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September 2, 2022 43 mins

Camp Pendleton, CA: Patrol Base Fires veterans Manuel Mendoza, John Bohlinger, Michael Minor, and Noah Southworth reunite at their former Marine base on California’s Pacific Coast to place a new memorial marker for their deceased comrades.

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Speaker 1 (00:00):
It looks bigger than it used to and not look
this Dante because we're usually drunken over I feel like
I'm I'm mentally prepping myself right now, like Okay, here
we fucking go. It's been a minute. This is Elliott

(00:29):
Woods and this is a special bonus episode of Third Squad.
I'm back at Camp Pendleton with Manny Mendoza, John Bollinger,
Michael Minor, and Laura and another patrol based fires Marine
named Noah Southworth. I was gonna say, you know, a

(00:50):
couple of months ago, it wasn't that bad, but actually
it is that it actually is that bad. It's November two, one,
the Marine Corps birthday, in the day before Veterans Day,
and we're looking up at the rain gouged trench that
passes for a trail up for Sergeant's Hill. We're about
to hike up to replace the worn out memorial crosses

(01:11):
for Nicholas O'Brien, Joshua McDaniels, and Michael Dutcher, the Marines
from first Platoon Blackfoot Company won five who died and sang.
But before we step off, hey, can I can I
get everybody over here for a second family meeting family gathering.

(01:32):
A friend of mine is a metal fabricator, and I
sent him a message and asked him if he would
do something for you guys, and he did. So, whoever
wants to open this, you can. Let's do it together
forever their best friends, the magical friendship. Did you get

(01:57):
it right? You guys really knows you guys make a moment? Yeah, Deans,
that's a bad pass. People aren't gonna be able to
see what it is. So do you want to just
what is it? Uh? It's a metal metal placard that says,

(02:19):
never above you, never below you, always beside you. And
then it's got Nicholas O'Brien k i A nine June
two thousand eleven, Joshua McDaniels k i A twelve June
two thousand eleven. Michael Dutcher k a A A fifteen September
two thousand eleven. Thanks man, welcome, Thank you. M m

(03:01):
m m mmm mmmmm mmmm Shall we, darlings, we shall
dear good? Little beforehand? Do you guys remember we used

(03:26):
to run this That was stupid? No are you doing good?
Southworth served in first squad with Michael Dutcher before Dutch
got transferred over to Third Squad after the June two
eleven mass casualties. He's a firefighter in Riverside, California now,

(03:49):
and even though he's built like a cross fit competitor,
he's in for an especially rough hike. He took it
upon himself to make the new memorial cross. It's six
ft long, made of two four by four posts. He's
got it wrapped in burlap in rope for protection, and
he's hell been on carrying it to the top all
by himself. It's such a man hurt. We're about halfway

(04:16):
up when oh wow, I guess who just finally texted
me Ortega. My name is Last Corpor David Ortega. I'm
twenty years old and I'm from Beaumont, California. David Ortega.
He's the only Third Squad survivor who didn't want to
be interviewed for the podcast, and he's the only one
who's still an active duty marine, which probably has something

(04:38):
to do with it. But several of the guys told
me they haven't talked to him much either since they
got back from Afghanistan a decade ago. He's alright man
to get hold of. I've been trying to get ahold
him for months. He finally just texted me maybe listened
to the first couple episodes. As it happens, Ortaga is

(05:00):
still station right here at Camp Pendleton, and I texted
him to let him know that we were gonna be
hiking First Sergeant's Hill and the off chance that he
was free, but he says he'll be training recruits at
the School of Infantry until late that night. He can't
make it today, but he says Hi in a long
text or Taga says he's been listening to his friends
stories on the podcast. He says he feels good knowing

(05:23):
that they're doing okay. Not many days go by that
I don't think about the guys from fires, especially since
I ended up staying in the Marines. Everything that happened
over there that deployment is the reason why I stay in.
I want to try and help marines not experience what
we experienced on that deployment. When we finally reached the

(05:52):
top of the hill, the effect is every bit as
powerful as the first time. Y. I feel like I
just wasn't ready when I got up here, just kind

(06:15):
of hits you, kind of felt like a lump in
your throat as he came up over the hill, and
it's like, I'm not sure if I'm having a heart
attack or I feel like i need to cry. I

