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'I Carry Them With Me Everywhere I Go'

When Cpl. Darron Dale tucked a rosary inside his flak vest, he never imagined the close call that lay ahead.

In a firefight with the Taliban in Afghanistan's Helmand province in late July, the M240B machine gunner on Dale's team was shot in the foot.

"I'm hit! I'm hit!" the gunner called. Dale bounded forward to take over the gun, as other Marines pulled the wounded comrade to safety. But as Dale moved he was shot three times in his back armored plate.

"It threw me to the ground," said Dale, of 3rd Platoon, Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment. He felt liquid running down his back and assumed he was bleeding, but still took up the machine gun and fired back.

In fact, the liquid was leaking water. The bullets had punctured holes in his camel back canteen and the cloth covering of his body armor.

Several members of Dale's platoon asked to go with him to Las Vegas, but instead Dale was reluctantly evacuated by helicopter to a military hospital.

Afterwards, other Marines pulled out some of the religious and sentimental amulets that they always carry with them into battle.

Sgt. Nathan Harris, 25, of Yadkinville, North Carolina, has a piece of prayer cloth tucked into his body armor that was given to him -- and to every other member of his company -- by his grandmother.

"It's to represent that somebody's at home praying for you, and that God's with you, and not to worry about it because you have to do your job," said Harris.

Cpl. Taly Ramirez, 29, of St. Paul, Minnesota, reached into a pouch next to his ammunition rack and took out his good luck charm: the GI Joe figure "snake eyes," his childhood favorite.

"Everywhere my team goes, he goes," said Ramirez. "I thought he was so cool," he recalled. "That’s all fiction, but my job now is real."

Capt. Eric Meador, Echo Company commander, carries with him a St. Jude medallion that his wife had blessed at the christening of his oldest son. "This has been on five deployments in the last 10 years," said Meador, 37, of Jones County, Mississippi.

When Lance Cpl. Jason Russ, 19, of Haightstown, New Jersey, deployed to Afghanistan, he brought with him the Armed Forces Cross his grandfather wore in Vietnam, as well as a cross belonging to his girlfriend's great-grandmother.

"They are all very important to me. I carry them with me everywhere I go," Russ said. Asked whether the amulets make him feel protected, however, he replied, "No. My gun makes me feel safe."

By Ann Scott Tyson  |  August 3, 2009; 12:14 PM ET
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I am humbled by the stories about these brave young men. As a country we are blessed to have such gallant and heroic men who represent the best that our country has to offer. We must as a country do everything within our powers' to support them during their enlistment and as important after they leave the service.

Posted by: Magee1 | August 3, 2009 3:13 PM | Report abuse

We owe gratitude to our young men and women who fight for us. I wish we didn't have to invade Iraq and continue to fight in Afghanistan. Regardless, our military deserves our prayers and wishes that they come home safe and unharmed.

Posted by: mstratas | August 3, 2009 3:44 PM | Report abuse

It's funny. On my Iraq deployments I carried my grandfather's serviceman's bible (complete with metal faceplate for ballistic protection, to be placed in the left breast pocket over the heart). I wasn't remotely religious, and especially not over there. But the longer I went without getting hit the more faith I put in that bible for keeping me safe. I think that near everyone in my company had some sort of protective charm, amulet or trinket. Religious or sentimental, it brought the same peace of mind.

Posted by: sethmalaguerra | August 3, 2009 4:07 PM | Report abuse

Truly inspiring! We never know what will happen next but a step in faith is a step in the right direction. God Bless these young men and women.

Posted by: kidkayt | August 3, 2009 4:18 PM | Report abuse

It was interesting to read about what today's soldiers carry with them. My grandfather always told us that praying to Mary is what got him through WWII. He carried his rosary with him throughout.

Posted by: NancyeR | August 3, 2009 4:49 PM | Report abuse

i remember a book. "the things they carried" it was a great book semper fi michael

Posted by: coolgolf | August 3, 2009 5:11 PM | Report abuse

It is very easy to forget about American servicemembers fighting in a war that is not on our soil. We go to work, grocery shop, go to dance practice and PTA meetings. Without going outside and seeing the ruins of war, or without knowing someone who's served in these wars, it's very easy to become complacent about the many Americans serving in combat. Articles like these put a face and story to the thousands serving. That is how you reach the American people. Thanks.

Posted by: fleananthony | August 3, 2009 7:48 PM | Report abuse

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 08/04/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

Posted by: ThunderRun | August 4, 2009 10:20 AM | Report abuse

We now know a Protestant soldier in Helmand has been baptised there, and a Catholic one carries his rosary beads at all times. Next, how Jewish soldiers ally their God and attacking Afghanistan? And how about any Hindu and Sikh and Jain and Zoroastrians doing the same thing?

Does any of this make the campaign in any real sense "right"? Or Good in God's eyes?

Few think that having "God with us" punched on their belt buckles helped German soldiers in World War II did much to prove the merits of their cause.

Posted by: kunino | August 9, 2009 6:28 PM | Report abuse

These are my guys. I can't read about what they are doing without getting choked up. God keep them safe.

Posted by: llnstoner | March 5, 2010 9:37 AM | Report abuse

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