On the banks of the Euphrates, General Mattis asked me to join him for dinner before I left theater. He thanked me for what I had done and told me to be proud of what we accomplished. The CG said, “Marine and logistics should not be used in the same sentence” as we discussed that we never got even one band-aid in resupply during the invasion. “Doc, you did everything I asked. Everything you did was better than I could have imagined. I know you feel that you could have done better, but BUMED failed you. It is not the first time they have failed the Corps.”
I asked him if he ever got tired of living in “shit holes,” the often used description of austere environments like ours. He told me that he wasn’t all that fond of shit holes, but as long as he was the best chance for “these fine young men and women to get home in one piece,” he would be with them. Then, the sparkle returned to his eyes. He joked, “Maybe next time, we can invade France. Kill during the day and fornicate with a good wine at night. Doc, that would be great.”
He offered me something to consider in the future: “Doc, you are a true gentleman. I’ve seen that. I just want you to know that sometimes, with a bunch of grunts, that can be mistaken as being weak or timid. I know that is not the case. I have seen you and your work. Just remember that in the future. I’d never tell you to change, but it is something to keep in mind. I’m a little different, when I walk into a room, I’m trying to figure out when I can use my first four letter word.” General Mattis always had a way with words.
I was given a ride to an abandoned airport, where I was alone for several hours waiting for others to arrive. We were all meeting a transport plane to go back to Kuwait, where we would turn in our paperwork and then go home.
When I returned to Kuwait, I was anxious to get home. I remember walking into the Dining Facility (DFAC) where I found a table of Marine colonels. One of them told me, “Doc, good to see you. We have been rooting for you to make it home.” They knew my wife was pregnant. “Many of us have missed the birth of ours.” Every colonel at the table had missed the birth of some if not all of their children. I would be lucky enough to make it home to see the birth of my son.