Keeping an eye on the man who
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July 26, 2004
I couldn’t see him. In fact, I didn’t even know he existed at the
He and his company of Marines were off on my right flank somewhere. As I was clearing a bunker along the 6 Ring Road in al-Jahra on the west side of Kuwait City, he was retrieving a wounded Marine from a precarious situation to the east of my “pos” (position). As I was squinting through the inky oil smoke of a thousand burning oil wells, my rifle slowly roaming back and forth for another target, he was making sure his general stayed alive. As I was searching small buildings for the Iraqi I just saw scamper into one of them, he was doing God knows what.
More than a year later, he and I received orders to sort out a problem unit the Corps had in the 2nd Marine Division. He would be the company commander. I would be his company gunnery sergeant. A seasoned first sergeant would complete the trio of troubleshooters or professional “fixers.”
His name is Bryan P. McCoy. At the time, he was a captain. Now he is a lieutenant colonel. His tactical call sign is “Darkside,” a moniker especially fitting for a killer of his caliber. (His battalion killed horrific numbers of Iraqi soldiers, plus seemingly countless guerrillas and terrorists, while taking very light casualties.)
You know him as the man who ordered the now-famous tearing down of the statue of Saddam Hussein in Firdus Square in Baghdad.
A modest man who has never sought the limelight (It just seems to find him), he is inbound to my “pos” in the Colorado Rockies, having just turned over his battalion (3rd Battalion, 4th Marines) to his replacement, this after his second combat tour as the vaunted battalion’s commanding officer in Iraq. He is on his way to a high-level military school back East, his Marines having grudgingly surrendered the commander they loved, admired and, in a handful of cases, died for.
In a few days, he will arrive at my home for a night’s stay.
I am honored. Having retired from the Corps back in the winter of 1997, my broken neck, mangled back, blown-out knees and Gulf War Syndrome just too much for me to handle on active duty anymore, I didn’t expect Bryan (yes, we are on a first-name basis; an unusual but strangely comfortable arrangement for a commissioned officer and a staff non-commissioned officer) to come by on his journey east. But from the moment we first shook hands and the moment I delivered my first salute to him, we saw eye to eye and could read each other’s thoughts from any distance. He was the trigger finger and I was his rifle. So when I got an email from him a few weeks ago saying he was coming, Susan, my wife and also a close friend of Bryan’s, was not surprised to hear me yelp at reading that email in my library.
When he comes (Susan and I will try to break him in half with powerful bear hugs when he arrives, but he is a stout lad, so there’s no chance of any real damage), we will have a fine meal prepared by me in my home (the company gunny always arranges for the unit’s meals in the field). We will enjoy expensive cigars and drink very expensive wine and Scotch. I will spoil him rotten for a brief while. He will grin sheepishly.
And then he will shove off, for Darkside’s destiny awaits elsewhere, as do the destinies of all Marines, in every clime and place.
Bob Newman, a retired, decorated US Marine, is co-host of "Redmond & Newman" on 630 KHOW in Denver, and is the military science and terrorism columnist for The Denver Daily News.
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