(06:45):
love it. Every fucking inch is worth it. Unfortunately we

(07:12):
lost part of our group somewhere mid hill. Minor called
to say that his knee gave out and he and
Laura would wait for us. Down at the bottom we
find the sagging, weather beaten cross with McDaniels and Dutcher's
names on it. Southworth, Mendoza and Bollinger chat quietly for
a few minutes, gazing out at the ocean in the
distance and reminiscing about the grueling runs and training missions

(07:34):
and these hills they know so well. Then they get
to work pulling the old cross out of the ground.
Oh my god, we'recky back and forth, the rocky backing forth.
Oh that's barely is there. Yeah? I was thinking. I
was just like, I won't have to carry this on
the way back. I'm like, wait, we've got another crosses
sing back down Southworth unfastens the rope from his new

(07:58):
cross and unwraps the Burl told me what he stayed
up all night standing and staining it carefully burnishing the
stencil names. So you've been coming up on this hill,
you know, every so often, and every time we see
the old cross for our guys, it's been falling apart.
It's just two pieces of wood nailed together on the
side and they're drooping and their names were just kind

(08:20):
of carved in there, which is amen for them that,
you know, they did what they could that I think
it was time to just retire it and make a
new one. So yesterday I just kind of worked all
day getting this done. But yeah, this is across with
all of our boys names on it from the platoon.
So in the order we got got Nick Obrien, we

(08:42):
got Joshua and McDaniels and Michael Thatcher across the horizontal
portion of the cross. Beatiful man, Thanks many beautiful. Let's
get this thing in the ground. You guys remember my
special skill and we were boots. What's that take it?

(09:03):
There's a very stir I'm bringing it. Start to go
go use the head up there. You're a stern ship.
Why are you tell us about bringing the other I
didn't volunteer for it. Always he's like, photos in mine,

(09:27):
photos in mine, fucking stern ship. Yeah, look who has
still might have to pick out but soon what what?
Oh yes, let's way start here when it was before.
Oh yeah, it's beautiful baby. We'll be back after the break,

(10:19):
all right. Welcome to you here, and welcome after the
hike up first Sergeant's Hill. We link back up with
Miner and Laura and head to a restaurant in San
Clemente called Pizza Port, where the guys used to like
to hang out when they were stationed at Pendleton. We
get a couple of pictures of beer and some food
and sit around a big picnic table outside. I would
like to propose a toast. Here's two third Squad, but

(10:41):
also to all the pp fires Marines. I know this
is a Marine Corps birthday, but tomorrow's Veterans Day. Happy
Veterans Day. Welcome home to all of you, and thank
you for everything. And also here's to O'Brien, McDaniels and
Dutcher cheers. The old ship talking routine starts up immediately,

(11:08):
and the war stories soon follow. Nothing too graphic, just
the play by play of firefights, hilarious funk ups and
near misses with I E. D. S. The unemotional surface
of war that's safe enough to skim in the company
of friends. But at some point Bolinger decides to take
the conversation in a different direction. So as of late,

(11:29):
I've been going through this perception change. Right. So imagine
if you planned your if your best self planned your life.
Every struggle you face, every challenge you face, every hardship
you face, you planned it, and the goal being your

(11:50):
best self having to overcome those things to learn and
do better everything that's happened to everything, Yeah, because I
mean you gotta read they would break down from just
fucking tough ship that fucking made us hard. That those
single events prepared us for Afghanistan, and we went to Afghanistan,

(12:11):
we lived through that, and now here we are again.
And I think this all was meant to happen, And
it's all your choices and how you choose to move
through that so you overcome the obstacles that you threw
in front of yourself to see if you can overcome them.
It's pretty deep for a crayon either it is, isn't it.
I've up created a markers though, I like. I like

(12:33):
how you bite into and explode your mouth. Southworth has
been pretty quiet so far, sitting at the corner of
the table and taking it all in, but it's clear
that he's got something on his mind. When there's an opening,
he starts talking about June fift two thousand eleven, when
seven Marines, including him, were wounded in one of the
platoon's worst mass casualties. You could be in the very

(12:56):
back of the patrol, not even near what happened, and
you're gonna feel like I should have been there, I
should have done something about that, I should have done this,
and you feel like you fucking failed so hard. Southworth
still has a thin, curving scar on his face where
a boot lace that had been turned into shrapnel by

(13:18):
an explosion embedded deep into his skin. The boot lace
belonged to Sergeant Josh Yarborough, who lost both legs to
the same I e d for years. I was beating
myself up, just feeling like just the worst thing in
the world, and like, finally I got to see Yarboro again.

