Hawaii Marines recall 9/11 and reflect on war

By Jim Mendoza - bio | email

MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - The bricks at the foot of the memorial outside the main gate of Marine Corps Base Hawaii bear the names of Kaneohe based Marines killed in action.

They tell a story of life and death.

"When we do lose these guys on deployment, you have to stand up in front of that platoon because the show must go on," Capt. Christopher Richardella said.

Since September 11, 2001, 118 Hawaii Marines and sailors have died in Iraq and Afghanistan and in military hospitals in Germany and the United States.

In 2005, 27 were killed in a helicopter crash in Iraq. Hawaii Marines who die in combat are memorialized on base. The living carry the loss.

"It's not something that I wish upon anybody else, working with somebody every day and then them just not being there for you anymore," Sgt. Juan Vasquez said.

"We signed on the line for sacrifice to allow friends and family to feel safe," Sgt. Jason Warren said.

On 9/11 Richardella was in college in New York City. From his dorm room, he saw the twin towers fall.

"My father was a Colonel in the Marine Corps at the time," he said. "I called him up immediately and said, 'Hey, I'm dropping my scholarship and getting out of school. I'm going to enlist right now.'"

Even when they're not on deployment Kaneohe Marines train for future missions.

Vasquez is married with two young children. He calls it the other side of sacrifice.

"I've been here on K-Bay for about a year and a half. I've pretty much been home six weeks out of that," he said.

As Operation Enduring Freedom stretches on, Marines believe equipping Iraqi and Afghan security forces helps ensure America's security.

"It's the way ahead for us to be able to pull out and continue relations with that country," Richardella said.

In April about 1,000 Kaneohe Marines mobilized in Afghanistan to fight the war on terror. The ones back home are ready to go again.

"The guys to the left and right of me, that's who I'm here for, to make sure they come back alive," Vasquez said.

"It's the United States," Warren said. "We want to look out for our people."

So far this year two Hawaii based Marines have been killed in action. That's two more since 9/11 and two more names that will be etched in stone.

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