AR RAMADI, Iraq -- Each day, Aaron P. Selby dons his protective gear, loads his M-16 A4 service rifle, and takes to the streets of the Al Anbar capital to fight terrorism.
A husband and father of two, 26-year-old Sgt. Selby’s profession as a Marine infantryman is different from that of most family men.
The 3rd Squad leader for 1st Platoon, Company C, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, leads his Marines in conducting day-to-day security and stabilization operations in the city here in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
His line of work is dangerous and physically taxing as he patrols the urban battlefield with 50 pounds of gear on his body to combat insurgents who attack and run.
“But that’s all just part of it” said Selby from Ft. Thomas, Ky., who feels the most difficult part of his job is being separated from his wife and children. “It’s tough being in a combat environment and away from them.”
Nicole, his wife of six years, their three-year-old daughter Amara and two-year-old son Memphis are at home in Oceanside, Calif., while he fights in the Global War on Terrorism halfway around the world. War has divided the Selbys for months, and they have to endure more before they’re reunited when 1st Battalion, 5th Marines returns to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif.
“This is my first combat deployment,” said the 1998 Highlands High School graduate, “and it’s not like the other deployments where I can say ‘I’ll be right back.’ There’s a chance I won’t come back, and that’s stressful for me and the family.”
Selby had to leave his young family for several months at a time twice before when his old unit, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, deployed to Okinawa, Japan as part of the Unit Deployment Program.
Selby missed some milestones while he was gone.
“I missed my daughter’s birthday,” he said sadly. “She was born August 26, 2001, and I was in Okinawa. She turned two-years-old when I was in Okinawa the second time. She’s turning four-years-old next month, and I’ll miss that one, too, because I’ll be here in Iraq. It’s sad, but I hope that she’ll grow up and understand that I was gone for an important reason. I’m doing this for my family.”
Despite the separation, Selby remains a motivated Marine with seven years of dedicated service to Corps and country. Selby loves his country and fellow Americans. He says he is proud to wear the Eagle, Globe and Anchor and fight to protect what he loves.
“I feel very patriotic,” he said. “As Marines, we’re over here fighting terrorism, which is protecting Americans and the rest of the world. We’re also helping the Iraqis have a better life.”
Selby justifies his absence from his family with the importance of the mission he and his Marines are conducting.
“The war on terrorism is an important fight,” he said. “Our presence here will help eliminate some of the terrorism. I want to be at home with my wife and see my kids grow up. It’s my belief that there should always be two parents at home raising children, but that’s not possible in my line of work.”
Selby said Nicole is doing a great job even though she has her hands full raising their two children and working as a chiropractor while he’s away.
The children he comes in contact while patrolling through the city remind him of his own.
“Their smiles and how they run up to us and greet us reminds me of my kids,” he said. “I carry candy in my pockets to give out to them. I also give out small, American flags. I gave a little girl a flag recently, and I really enjoyed watching her run around the street waving it. In one of the houses we searched there’s a little boy who reminds me of my son because of the crazy things he does. My kids are full of energy and always playing like these kids here.”
According to Selby, it’s important for Marines and coalition forces to establish a good relationship with the people of Iraq, especially the children.
“It’s sad that the children and the people here are subject to terrorism,” he said. “We must do what we can to help the Iraqi people. By us giving candy and gift to the children, maybe they’ll form their own, positive opinion on Americans and not believe what the terrorists are leading them and their parents to believe. Years from now, some of these children will hopefully remember that the Americans gave them gifts and showed the compassion and helped protect them from terror.”