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Smith From Iraq On Sacrifices and Syrians

W. Thomas Smith, whom I write with at National Review Online's The Tank, has been embedded with Marines in Western Anbar in Iraq. This morning, his two-part dispatch caught my eye, as it may yours. In the first part, a vocal Marine laments the common reference of 'casualty' to his fallen brothers, one such killed in an ambush just yesterday interdicting fuel tankers at al-Qaim.

My embed unit, Regimental Combat Team 2, lost a Marine yesterday: Killed in an ambush while interdicting fuel tankers just up the road from my position in the Al Qaim sector. RCT2 then shut down all military to civilian communication — in order that the family be notified before word leaked out — so I have been unable to contact anyone beyond our area of operations.

The Marines are understandably angry about the loss of one of their brothers. One highly vocal leatherneck here was also quick to point out that the Marine's death is "far more than just a casualty of war. It's a sacrifice."

He added, "They should quit calling sacrifices casualties."

In the second part of his dispatch, Smith describes fire from across the Syrian border - initially described to him as "celebratory fire after a wedding." But unless wedding parties in Syria fire tracer rounds horizontally rather than into the sky...

Syrians shooting wildly last night: No one exactly sure at whom or why, though the Marines at the combat operations center said it was celebratory fire after a wedding. A few rounds flew over the border and into our camp.

Just after 10:00 p.m., I climbed into the tower of post 1 overlooking Syria. There, I met Cpl. Brian T. McNeill of New Brighton, MN, passing by the post. He shouted up at the sentry, "Who's up there with you?"

When I told him who I was, he said, "Oh wow, you're the guy from National Review. My dad [Donald] reads NRO all the time. He said you were coming out here, and maybe I'd get to talk to you."

A few seconds later, the Syrians fired a couple provocative shots across our camp: The first tracer round went straight over the center of the camp. The second shot popped straight over my head.

Provocative, indeed. So much for "celebratory fire after a wedding." Just who is delivering the wake-up call from Syrian soil? The line in the sand that is the Syrian border is an invisible barrier of significant magnitude. But I can assure you, there are more than a few hot, tired and fed-up Marines at FOB Gannon who would love to be turned loose to find out precisely who it is and join in the reindeer games. It's all fun & games until it's the Marines' turn.

Check back regularly at The Tank for Thomas' updates and dispatches from Iraq.