Monday, September 21, 2009

Nate in Iraq ... Semper Fi

Cpl. Nate Salatin, USMC (right) from Augusta County ... home school graduate ... a special young man. He is now on his second deployment in Operation Iraqi Freedom which has twice interrupted his schooling at Virginia Military Institute.

Notice "The Culpeper Minute Men 'Don't Tread On Me' " flag in the living quarters.

At work in the Iraqi desert....

Sleep comes when they find a place and opportunity. Nate is on the roof.

This is one reason why they are there. Nate has been mailed soccer balls and other goodies to share with local children.

After a dust storm....

VMI sent a banner signed by Nate's classmates.

There he is at the top of this formation.

The smiling Marine in the middle front is Nate. Notice the terrain behind them.

In full battle gear ... these are the guys who watch his back and he watches theirs. Nate is on the left.

Cold weather gear. Notice the sunrise behind them.

Nate. Anyone who reads this blog knows him through my writings the past three years. He came into our lives when he was 11 years old, the second of four children in a missionary family, born in Indonesia but back in the States at that young age as his family settled on his father's family farm in Augusta County.

His family was part of our home school group, and Nate soon became a familiar face around our house as the home schoolers often gathered for cookouts, bonfires, Capture the Flag, soccer, and badminton. I called him "Crash-and-Burn" because he went at everything wide open ... and if anyone bit the dirt, it was Nate. But he was always back up and going again ... if we noticed a limp or bruise, he shrugged it off as nothing to worry about.

A young man with goals, he decided early he wanted to be a Marine. "A country worth fighting for ... a wife worth living for," is what he told me ... such grown-up words for someone so young. Now 24, he has fought for this country in two deployments to Iraq in Operation Iraqi Freedom, our war on terrorism. It is because of Nate and thousands of others like him that we enjoy the freedoms here at home to continue our lives uninterrupted while their lives are put on hold for them to go to war.

The first time Nate deployed, I wasn't sure how war would affect him. But his eyes still laughed when he came home ... wiser and maybe a bit more of a risk taker, I was grateful to see he still had that Nate grin. At the time I wrote:
Nate's eyes still laugh. I was worried that war would wear away at the young man I had known since he was a boy and that he would return from Iraq somehow older, somehow wearier, somehow not Nate. And while battle a half-world away can't help but leave an impression on those who serve, and it certainly leaves them wiser, it didn't scar him ...

... because Nate's eyes still laugh.

As he sits in my living room or in the back yard talking ... as he does back flips off the diving board, gathers his fellow home school friends for a volleyball game, or canoes with those same friends on the Shenandoah River ... he's still the Nate we love. He jokes, tells war stories, and warmly remembers his Marine buddies ... those guys he depended on to watch his back in life-and-death situations. And somehow you know he's leveling with you and, at the same time, protecting you.
And he shared with us his feeling that, yes, the U.S. needed to be in Iraq and had been good for the country.

This time he has been part of the American forces leaving Iraq, cleaning up, tearing down, whatever is included in leaving the country in the hands of those who live there.

He is scheduled to be home by Thanksgiving. We can't wait. Meanwhile ... be safe out there ... God bless ... we love you. Semper Fi.

Previous posts about Nate:
- Heard from Nate on Easter Sunday
- Thinking of Nate ... and reflecting on Cindy Sheehan's protest of the war
- Nate ... at home this Christmas
- Salatin family watches Staunton 4th of July parade 2008
- Godspeed, Nate ... back to Iraq
- Congrats, Nate ... promoted to Corporal USMC
- 4th of July 2009 ... a Marine in Iraq: "Freedom Is Not Free"
- Birthday greetings sent to Iraq 2009
- Other posts about Nate: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here.

Photos from Nate
Iraq 2009


Cargosquid said...

Semper Fi! As a retired Squid, and an uncle of a VMI graduate (I gave my nephew his first salute. Now he's slated for command. I credit all to me....)I just want to send my good wishes and prayers to this young man and all of his brother and sister Marines and all the others in the Sandbox. While I was never in combat, I do know what its like to be so far from home. God speed. Keep your head down.

Here's a link to something he might appreciate:

Each Operation MRE contains the following:

* Devil Dog Brew – 100% of the Best Damn Coffee in the World
* American Flag Retro B.A.R. Babe Premium T-Shirt
* David® Roasted Sunflower Seeds – Good for several salty spits.
* Planters® Heat Peanuts – Hot Nuts R Good Nuts
* Tabasco® Brand Pepper Sauce – We salute Brigadier General McIlhenny and the Tabasco Family®
* Bicycle® – Rider Back Playing Cards – New Lieutenants' are waiting to lose their money.
* SemperToons Poker Chips – Our 3 Chip Set, Guard Your Cards in Style
* Johnsonville® Beef Summer Sausage – Got Beef?
* SemperToons Book “Welcome To The Real World Devil Dog” OOHRAH Gunny Wolf
* TootsieRoll Pops® Assorted Flavors – Remember “The Frozen Chosen”
* Devil Dog Brew Coasters – One for you and one for a buddy.

and if he's got email, here's a link to the SemperToons:

Lynn R. Mitchell said...

Thanks, Cargosquid. We got a special gift in the mail today from Nate that I will post about tomorrow.

Love your "gift" list of Marine items. He should get a chuckle out of that.

Our military ... we can't thank them enough for what they do.

And that includes you, Mr. Squid. :)