Five years ago today, the world lost a very special man. While some people may have heard Clay’s name in the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention For American Veterans Act that was signed by President Obama last year, or through theClay Hunt Fellowship Program put on by Team Rubicon to develop leadership skills for transitioning service members, many people probably don’t know his full story. So, who was Clay Hunt and how has his life had such a special impact on the veteran community?
A decade ago today this week, on Aug. 26, 2004, Pfc. Nicholas Skinner was killed in Najaf, Iraq, while fighting off the Mahdi militia in a final push to surround the Imam Ali mosque. Skinner was a rifleman in Alpha Company “Raiders”, 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, the primary ground-fighting unit during the battle.
On August 25, 2004, a decade ago today, Lance Cpl. Alex Arredondo was killed in action in Najaf, Iraq, while checking on his Marines’ defensive positions during the final push in the Battle of An Najaf. Arredondo was a team leader in 1st Platoon, Alpha Company “Raiders”, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines. His platoon had recently been fighting from a four-story hotel room during our final push into the old city to surround Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi militia in the Imam Ali mosque, following days of fighting through streets and buildings to secure their current position. The fighting of that month was some of the fiercest and bloodiest in the entire war.
On Aug. 9, Marine Staff Sgt. Brandon Dodson was on a foot patrol as an infantry squad leader with 1st Battalion, 7th Marines in Helmand province, Afghanistan, when an improvised explosive device detonated in close proximity to him, taking off both legs, fracturing his pelvis, and causing other injuries including a broken tailbone and broken right hand. He has been amputated above the left knee and below the right knee, but is out of surgery and is in stable condition at this time.
On August 7, President Barack Obama authorized military airstrikes on strategic Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant targets, such as artillery positions, weapons caches, and enemy strong points. To me, this raises a few distinct thoughts.
As a kid, I always loved playing guns with my friends all throughout the neighborhood. Our setting for these battles was almost always Vietnam. I used to read books about the long-range reconnaissance patrols and recon teams and battles there. Growing up, I knew that someday I needed to visit.