(13:40):
We go out to eat. It's an Italian place here,
and we were leaving. He goes south He's like, I'm sorry, man,
what are you sorry? Buy It's just he's just like,
I'm sorry for what happened in your face, man, because
because I took shrapnel from his I e D. He
stepped on. He's apology, he's apologizing to me, and I'm like,

(14:04):
are you absolutely he's serious? Like, are you absolutely serious?
Right now? You've you feel bad about that? That's insane
where I'm I'm for years, I'm the one thinking that
you know I I don't even deserve to live because
of how much of you know I failed. Like Bollinger,

(14:30):
Southworth has worked hard over the years to let go
of his feelings of guilt and to recover from his trauma.
He saught mental health treatment while he was still on
active duty and educated himself on the science of PTSD
as a college student. After he got out, he's raising
a family, keeping fit and has a good job, and
he's also very active in his church. I almost feel
like a little guilty because of how well I'm doing.

(14:54):
I I sleep really good. I sleep really good at night.
I don't have any nightmares. I can't say I'm your PTSD,
but I feel like I have my moments, but they're
far in between. And uh, there's usually some sort of
weird trigger, like there's the horrible news we just saw
in Afghanistan. But Laura's sitting at the far end of

(15:16):
the table. I over hear saying something to Bolinger about
how nice it is to see everyone together talking so openly.
I asked her to repeat it so everyone can hear.
I was telling Bow that I think it's it's good
for you guys. I mean, what you guys went through together,
it's something that no one else has gone through. And
so you guys understand each other and should do this

(15:39):
more often because you support each other, and there's there's
obviously that camaraderie, that brotherhood that keeps you guys together.
And I was telling him, like, Manny, you haven't stopped
smiling since you drove up that driveway. Like with him,
I always push them, like go go on those trips,
go meet with them. Uh. And I know he says

(16:00):
that because he doesn't want that emotional, you know, breakthrough.
I And like I said, you guys put up a
good front. But and I know that's why he like
avoids it all. I mean, we didn't make it all
the way up. Um, maybe that's why his knee gave out.
I don't know. Actually, I think Dutch punched me around

(16:22):
the knee because we're making fun of him on the
way up. But you know there's his deterrence, there's his
deterrence is being an ass. But it's true. You know,
I've accepted it. I've come to turn. He's gotten better.

(16:43):
You guys are gonna have interventional me. No, let me
ask you this. I mean, you guys feel that way.
What makes it so hard to reach out to someone?
Really good question? Actually, because you have to. You have
to break through that barrier or that that threshold. Basically

(17:04):
have to put your ego aside and legitimately ask for
the help. Yeah, that's that's basically what it is. That's
what it boils down to. I mean marine, most marines
are we class for ourselves as alpha males, Like we
are the fucking pinnacle of what it is to be
your brothers here who would do anything and they were
not going to judge you over it. It's the same
things because that we can joke around and all that

(17:25):
other ship, but when it comes down to actually exposing
the bears flesh, you might say it's hard for a
lot of us. Yeah, there's just a lot to overcome internally, um,
and it takes a huge amount Like prolonged, just internal dialogue.
What would make it easier to get nothing. There's nothing.

(17:48):
I don't think there's anything external except now maybe something
like this that that podcast actually opens up to a
lot of the lot of the guys that I never knew.
We're having a hard time. Uh well, And I think
a big part of it's just that it's that fucking
pride bit or that yeah, that that that fucking ego. Yeah,

(18:08):
And it's like you have to fucking you have to, like,
you know, make yourself vulnerable enough to call somebody that
you've been so strong in front of because I and
it's I mean at the top up there, I fucking
we were talking and I had to go cry, and
I walked off to go cry. It's because you don't
want those team weak, because you don't want to seem weak.
Exactly the same reason. You start playing defense immediately when

(18:31):
you start feeling like this sort of emotion started. That's
what I do, and then you try to almost physically.
One of one of the big defense things is being
a smartass and making you know, snid joking comments. That's
that's that's one of my defenses. Yeah, I do. That's
that's That's that's what I do. I think today is
like a stepping stone right now, like this conversation that
we're having. I think from this point forward, minors just

(18:53):
start opening up on the sucker, start opening up that
was opened up right there. No more more are I
think right now this is a good start late, this
is a good steppage stone. But I mean it's like, okay,
Dr Philo, I think it's good think time. I think
with time's scared some more time to keep trying. Yeah,
it's only been eleven years. I don't know. I think, well,

