And indeed, my posting this is not an argument against our involvement in Iraq — you’d have to go to another blog for that.
    But I seem to have read and heard that there are some differences in this war, and they have nothing to do with the politics of it.
    I’m speaking not of PTSD, but of the fact that with improved medical care, soldiers have a greater tendency to survive wounds that would have been fatal in the past, which means you have a higher proportion of terribly wounded people coming back. The political point on which we should all agree is that it would be inexcusable not to provide these folks — and those with psychological wounds as well (Stephen Ambrose wrote of WWII veterans that there are no unwounded veterans of ground combat — actually, I think he specifically used the term “of foxholes,” but the meaning is much the same) — with the very best care of which we are capable.

  5. Matt

    Here is a good link to Dr Shay and a lecture he gave to leaders at the U.S. Naval Academy on Odysseus in America (Dr Shay is the Author) and how it is so very important that the future military leaders (and those who teach and train them)become educated on the epidemic of attrition (especially in the Marine Corps and Army) due to psychological wounds. It is a few years old, but the content is timeless.

  6. bud

    The political point on which we should all agree is that it would be inexcusable not to provide these folks with the very best care of which we are capable.
    I’ll go you one better. We should raise taxes to do so. It is horrible to have our children pay for the medical care of these fine men and women for a mission we entered into.

  7. David

    For once Brad, we are in violent agreement.
    To ask men and women to sacrifice and fight for our country and then not provide the care and rehabilitation they need when they return is despicable. It is below us. To me, the most recent emblem for this kind of contemptible neglect and mistreatment of returning service people was the debacle at Walter Reed Army Hospital.
    I was heartened by the outrage expressed by every-day regular American citizens who “get it” and I was thrilled to see some high ranking military staff get their careers ended over it.
    Again, Americans get it: We have a sacred obligation to treat returning warriors in an honorable manner. David

  8. Walter Grant

    Many express the opinion that this war is “wrong.” That is true in the sense that every war is wrong.
    But realistically we live in a world where war is sometimes necessary if we wish to continue to live in freedom and if we wish to maintain the way of life we and our forebears have earned for us.

  9. USAReader

    ‘Hey – watch this’
    Boots on the Ground 5/31/08
    There is not be a boot big enough for Nancy Pelosi right about now. Doesn’t that almost sound treasonous? That Iran’s “goodwill” [that was hard to even type] is to be credited for the success of the surge??

  10. David

    It is no surprise that Congress’ approval ratings are at historic lows. Pelosi is a scabbed out power-hungry liberal hag, and I am sure she makes Bud very proud when she says stuff like that.
    By the way Walter, I wish I had said that. You nailed it. David

