Archive for November, 2013

The following is an excerpt from Indiana-born Nick Popaditch’s book, Once a Marine.

We are grateful to Nick and his publisher, Savas Beatie, LLC for his contribution at AAH.

But far more than that, we are grateful for his service to our country.

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The Cigar Marine

April 8, 2003

Central Baghdad

A wide boulevard with landscaped islands in the middle, lined with nice urban-type mid-rises in surprisingly fine shape. A very attractive and peaceful-seeming city, especially compared to the suburbs we just went through, where looting of government buildings has already broken out—it’s like a combo carnival and open-air Wal-Mart where everything is free.

But here, deep in Baghdad, we don’t see a soul.

I keep thinking of the old Charlton Heston sci-fi flick Omega Man, where the last non-zombie human male on earth speeds up and down the streets of a major metropolis in his car. I’m part of a column comprising two tank platoons and our infantry platoon in three amtracs, but still the silence and sense of isolation closes in. Very eerie.

In the distance, straight up our boulevard, stands an enormous statue that can’t be anybody but Saddam Hussein. His likeness is everywhere, to the point that guys make up funny names for some of the images—in a white suit and hat he’s Fantasy Island Saddam.

Photograph by Alexandra Boulat

The statue, flanked by shorter commemorative columns, stands in a round mini-park within a traffic circle where our boulevard ends. The big open area is nothing but round, but for some reason they call it Firdos Square. The tallest building on the square is the Palestine Hotel, in front of which we see a growing crowd. Westerners one and all, it turns out, most of them media types loaded down with journalistic weaponry. As our tanks pull in, the crowd crosses toward us like iron filings drawn to magnets. We follow the circle and take up positions at points where streets lead away from the square. It turns out to be a perfect set-up for a defensive perimeter. I park my tank next to the Palestine Hotel, orienting down a street that stops at the banks of the Tigris River just a block away.

People now pour out of the hotel, mostly really happy to see us and shooting bazillions of pictures. But then—can you believe it?—the first person to talk to me is a truly repulsive British woman belonging to a small flock of anti-war protestors. They call themselves Human Shields and carry a big banner that reads, “Go Home U.S. Wankers.”

Great, I’m thinking, I get the —holes. The battleaxe, who seems to be trying to bring back the Sixties, stands next to the tank and shouts up abuse like “You f—ing murderer!” while I crack up, which drives her more wild. With the banner in front of my tank, facing away, her group obviously wants international photo and video coverage, heroes in front of heavy armor like in Tiananmen Square. Of course my tank ain’t moving, much less shooting, and nobody buys their bull—-. The reporters totally ignore these clowns.

I lean down and say to my new girlfriend, “This is just grandstanding. If you really want to be a Human Shield, you should go across the river. They’re bombing over there right now. Listen, you can hear it.”

“F— you,” she says.

Great comeback. After a little more total indifference from the press, the group, disheartened, wanders away.

About this time, Capt. Lewis, puffing on a stogie, comes by and asks to use my radios. As he takes the handset he gives me the cigar.


I look at it a few seconds.

Why not?

I take a few puffs. Can’t call myself a connoisseur, but it tastes damn fine to me.

While I am puffing on the captain’s cigar, a French journalist takes a still shot of me. Little do I know it, but my smiling mug, with Saddam’s statue in the background, will run on front pages all over the world. It’s Black Six’s cigar and only a loaner, but I become known as The Cigar Marine.

All the while, Iraqis arrive. At first they come by ones and twos, acting very cautious. After nothing bad happens, word gets out and people pour into the square until we’ve got a happy mob, an anti-Saddam Woodstock. Locals love abusing the statue, gesturing and throwing stuff. Many pitch shoes, which shows particular disrespect because to them the bottom of the foot is lower than low. Every good hit on the statue gets wild cheers.

I give passing thought to the security implications of the mob scene. Could be die-hard Baathists all around, guys checking out our defensive positions and firepower. Who cares? We can take all comers and attack in any direction at battalion strength. And who could deny the people their party? Until the loyalists hauled ass this morning, nobody would have dared to flip off Saddam’s image. A banged-up Portugese reporter shows us video footage taken by a friend. In it one of Hussein’s henchmen clubs the reporter repeatedly with the butt of an AK-47. That happened right here, just yesterday. The guy’s a mess but deliriously happy to see us. The joy and gratitude of the Iraqis beats all, though. People shout out their thanks and try to hand up flowers and other gifts. I can’t help but get caught up in the celebration and what it means, both to them and to me.

Three weeks back, I thought about nothing but defeating the enemy’s military and knocking off their regime. Now that defeat looks like a victory beyond anything I imagined. This is what I fought for. It’s why I put heart and soul into the Marine Corps way back when. A pure, one hundred percent Marine mission, setting people free from a tyrant they couldn’t get rid of on their own. Forty years, they knuckled under to this murderous son of a bitch because they had no choice. Now, with our help, he’s on the run and they’re dancing in the streets, literally, because he will oppress them no more.

The crowd goes especially wild when a big, burly Iraqi whales away at the statue’s pedestal with a sledge hammer. This guy is huge, like a circus strong man, and he attacks the statue’s base so it will fall over. Not such a bad idea if he had a jackhammer, but it’ll take forever with his hand tool.

Kadom al-Jabouri attacks Saddam Hussein's statue 2003

I don’t know who should get credit, but the Marines come to the strong man’s aid. People go beyond wild hearing the V-12 diesel on our M88, our maintenance vehicle, fire up and then seeing its long boom swing up and out in front like an arm. Here’s our statue killer. It’s a miracle nobody gets run over or hurt climbing on the vehicle’s deck while it creeps through the crowd toward the statue.

