By Jack Mandaville The guys I served in the Marine Corps...
We Remember Iraq: The Four Contractors
Editor’s Note: Out of all the recollections we will be posting over the next several days this one is the hardest for me. You see, Jerry Zovko (he went by Jerry not Jerko) was a friend of mine. Jerry and I met at PLDC on Ft. Bragg and bunked next to each other. We immediately hit it off and ended up spending most of our free time together. Just as most military friendships go, we lost touch until we crossed paths again in Bosnia several years later and once again fell right back into the same routine. Jerry was an amazing soldier, friend and all-around good guy. When I first learned of this event happening no names had been released. But, when I finally learned of Jerry’s passing I was even more angered by the events that lead to his death. I still think of Jerry often and know that he is currently assigned to PSD for St. Michael. Never forget. -RU Rob
By Grin and Barrett
It’s an interesting country we live in. I absolutely love the United States and her citizens; we are an amazing people who live in a place where opportunity, freedom, and liberty are the norm, not the exception. We stand together through the harshest of times, the direst of situations, and the most agonizing of manmade—and natural—disasters. We also revel in our triumph, celebrate our best, and unfailingly cheer for the underdog. But we also forget.
We’re a forgetful people, these Americans that I love. We quickly turn to the next best thing, the newest and fastest, the “good news fairies” who help us forget by touting the newest breakthrough, the new and improved model of this or that. We drink and cheer and party in spite of the fact—or maybe because—it helps us forget. For months after 9/11, American flags adorned our streets, hung from windows, flew proudly on long unused flag poles. Cars flew them from their hoods, schools hung them in the classrooms, and church billboards read “God Bless America,” in every town, in every city. But, like so many other times in our history, the flags soon became worn, taken down, and not replaced. Not because our citizens don’t love the flag, but because we forget. We forget that our country was born through hardship, strife, blood and selfless sacrifice. Today, our freedom is maintained and extended by these very same traits, even though many of us forget.
On March 31 of 2004, an ambush in Fallujah claimed the lives of four American security contractors. Scott Helvenston, Jerko Zovko, Wesley Batalona, and Mike Teague, lost their lives that day. Their bodies were dragged, torn, burned, and hung from a bridge over the Euphrates. These were Americans—our Americans. I did not know any of these men personally, but I did know who Scott Helvenston was. I had seen him on the USA network’s “Combat Missions.”
I can still remember laughing at his antics; he was clearly the joker of the group. Was…now gone.
When I heard about the events in Fallujah that day in March, I was outraged, just as many Americans were. The thought of one of our citizens, let alone four, being treated in such a dehumanizing and brutal manner infuriated me. The desecration of their bodies, the symbolic domination of their spirit.
Now, nine years later, I haven’t forgotten, and I know that many of you haven’t either. But that’s part of the job; one of the harder aspects that most folks just don’t get. To forget the tragedy or event is easier; to remember is harder. Remembering the person is the piece that we cling to, the piece that we want to relive. It’s the event we want to forget. But we, the Shepherds, must remember, in honor of those who have paid that price of hardship, strife, blood, and selfless sacrifice. It’s the most interesting of puzzles for the Shepherds. We remember so others can forget, yet we scorn them when they do. For that is part of the mandate, the unspoken pledge we all adhere to. Helvenston, Zovko, Batalona, and Teague.
We will remember you brothers—we will not forget.