(19:17):
I think the fact that us three are here and
then we've done this whole um, it's more deal the
third squad thing, these podcasts, and I think that's different. Yeah,
is that it's not just gonna be him opening up.
It's gonna be he's I think you're recognizing now that
all of us, all of you guys are hurting. And
I never knew it because even when I ask you

(19:37):
guys questions, knowing would ever responds good you guys. You
guys would always say I'm good, how are you? And
that and that's and then I got to this podcast.
I'm like, fun, man, maybe I should reach out more,
but all I got was good, how are you? That's
all I ever fucking got. When I interviewed Minor back

(20:00):
in April, he was a pretty tough customer, but I
remember relating to a lot of what he said, particularly
when he talked about not wanting to be judged my
My biggest thing is the reason why I don't tell
people a lot of what I went through is because
I don't want their perspective of me to change. I
don't want people to treat me differently than like would
anyone else who walks off the street. That's why I
don't tell a whole lot of people I'm actually a veteran.

(20:22):
The people who were veterans, they will fucking spot me
from a mile away. But people who don't know, they
were just treating like any other person. And that's that's
all I want. I just want to be treated like
everyone else. Here with these guys from his platoon, Minor
seems more comfortable. He shares something that he didn't talk
about last April. He tells us about what it was

(20:45):
like to see Joshua McDaniel's father Brent, at a gathering
after he got home from Afghanistan. That ship. That ship
broke me. Man when I rest all Brent Man, I
ain't gonna lie to you. I took everything in my
body to hold back what I had when I saw Brent.
So what if you didn't have to hold back? What
if you could let it out? What if you could

(21:07):
just give yourself permission to feel it? I don't, I don't.
I don't know if i'd ever come back, to be
honest with you, I'm so used to having in in
control of it so much, I don't know if I'd
ever be able to regain control. Yeah, we definitely, we
feel ourselves running away with it and we're like, no, no,
put that back away here. But for me, if I

(21:30):
was ever lose control, I don't know if I'd ever
gained it back like I I've I've lived my life
off of controlling what I can and what I can
not what I can. If I can't control it, you
can ask Laura. I just go right past you and say,
fuck it. I'm not worried about it. If I can
control it, then I will control it. But if I

(21:50):
can't control it, I fucking going about my way. And
if I I feel like if I actually exposed everything
that there is to expose. I would never gain that control.
And that's that's honestly, that is my biggest fucking fear.
So I think about what my first shrink, Dot Campbell
said to me when we were getting ready to talk

(22:11):
about the whole thing, to go into it, to really
fucking get into it, and she said, you know how,
I know you're gonna be fine going through this and
experiencing this because he survived it already. You already survived it.
Now you just have to deal with it. Now, you
just have to understand it and accept it. And that
for me was a big deal. Pretty good. You already

(22:36):
survived it the first time. Maybe we can raise a
glass one more time to the fallen and not we're gotten,

(23:00):
I say, to the new chapter in all of your lives.
We'll be back after the break. All right, Okay, here

(23:41):
we go, We're ready. It's November twelve now and I'm
sitting in a hotel room in San Diego with Bolinger,
Mendoza and Jerick Fry, who made a special detour on
his way to compete in a jiu jitsu tournament in
Las Vegas to catch Manny and Bow on stage last
night talking in front of a live audience and the
hang bay of the USS Midway Museum at an event

(24:03):
hosted by the Center for Warren Society at San Diego
State University. When we got the word that we were
going to sang in and then we started looking at
sanging and then it was like whoa, Like holy sh it, Yeah,
that was That was an interesting period. You get that word, Hey,
we're gonna sang in, Like how how do you even
spell that? We're start getting reports from three five all

(24:26):
the casualties they're taken, and there's a couple of nights
over the balcony. Wouldould just stare at the stars like,
oh ship, what am I getting into? Before everybody heads
off in their separate directions. I wanted to get them
together to talk about something we couldn't talk about last
spring because it hadn't happened yet. Okay, so the one
thing that we haven't really talked about is the fall

(24:48):
of Afghanistan. The chaotic and deadly US evacuation from Afghanistan
stunned Americans and the world. What was it like for
you to watch the television clip of the airport getting
flooded with people trying to leave The people falling from
the bottom of the plane and to see the Taliban