Now all eyes are on the M88 guys. After the driver, Lance Corporal Riley, positions the machine, a mechanic, Corporal Chin, climbs up to throw a loop around Saddam’s neck and hook it up to the winch cables that run out the boom. Our corpsman, Doc Rose, also rides the M88, the reasoning being that broken tanks will likely have broken Marines on board. He assists Chin. Pictures of Chin and Doc Rose will go out all over the world, great for them because they usually labor in obscurity. After one good pull on a heavy rope loop around Saddam’s neck breaks the rope, the guys rig a towing chain.

Later rehashes by unfriendly press aside, nobody in the square takes the least bit of offense when an American flag goes over Saddam Hussein’s head. The Iraqis cheer like crazy. The flag doesn’t mean we conquered anybody—just “Saddam, you’re through.” Obviously, though, it doesn’t play so well politically, because an order comes down from on high to remove the Stars and Stripes. So an Iraqi flag goes up, and people cheer for that, too. The McDonald’s flag would do the trick, or a giant bedspread. I like both flags fine and dig the image of Saddam with his head covered by cloth and a noose around his neck, like he’s about to be hanged.

The M88 commander, Gunnery Sergeant Lambert, a famously methodical and fastidious individual, makes a major production out of pulling the statue down. He does it by inches, backing up and winching out cable bit by bit, retrograding to where the statue won’t fall on his vehicle. “Come on, Gunny, yank that f—er down already, you’re killing us.” Though we expect the statue to topple over, it does something cooler, buckling and breaking at the shins so two feet still stand. Not only is the guy down, we can see inside his statue. He’s hollow.

My crewmen ask if they can dismount and mingle. Sure guys, you earned it. They come back looking starry-eyed, and then it’s my turn to get down and be amongst the crowd, one happy Moe among many. One man and I actually show each other our kids’ pictures. The more I get to know the locals, the more I see they’re just like me, and the more I want them to have a shot at a life as good as mine. Glad to help, more than glad, and proud.

Inadvertently, I’m a huge help to that Frenchman who took the cigar picture. A couple hours after he took the picture, he finds me in the crowd, shakes my hand and says, “You have made me a lot of money, my friend.” As I understand, his shot got picked up by the Associated Press and made a big hit worldwide.

After some back and forth, I say to him, “Since I did this for you, I want to ask you to do me a favor.”

“It will be my pleasure,” he says.

“I will write down my home phone number. Could you please call it and tell the woman who answers to watch what’s happening here on TV? I want her to see this.”

“Call her yourself, my friend,” he says and flips me a satt phone. After April picks up, I tell her to turn on the news, and she laughs and says she and other wives have been watching together and taping everything, having their own Firdos Square in Twentynine Palms.

“We haven’t missed a thing,” she says, “We’re so proud of our guys.”

Can it get any better than this?

Well, yes, it can. We were married twelve years ago today.

“Happy Anniversary, Beautiful Woman,” I say.

* * *


Firdos Square was an incredible moment, as anybody lucky enough to have been there will tell you. I was fortunate to spend a few more weeks mopping up and keeping the peace on the streets of Baghdad. When I think of that city during those times, I think of people I liked, kids, smiling faces, laughs, and happiness. The promise of freedom was pure and real.

However the situation in Iraq comes out, I’m proud that I fought to give those people a shot at a better life.


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You can read more about Nick including his biography and those of AAH’s other contributors here.

You may read more about Nick here, too, at Cigar Marine.com.

For you Kindle users, an audio version of Once a Marine is available as well:

OAM Paperback (LR)

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This is the second in a four-part series by AAH Contributing Writer, Indy-based author, counselor and blogger, Dr. Phillip D. Sparks.

Yes, we still welcome your comments, challenges, agreements, monkey wrenches, doubts, rants and questions.

The Sun - a perfect sphere Photo AP

Old Verses Young Earth: The Evolution-Creation Debate, Part II

By Dr. Phillip D. Sparks

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Most discoveries that support a young earth never make it to the current media sources. One of the most reputable journals is Science and this piece of evidence was published in a 2003 issue. It reported soft tissue being discovered in the femur of the dinosaur Tyrannosaurus rex. This dinosaur has been dated at about 65 million years ago. But if the date is true the soft tissues would have long disappeared. Similar discoveries in fossils dating to millions of years have also been found. One of these was in salamander fossil supposedly dated 18 million years ago. Proteins just do not survive that long.

We know the sun is getting smaller every day.

If the world was several billions years old, when we project back that far, the sun would have to have been so big and so hot no living thing could have survived when the first live formed, let alone allow proteins to exist within the organic soup.

Oil supposedly was trapped in the earth several million years ago. This oil is under pressure so that when it is tapped by a drill it comes to the surface with great force. However these oil basins leak and the pressure slowly leaks out. If the world was even several million years old, the pressure would have all leaked out. This is not what the research shows.


We can date unfossilized dinosaur bones as a few thousand years old using carbon 14 not the 60 million years that evolutionists tell us. Due to the half life of carbon 14 it would all be decayed unless the world is much younger than evolutionists tell us.

For natural selection to explain life forms as we know them, advantageous mutations must have occurred. We know that most all mutations are harmful, so the best explanation is that God created the kinds of organisms that we see on earth today less than 10,000 years ago.

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Next post in the series:
Evolution – Science Says No

Previous post: Old Verses Young Earth: the Evolution-Creation Debate, Part I
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To read the biographies of Dr. Sparks and our other contributing writers, and to find links to their posts at AAH, go here.

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References for further reading:

Science (journal)

Blackhills Institute

Stanford Solar Center

Sun’s protective ‘bubble’ is shrinking, The London Telegraph

Michael Brown’s Mike’s Origins Resource

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