  11. Robert Bornt

    Dear Jesse,
    I am a psychotherapist involved in PTSD or Combat Operational Stress recovery in Oceanside, California – next to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.
    My websites are:
    Due to a year-long-effort to understand the issues related to my work and my ability to serve I am anxious to ask your thoughts on some tough questions.
    How is it that myself and others in the mental health profession, who have made our services available free of charge to our military men and women, find our phones silent and our offices empty – when you and others, especially the press, write about the lack of access and barriers to treatment faced by our troops?
    What am I missing in your statement when I have experienced something totally different?
    “Many of these men will not get help, but even those that do, have to fight tooth and nail to get the help they need”.
    I am aware of trust issues between military and civilian, veteran and non-veteran, and all the other barriers real and imagined. I am also aware that getting the word out that we exist is important and that the DOD and VA are not in the referring business.
    There is also an issue not spoken about in my industry. I call it “scope of practice”. I think the mental health profession in general has the desire but not the experience to deal with PTSD of war and prolonged violence. In my opinion they are operating out of their scope of practice. I can say that 100 out of 100 Marines, Marine wives and veterans I have interviewed have said that counseling and the therapy they are receiving for stress and PTSD is not helping. I believe this further widens the gap in trust between he cultures – even between veterans and combat veterans.
    You must know of Virtual-reality exposure therapy. Research and use of VR is funded by the DOD and used by the Navy Hospital. VR is a product of Cognitive-Behavioral therapy and it seems to be productive – at least in the minds of people who are looking for a cure and have tests to prove their outcome. The therapeutic process underlying my garden setting model – termed The Triage Method, is a body-centered approach to understanding and treating the effects of combat operational stress utilizing processes with parallels to Virtual-reality exposure therapy. In principal, the body’s participation in emotional experience, memory and behavior is honored and utilized in healing. This is because of a belief that the body’s physiological processes – expressed in “current” real time, hold the most efficient and non-violent pathway to recovering emotional regulation disordered by exposure to combat operational stress.
    In The Triage Method there is also a shift towards greater efficiency in recovery, ease of duplication, and significant cost savings in both short and long term prevention and treatment of combat operational stress because the client remains in control of where the process of healing goes and how fast it moves – again, honoring the client’s own process of experience and recovery.
    Finally, The Triage Method in non-violent, non-invasive, non-directive and can be utilized without stories, family history or commonalities between therapist and client. This is because it is the client directing the process through what I call “What wants to happen next” expressions of the body and mind.
    I am trying to sell you on what I do. It is true. I am also trying to set myself apart – from the non-productive crowd, in hopes that you may help me find a way to be of service to a larger group of our troops. The Triage Method has the underlying principals to transform the way we address the issues of Operational Stress. It has proven effective and efficient with the clients who have been to the garden. It is just that the numbers I have experienced in no way reflect the huge need reported in the press and referenced in your writing.
    Will you help me help others by getting to know me, and my work?
    How do we come together to provide the support for recovery and healing?
    Looking forward to your response.
    Most sincerely,
    Bob Bornt

  12. Suzanne

    Brad and David-Not only does the govt. ask our men and women to pay for their own medical care, armor, gear, etc. but when they come home home and succumb to their psychological wounds like my brother Chip did (the Chip mentioned by Jesse Odom), the government not only refuses to pay for their medical treatment, but also refuses to recognize them as a casualty of war. The public needs to start fighting for our troops and make the government know that this treatment is not acceptable. These kids put their lives at risk and get treated like 3rd class citizens when they return.

  13. Jesse Odom

    Mr. Bob Bornt,
    I was stationed at Camp Pendleton myself. Who funds your work? How many practices like this are there? Having a good product is the easy part. Selling it to others and most importantly, letting them know it is out there is the hard part. I would love to help you. You can contact me at – People, the media, and myself for that matter are limited to reporting on things that are within some type of information pool. I have real examples and I have looked at many of the hundreds of articles and reports you can find online put out by independent researchers, the VA, personal stories (on blogs and such)- I look at these things and then look at the real examples I know to be true in order to make my conclusions. Your story is a first to me – but positive. I think the biggest problem is hunting those men and women down that are not willing to make that phone call – those that wont get help. I can go on for days about our problems – but more importantly – how we can attempt to fix them. Email me – I have been in touch with three doctors including Jonathan Shay and some other experts in the field of PTSD. I want help from every person and source I can get my hands on to help our veterans and our troops.

  14. slugger

    War is hell. I do not know who said it the first time. It might even have been said by the cavemen.
    I never served in the military but I have a son that did and a brother.
    The wars that were fought when men of both sides were in uniform gave the solder the identification necessary to know your enemy. The mental anguish that wars like Iraq place upon the minds of the military when they want to be sure when they pull the trigger that it is the enemy within the gun sights and not a civilian non-combatant, must have mental consequences.
    There is no excuse that we cannot have excellent care for our returning wounded; however, there is nothing perfect in our present healthcare system and it will only get worse if we have socialized medicine. Sorry to put the wounded veteran in the package of not receiving the care necessary. It is just a fact of life that we will all have to face when socialized medicine comes to pass. Veteran hospitals are governmental hospitals after all.
    God bless all you that have fought for freedom. We salute you. We owe you a debt of gratitude and proper medical care.

  15. Joanne Scarpa

    I am the wife of a vietnam veteran injured during the war and has ptsd, lost his eyesight and it has been the most tramatic 40 years of our lives. He is now 100 percent disabled, service connected and I would like to write a book not only to let everyone knows what happens when these guys return but also what the wives are going through too. Any suggestions on me getting this book written. I would love help in writing this book because I have never written a book but my story is so compelling it needs to be told.

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