(25:08):
parading through the streets of these Afghan cities and then
retaking couple. I mean, to me, it was kind of like,
I don't know, the overall fall of Afghanistan. I think
that you'd have to have a rise before the fall.
I don't know if if the Talban, ever ever didn't
have a foothold there, they didn't have a presence there,
I would call it definitely a resurgence. But in my mind,

(25:31):
when we were in Afghanistan, the people didn't want us there,
and they were stuck between a rock and a hard place.
And you can't you can't destroy an idea with weapons
with guns, um And really I think we just we
just reinforced their their concepts about us. And yeah, I

(25:54):
think it should have been five years sooner, ten years sooner.
I mean, there's people talk about with that suicide bombing,
you know, like those those Marines being killed. To me,
it was it was you know expected. You know, if
we didn't pull out that day, those twelve Marines probably
still would have died, but we'd you know, we'd still
we'd still be there and there would be twelve more

(26:15):
marines later and there'd be twelve marines after that, or
five marines or civilians. And my heart breaks for the
Afghan people, you know, particularly the women. But I think
we're fighting a political ideal and we you know, we
just sort of kept reinforcing this concept that we were

(26:36):
we were there trying to tell them what to do
rather than letting them make the choice. And to me,
it was very, uh, it was sad to watch, but
at the same time, it wasn't unexpected. Yeah, I wasn't surprised.
I was not surprised by the full or the collapse
where the resurgeons. Basically I was pulling out and the
tall bends coming out of nowhere. It was incredibly frustrating.

(26:59):
Um mostly I was really frustrated and piste off at
the the smirk that I saw on the faces of
these Taliban as they're parading around. It's like I could
knock that smirk out of you right like fucking relatively quick.

(27:19):
You were just in hiding, and now you're so full
of fucking pride because we're no longer there, We're no
longer you know, able to just smack you down, snap
your fucking john half. See if you're smile after that.
So that that that part pissed me off. When I
saw those victory parades that they were having, and the
weapons that they were using pissed me off as well.

(27:41):
It's because most of the time they were like American weapons.
And another thing that pissed me off was that they
would have they didn't even have like LBVs or load
bearing vests. They had like one weapon and that's it
with one magazine. Most of the pictures that I saw,
so it basically dudes that just picked up weapons. They're like, yeah,

(28:02):
I'm Taliban, now I'm gonna I'm gonna go ahead, and
I'm part of this victory. I'm part of the celebration.
And we won. We beat the Americans. We weren't beaten,
we just stopped fighting. So um that that pissed me
off a lot looking at the victory, but at their
victory resurgence. It's a good word, much better than calling

(28:23):
it as a a fall um And yeah, what both said. Man,
I it took me a while to come to the conclusion,
but my heart is broken for the people, especially the women.
They are the ones that are really going to be
suffering the most out there and in terms of all
of our casualties. I don't know how I feel about that.

(28:44):
Do you feel like it was all for nothing, that
they died for nothing? Yes? And no, that's a really
hard one. I think that's no man, I think you know,
I don't think you can never view that as as
they died for nothing. They died so that me, you
and him are here up. You know, it's no matter what,
like you know, going to war. Um, I didn't go

(29:05):
to war necessarily for the big grand picture of it, right.
I went to war, and I came to Afghanistan to
help the individuals that I can help on my level.
You know, you can only affect things at your level,
And so like viewing it like that, people lost their
life so that we can walk, and so the decisions

(29:26):
that we make going forward better be with that in mind,
you know. Um, as far as the fall of Afghanistan
or the resurgence or whatever, I think that here in America,
you know, we live in this nice first world country
with all these great things and these great ideals and
these these understandings of how we're going to push something

(29:48):
onto another civilization. And when a lot of Americans don't
understand the fact that in these third world countries they
don't even have like a semblance of what we have here.
So you know, we try to go over to these
countries like Iraq, you know, Afghanistan, Vietnam. You know, it's

(30:08):
kind of the same idea. We try to go over
there and throw our democracy on these people. That's all
they care about. They care about living. So I think
that it is a misconception on us, on our parts
as naive Americans, you know, as a whole. I'm not
speaking as us because we have a different view of it,
but as like America, like they, we have a naive,

(30:29):
like small picture of what we can do. And then
you know, when the media paints it this big way
the fall of Afghanistan, Oh my god, look this was terrible,
all these bad government choices that we made and stuff. Whatever,
it doesn't it doesn't degrade what we did, what the
guys lost their vives for. It doesn't degreade anything. It
really doesn't. And we can't be like that. Something that

