CAMP TAQADDUM, Iraq -- The Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Michael W. Hagee, accompanied by the Corps’ top
enlisted Marine, Sgt. Maj. John L. Estrada, visited hundreds of Marines and sailors here May 30.
The visit was part of a tour of bases in western Iraq where Hagee and Estrada addressed troops and met with commanders at multiple bases and outposts where Marines are currently serving.
During a series of town hall meetings here, Hagee and Estrada spoke to Marines about duty and honor, and their importance in the War on Terror. After opening remarks, they opened for questions allowing the audience of varying ranks and job fields to ask their senior leaders anything on their mind.
Estrada, sergeant major of the Marine Corps, took the stage first and opened by commending the Marines and sailors for their hard work.
“I want thank you for your support, commitment, and the sacrifices you and your families are making to make sure we can make this a better place,” said Estrada. “Everyone is proud of you. I am proud of you.”
Hagee took the opportunity to speak to the Marines and sailors about recent events, answered questions and accentuated his pride of the job they are doing.
“I want to thank you for what you are doing for your Marine Corps, your county, and for the people of Iraq, and for making the right decisions every day you go outside that wire,” Hagee said.
The visit comes on the heels of recently released information regarding an investigation where U.S. Marines allegedly killed 24 civilians in Haditha, a volatile town in western Iraq.
In a statement from Hagee released by Headquarters Marine Corps, he said the “recent serious allegations concerning actions of Marines in combat have caused me concern. They should cause you to be concerned as well.”
Hagee took the opportunity to speak to the troops on the importance for Marines to lead by example and to honor and respect the Marines’ core values of honor, courage and commitment.
“To a Marine, honor is more than just honesty; it means having uncompromising personal integrity and being accountable for all actions. To most Marines, the most difficult part of courage is not the raw physical courage that we have seen so often on today’s battlefield. It is rather the moral courage to do the “right thing” in the face of danger or pressure from other Marines,” Hagee wrote.
Hagee connected with the audience by sharing some of his experiences as a young platoon and company commander during Vietnam.
“We experienced similar emotions and fears dealing with booby traps in Vietnam that you face here in Iraq with the improvised explosive devices,” he said.
During the visit, Hagee recounted some Marine involvements in past campaigns which have earned the Marine Corps its reputation of an honorable institution.
“Places like Tarawa, Saipan, Okinawa and Iwo Jima where our virtues of honor, courage and commitment are forever edged in stone with the blood of all those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for the values we honor,” said Hagee.
He stressed the importance to live up to those values by saying, “We owe it to the American public and it’s the right thing to do.”
He closed by reminding those present about the rules of combat established by the Geneva Convention and that under no circumstances should the military violate those laws.
“If we do (violate) the laws we reduce our standard to those of the insurgents we are trying to defeat,” Hagee said.
The visit was well received by the Marines and sailors of the 1st Marine Logistics Group and 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing here.
Lance Cpl. Darrin Lee, 22, from Inglewood, Calif., said this visit was particularly important to him.
“When he talked about how we are making a difference and helping the transition of control to the Iraqi Security Forces so they can take over, it made me feel proud,” he said.
“You felt like you could actually speak to them about anything, their visit is a total morale booster, said Lance Cpl. Erin Lillie, Marine Light/Attack Helicopter Squadron-169.
“They took time out of their busy schedule to visit us; it shows they care about us and took the time to tell us,” said the 21-year-old from Livermore Calif.