'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."
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