(30:52):
that struck me. And I don't know about you guys,
but with the fall or whatever of Afghanistan, wasn't the
similarities I saw all And this might be a fucking
hot button. But with January six in d C, and
it's like these people thinking, you know, it was Americans
thinking that they could just use force and strength to

(31:15):
take over the government, you know, And I saw that,
and I don't know, you know, politically where they were.
But then you know, all those months later, I saw
Afghanistan and I just had those visions in my mind
of you know, people on American soil, and it it
actually anyone in my mind who who can who can
empathize with the people in d C on the six

(31:37):
who went into the capitol. If you can empathize with them,
you can pretty well empathize with the battle game. So
somebody tell me, maybe, Manny, what what was the first
news that you saw? What were the first images that

(31:58):
you saw when you knew that the Taliban had taking
the country over? Do you remember finding that out? First
it was Biden, I popped up and said pulling out.
And then slowly you just started seeing more and more
headlines of Taliban take over this district or this province,
and basically the frequency of those headlines increased from that

(32:23):
point forward. But it's like anything else that everybody raises
up arms and really gives certain topics attention for about
a month and then they move on to the next thing.
So for that entire month, it was just flooding all
of my all my news feeds, all all social media,

(32:46):
and I was indifferent to it all. I was like,
there's no fucking way I'm going to stop working right
now to think about this because it's just gonna piss
me off way too much. As I don't know how
I'm gonna react once I started accepting what is going
on out there, So I am not going to stop working.

(33:07):
I'm gonna keep doing. We keep busy until I actually
other time to sit down and think about this. It
is fucking ridiculous. This is insane. It's just a repeat
of everything of Vietnam. I guess it's like we just
don't learn the fucking lesson. I mean, I felt I
felt angry because it seemed like there was more articles

(33:30):
in that two weeks after the war in Afghanistan ended
then the entire twenty years prior. That's a good point.
They cared after the American people. The news Meetia only
cared after we left, and then it was a political thing,
you know. Then then it had a fucking impact because
now we're pulling out, and it was like, oh, this

(33:52):
is big news, but you know it's twelve marines. That
was just twelve more marines out of you know. Over
I don't even know how many people have died in Afghanistan,
you know, thousands, maybe Americans about in uniform, and then
another large number of people who were contractors, and not

(34:14):
to mention maybe tens of thousands of people who were wounded. Yeah,
and then and then they care after the fact, and
that that annoyed me. Manny, you said, we just didn't
learn the lesson why, And I want to know what
the lesson is that we should have learned. Um Number one,
don't pull out right away. A slower exitus as opposed

(34:36):
to just picking up and leaving as soon as possible.
That just creates so much panic. There's a much better
way of leaving a country. Do you think that would
have made the ultimate end different, which certainly wouldn't have
been what we had now, So yes, it would have
been different, would have been a controlled, I mean quality exit.

(34:58):
Man's like, you don't like helicopter just picking up your
platoon and not everybody just jumps in the fucking helicopter
all at once, like everybody pick up your weapons, just
getting no. You hold security, you pull out one at
a time, one squad, one team at a time. To me,
the lesson is um stop trying to control the behaviors
of other people and other parts of the world. They're

(35:18):
out of our control. Like what the funk good is
it for us to try and fix the government in Syria, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan,
fucking Bosnia? You know? When we we can, we can.
We can't even get a get along here in our
own country. To me, it's sick for us to believe
that that we can change these other countries and change

(35:42):
these other places when we we don't even have those
solutions here. We can, we can, We can't even agree
on a solution here. We all agree that there's a
fucking problem, but we don't know the solutions. We we
can't tell other people what to do if we don't know.
I've thought about that for some time, about how involved

(36:03):
we are around the world and the conclusion that I've
reached on why we do it? I mean, it's just
really simple, and that's the quality of life that we have.
Like how fucking wasteful we are. I mean, we are
so wasteful compared to everybody else in the world, and

(36:25):
it's because we have an abundance of things and that
comes from us protecting our interest abroad. The high quality,
wasteful life that we have, we have it because we're
involved with other countries affairs, and we create all kinds
of fucked up situations, all all kinds of funked up regions,

(36:48):
like say the Philippines or Asia Africa, to protect our
resources that allow us to have the the wasteful, high
quality life that we have. I mean, we were so wasteful.
We can waste lives trying to change a country. I
think that imagining a clean and perfect withdrawal is trying

