Monday, May 30, 2005
Marine proud to serve this Memorial Day
By AUDREY PARENTE | News-Journal Staff Writer
DAYTONA BEACH — Temperatures soar to 130 degrees in the Iraqi desert. Sandstorms plunge daylight into darkness within minutes.
And Marine Cpl. Ryan S. Robinson’s life is in constant danger.
Some of his missions in Iraq since February are classified, but, in an e-mail interview, the 22-year-old soldier shares a glimpse of his life far from his family, which includes five brothers and sisters back home in Ormond Beach.
“It’s not exactly Club Med,” says Robinson about his quarters at the Marine Tactical Air Command Center at Al Asad. “It’s a hardened shelter with running water and the basics —like a bed and a couple (of) shelves to keep my belongings.”
He is not permitted to say how many soldiers are in his unit, but says that his digs are better than many.
“I have food, water, a roof over my head and a mission to accomplish, so that makes me happy,” he says. “But more than happy, it gives me purpose.”
He downplays desert- and weather-related difficulties as nothing more than routine.
“One of the things you come to expect when serving as a Marine is difficulty. In fact, the struggles become an endearing quality after a while. I am honored to be struggling for my country.”
Robinson must put up with odd bedfellows, like “incredible insects, strange beetles and scorpions,” but has been “fortunate enough to not have seen those large spiders we refer to as ‘camel spiders.’ ”
Desert companions include a rabbit family he thinks “lives off of junk food from care packages sent from home because there’s barely any greenery.”
Robinson says in Iraq fear is a necessary emotion that he expects to encounter for, at least, several more months before returning to the United States. He always carries his M16/A2 rifle.
“I know that all Marines would agree with me that fear is very dear to us. Fear will keep you alive and sustain you more than any other emotion.”
Robinson disagrees with opponents of the war in Iraq. He believes Iraq needs support: “I am proud of my president for making the tough decisions and standing by them. There is a lot of media going around about this whole operation being wrong, and people saying we shouldn’t be here. I can guarantee you that none of them have ever spoken to an Iraqi or had them thank you for what we were doing for their country and their families.”
Lt. Col. Robert C. Schut, Robinson’s commanding officer, says in an e-mail the company’s mission as “complex,” and explains that Robinson’s job is in the communications center directing front-line, air-combat support and medical evacuations. Working 12-hour shifts seven days a week allows Robinson only a few free personal hours at night.
“For entertainment, I resort to books and magazines. We have areas for watching TV or DVDs. Plus the base that I am on has an Internet area.”
As for food, Robinson says: “We have a chow hall and it serves very good food, but I will say that I can’t wait to get back home and visit Carrabba’s, a favorite of my family.”
Robinson, who attended Seabreeze High School, says he counts on his fellow Marines “more like brothers than friends,” but he misses home. He left for South Carolina’s Parris Island boot camp 11 days after his 18th birthday.
“He couldn’t make up his mind about his career goals and thought the military would give him discipline,” says his mother, Jennifer. “It did that.”
The war started after he enlisted, but when it did, she says, “He did want to go. It’s what they are trained to do, and he wanted to do his part.”
Because her son is in communications, he can e-mail every morning, she says, but her faith helps her make it through the rest of the day: “We are Christians and trust in the sovereignty of God. It’s out of my hands, and I can’t do anything about it (the war) anyway.”
Robinson’s dad, Robert, supports his son’s choice to join the Marines: “Other branches might have been an easier way to go, but he picked the Marine Corps because it was the hardest, and, if he could accomplish that, he could prove something to himself and everybody else.”
One of Robinson’s sisters, Randi, 14, was 10 when her brother left home: “He has been gone in the military close to four years, so we have kind of adjusted to him being gone for so long. But he is missed every day here. There are worries, but more so, I am extremely proud.”