As Veteran's Day approaches, Springfield, Missouri's 417 Magazine wanted to acknowledge their local veterans. Their latest issue shares the experiences of four servicemen in their own words. Featured is Jeremy "Whitty" Whitworth, a Marine veteran and a member of our Leatherneck4Life family. Here, read Whitty's account of his time as a Marine in Baghdad in 2003. We're proud to recognize Whitty's service, and the service of all USMC and military members this Veteran's Day.
The Bridge to Baghdad
Jeremy Whitworth served as an active duty Marine from 2002 until 2006 and as an active reservist from 2006 until 2010. A member of the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, Whitworth was part of the military’s successful effort to take Baghdad during the Iraq War in early April 2003. Here he recounts his story of when Baghdad fell, starting with his squad’s effort to cross the Diyala bridge, nine miles from the city’s downtown.
By Jeremy Whitworth as told to Vivian Wheeler
When we came up to the bridge crossing the Euphrates, enemy troops had blown out two big sections in the bridge. We immediately had to dismount our amphibious assault vehicles (AAV) because of the holes in the bridge. Combat engineers then brought out these floatable bridges. They looked like grated steel. It was flimsy, like sheet metal. We were taking fire from across the bridge and getting hit with mortars—60- and 80-millimeter mortars are getting shot at us.
These combat engineers who had laid down these bridges, the whole time they were showing so much courage because they are out there by themselves working. They got those two minibridges down, and they start just yelling, “Come on. Let’s go, let’s go.” Everybody gets up from their concealment—or from whatever cover they had—and we start hauling ass. We run across the steel, and it’s flexing, and there’s a 30-foot drop-off into the Euphrates below us. There are a few bodies scattered across that bridge, we took a few guys out coming up to the bridge there. Those faces will never leave my memory.
The fire got real heavy when we started coming across. I remember it pinging off the bridge everywhere. It was crazy. We fought our way across the bridge, and then we got on line.
1. A statue of Saddam Hussein falls in Firdos Square, Baghdad. 2. Jeremy Whitworth and his squad members prepare to invade Baghdad while waiting at Camp Ripper in Kuwait. 3. Jeremy Whitworth sits on top of a building in the city of Baghdad in 2003.
We started firing and moving. I would say “moving” and the guy behind me would say “move.” Then I would get up and sprint as far as I could during the amount of time it took me to say, “I’m up. He sees me. I’m down,” in my head. Then I’d go back down and start firing. I was hitting flat with the ground because those rounds were hitting a foot above our head. When a round comes by your face, it sounds like those little firework snappers going off.
Our sergeant major was across there with us. It was odd. That’s huge leadership when your battalion commander or sergeant major comes into battle with you. The sergeant major is walking behind us, and I remembered he said, “Steady fire, well-aimed shots, keep your bearing.”
There were mortar rounds going everywhere, and hell is breaking loose. We just start getting up and firing and moving as we normally would. And before you know it, we pushed through the enemy.
Once we were in Baghdad, we popped the hatches on top of the AAVs and sat up and watched just thousands of people starting to pour onto the sides of the streets. I remember pulling into the square and seeing another statue of Saddam. We always went straight for a statue. If we saw one, it was coming down. In every major city there was a dang statue of Saddam, like a godly statue of him in a gangster suit with a cigar in his mouth.
They had to pull in a D77—a tank tower—to pull down the statue. I remember one of my buddies threw his American flag up there initially and draped it across the statue. Then one of the higher-ups yelled, “Hey, take that down.” We weren’t there to invade; we were there to liberate. Another one of the guys had the older Iraqi flag—before Saddam had changed the flag—so they threw that up over the statue, and the crowd went crazy. They were all cheering “U.S.A, U.S.A.” Later they started dragging the statue through the streets, and all of these Iraqis were taking their sandals off and smacking the statue with sandals and kicking it with the bottom of their feet, which is one of the biggest signs of disrespect in their culture.
It felt like this was it, like the war was over. But I knew in the back of my head it wasn’t. I had a feeling we were going to keep pushing.
This article was originally published in 417 Magazine. Read the full article in 417 Magazine on 10/26/2016, or online at http://417mag.com