(37:09):
to put lipstick on a pig. I think we were
withdrawing from Afghanistan for a decade. We started scaling down
the same month that I was visiting with you, July
two thousand eleven was the peak of the Obama surge,
and we started withdrawing after that and it's been a
smaller and smaller and smaller crew ever since. And by

(37:30):
the time that withdrawal happened, there are a few thousand
troops who are almost entirely centered at the airfields and
couple and you can't control a country the size of Texas,
that says rugged. And we couldn't control it with a
hundred thousand troops and another huge contingent of foreign allies
and the entire Afghan national Army being supported by American
forces and air support. How are we going to control

(37:52):
it enough to have a you know, a withdrawal with honor,
as they said, as Nixon said about Vietnam, Um, I
just think that's a fantasy, I really do. And I
think re exerting the kind of control that would have
been necessary to make our withdrawal look more organized would
have required putting more troops in harm's way and going

(38:13):
out and killing more Taliban in a war that we
already basically lost. And if it were me making the
decision as commander in chief, I couldn't do that. I
couldn't commit more young Americans to death or serious injury
on behalf of a lost cause. I just think the

(38:42):
big thing for us and for other veterans to remember
is that no matter what you went through, um or
who you lost, whatever, you're still here, and that you
it is your responsibility now to carry on and utilize
the things that we learned and the struggles, because through

(39:02):
that struggle we became stronger um and realize that and
use that as a tool to better as many people
as you can around you. I love that. I think
as as you say, fry in our own lives and
our communities and our families, with the people that we
can influence, I think we can start living for a

(39:27):
better future. And I think we have a duty and
responsibility to do that as veterans, as men, and as
people who have who have lived through this history. And
that's hopeful. It's not pretty, but it's hopeful. Well, I

(40:01):
mean all right, see, uh yeah, thank you, good luck
with your fight. We packed up and set our goodbyes
outside the hotel. I ran bow to the airport to
catch his flight back home to South Dakota, and for
I took off for Vegas and is improbably tiny rental car,
and then Manny and I drove up to La Joya Cove,

(40:21):
where we donned fins and masks and swam out past
the breaking surf. It was windy and rough that day,
cold even in our wetsuits, but it was wonderful to
have another adventure together after all these years in a
place where no one was trying to kill us, and
I'm sure looking forward to the next one, wherever it

(40:43):
might be. This episode of Third Squad was written and
produced by Elliot Woods and Tommy Andres. It's an Heirloom

(41:05):
Media production distributed by iHeart Media. Third Squad podcast has
been a rollercoaster filled with tears and a lot of laughter.
It wasn't easy to listen to Third Squad, but I'm
so glad that I did. Funding support from the National
Endowment for the Humanities in collaboration with the Center for
Warren Society at San Diego State University, this documentary has
not been sanitized for public consumption or the evening news.

(41:29):
Those last became became a part of my not thinking
about the world. Original music by Mondo Boys. I listened
the Third Squad and understanding what I don't know that
these folks know is that like life is precious in
a commitment to an idea, even one not fully understood,
outweighs so many of the complaints that people curry about

(41:53):
those ideas. If you'd like to see my photographs from
saying It and from our road trip, please visit Third
squad dot com. Also, if you got a minute, leave
us a rating on your preferred podcast app. It'll help
other people find the show. In every episode, I found
myself being informed of things I was not aware, found
myself laughing or on the verge of crying, all in
a matter of moments. It felt like we were all

(42:16):
invited to witness these soldiers as they processed their trauma
and their grief. And I'm really grateful to them for
sharing their stories so candidly and so courageously. It helped
me absorb the impact of this war, something that they

(42:37):
faced and that they carry with them every day. You
can find me on Instagram and Twitter at Elliot Woods.
What it means to be a soldier came far less abstract.
The death of a soldier became far more than jest
a folded flag. For them to open up and speak
about their experiences individually on this podcast is just It

(42:58):
just makes me so proud of these guys and it
was an honor to uh serve with them. I love
them dearly. The whole thing became a sort of a
recorded and it asked a lot of questions, um, but
answer enough to make Michael, that's just life matter to me,
and to make the labs at the folks he served
with his family matter too, even as it still truls

(43:19):
so complicated and so brought and so so much about
finished story. I just wanted to take a second to
thank you for keeping their sacrifices and memory alive. Semprified brother,
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