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Jena, La. native fights in Iraq

10 Jan 2006 | Lance Cpl. Zachary W. Lester

Marines deployed to Iraq find themselves facing difficult situations everyday.  After returning home, they reflect on some of the more difficult times they faced in the harsh desert.

Lance Cpl. Charley S. Hawkes, an infantryman with Company B, 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, patrolled western Iraq in the back of a Light Armored Vehicle (LAV) in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

On a routine patrol in Western Iraq’s city of Rutbah, the Jena, La. native found himself in a tight situation.

While setting up security around a building, the Jena High School graduate relieved one of the Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) gunners and kept an eye on a road near the building.

“It was quiet for a moment, when all of a sudden, I heard what sounded like shells hitting the ground,” Hawkes explained.  “The first thing that came to my mind was to grab the other SAW gunner and take off.  Everything after that was a blur.”

The next thing the 20-year-old Marine heard was two loud explosions.  As he was running up the steps of the building, he was knocked to the ground.  He had taken shrapnel damage to his right shoulder from two grenades.  Hawkes quickly recovered to take cover with his fellow Marines.

“We checked to make sure everyone was okay and then continued eastbound on the main road, pushing on,” he stated.  “I looked up to see red, green and blue tracers coming in my direction, so I jumped in the nearest alley along with my fellow Marines.”

He then proceeded to mount his vehicle.  Hawkes and the other Marines returned to the same area an hour later to patrol the area.     

While working with Company B in Iraq Hawkes partook in patrols, providing overhead watch for fellow Marines and searching for improvised explosive devices.

“I was a rifleman and the point man,” he said.  “Whenever we stopped to clear an area, I was the first one to go in.  I made sure the area was safe and I tried to find out what was ahead of us.  I cleared buildings, checked bridges to make sure they were safe for passing vehicles and set up security around buildings for the other Marines.”

Hawkes recently finished his first deployment to Iraq, and now reflects on these past events.

“Some days were long, some days were just crazy, and some were boring,” Hawkes said.  “You realize how great life is in the United States.  You take small things for granted, like grass.”

Hawkes was a volunteer fireman in his hometown.

“As a fireman, I served my town,” he explained.  “I figured I could do more by serving my country so I joined the Marines.”