A U.S. veteran’s message for Memorial Day (audio)

Scott Peterson/The Christian Science Monitor/Getty Images
US Marines of the 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance (LAR) company (Captains Cameron Albin and Gil Juarez, left to right, with another of the unit’s Marines) called in air support to help deal with a nearby firefight in Fallujah, Iraq, in November 2004.

In 2004, I was embedded in Fallujah, Iraq, with the scouts of the U.S. Marine Raider Platoon of Charlie Company, 1st Armored Reconnaissance Battalion. The unit’s mission: to clear the city of insurgents who had turned it into a hub for kidnapping and bomb-making.

It was a costly monthlong offensive, with more than 70 Americans killed in the biggest fight for the U.S. Marine Corps since Hue City in Vietnam, in 1968. The Fallujah offensive was just one battle in the Iraq War, which claimed the lives of more than 4,400 American servicemen and several hundred thousand Iraqis, at least.

During house-to-house fighting in Fallujah I got to know some of the Marines, including Capt. Cameron Albin, who now lives near Fort Worth, Texas.

Why We Wrote This

This Memorial Day, we asked ourselves: What’s it like to serve in the military, and then come home? What would help our listeners understand that experience? We reached out to our reporter, Scott Peterson, who knew just the person to ask: Captain Cameron Albin.

Captain Albin survived three tours in Iraq and earned a reputation for a quick tongue and a quiet intellectualism. Like many of his comrades, he’s struggled with the memory of fallen comrades. He’s experienced post-traumatic stress disorder, alcohol abuse, and the suicide of friends.

After years of rehabilitation, Captain Albin has turned a corner. He is now a father. He’s teaching while working on a Ph.D. He finds solace in sailing.

We hadn’t spoken in five years – since the 10th anniversary of Fallujah. For Memorial Day, I gave him a call. I’m honored to share his remembrances, and part of our conversation.

LISTEN: A U.S. veteran’s message for Memorial Day

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

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