Falluja’s Fall Stuns Marines Who Fought There
By RICHARD A. OPPEL Jr.JAN. 9, 2014
Adam Banotai was a 21-year-old sergeant and squad leader in the Marine Corps during the 2004 invasion of Falluja, a restive insurgent-held city in Iraq. His unit — which had seven of 17 men wounded by shrapnel or bullets in the first days of the invasion — seized control of the government center early in the campaign.
So when Sunni insurgents, some with allegiances to Al Qaeda, retook the city this month and raised their black insurgent flag over buildings where he and his men fought, he was transfixed, disbelieving and appalled.
“I texted a couple of friends,” said Mr. Banotai, now a firefighter and registered nurse in Pennsylvania. “Everyone was in disbelief.”
“I don’t think anyone had the grand illusion that Falluja or Ramadi was going to turn into Disneyland, but none of us thought it was going to fall back to a jihadist insurgency,” he said. “It made me sick to my stomach to have that thrown in our face, everything we fought for so blatantly taken away.”
The bloody mission to wrest Falluja from insurgents in November 2004 meant more to the Marines than almost any other battle in the 12 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many consider it the corps’ biggest and most iconic fight since Vietnam, with nearly 100 Marines and soldiers killed in action and hundreds more wounded.
“Lives were wasted, and now everyone back home sees that,” said James Cathcart. He fought as a private first class in the Marines in Falluja in 2004, and was discharged with post-traumatic stress disorder. Matthew Staver for The New York Times
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