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The Other Side

Ray “Chief” Charfauros, United States Marine Corps

I can feel the kiss of the sun touch my skin, my pores open up, and sweat starts to bead down from my cheeks. Am I dreaming? NO. Suddenly, I wake up with a pool of sweat around my head. It is 120 degrees out. I lay there for a while, until the flies start to dance on my face. I get irritated and scream…. FUCK!!!

Another day starts in the world of combat operations…

My mind races around the preparation that takes place as I lead my Marines into combat. Is today another day of chaos? What is the enemy going to bring to the fight today? Are we going to make it out alive?

My Marines are tough, mentally prepared for another day. I sound the call, “Team leaders and Snipers up!” They approach, and I inform them we are pushing south. They already know what that means. There will be a fight!!!

As I look around, my hardened warriors are stripping MREs and packing water in their packs, cargo pockets, and drop pouches (meant for empty mags). The sound of weapons being prepared. My warriors are cussing, laughing, and some silent, knowing that today could be their day.

The dust kicks up as the boots crunch into the baked earth. The sun is burning into our skin as our cammies become soaked with sweat, and turns white as sweat turns into a salt stain. My finger starts to cramp as it is firmly placed on the trigger. My weapon on fire as my heart beats for the sound of….. CRACK CRACK CRACK!!!!

My Marines and I in the bait team hit the crusted earth, tree limbs start to break, enemy rounds start to impact near our position. Like a choreographed movie, my team moves into position to find the enemy! Rooftops are being occupied by our snipers, my teams are set into fighting positions. My Corpsman are ready to treat any wounded.

In the distance, we spot the enemy’s position… Guns start talking…. Enemy rounds impacting near us… Our rounds getting closer as we spot his movement. It is on! Kill, Kill, Kill is our only thought process.

My call sign comes over the radio. It is my third team; “Chief, there is a motorcycle approaching in at a rapid rate with something bulging on his back.” Within a split second, decisions run through my mind: disable, kill, disable, kill? I make the call, “Disable the motorcycle.” The sound of the SAW (squad automatic weapon) bursts penetrate the motorcycle.

As a young 21 year old, who would have thought these were the decisions that would have to be made? My Marines’ lives were in eminent danger. Calls have to be made. I have to make these decisions. A decision that would ultimately be our life or theirs. Who rides their motorcycle during a firefight between the Marines and Taliban?

As the enemy fire dies down, lying there next to his motorcycle, a pool of blood around his body mixed with oil from the engine, we approach. Sweat drips down my face, mixed with adrenaline and decisions to be made. Kill or not kill?

Not kill, the smell of iron burns into my nose, from his blood. My Marines secure his body and strip the items off his back. No weapons. Just bullet holes in his body. My finger, warm and into the hole of his flesh to stop the bleeding created by the penetration of the bullet. The man lies there in and out of consciousness. My Corpsman starts to put tourniquets around the man’s legs. My hands are full of hot blood soaking through my gloves.

All of a sudden, screaming and crying surrounds, as my Corpsman and my Marine treat the wounds of this man. The wife and son wailing- sounds that I awake to in my dreams. The son kneeling down next to his dad, crying.

“Get them the hell away from me!” I yell to my Marine. Thoughts kick in; this is their family. Maybe the last time they speak to him. Patched up and waiting for the bird to come and pick him up. The wife, kneeling beside the husband, letting him know that she loves him. What the hell, I thought to myself. Decisions of war… It was my Marines’ lives or his. Decisions I would have to face in front of The Man!

Ray Charfauros served in the United States Marine Corps from 2006 to 2013 before receiving medical discharge. While attached to Marine Barracks 8th and I, Washington, DC, he served in the Marine Corps Firing Party (21 gun salute) at Arlington National Cemetery and on the Dover Team, performing dignified transfers for the Fallen. While stationed at 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines, Camp Lejeune, Ray was deployed twice to Afghanistan where he served as a squad leader in the Battle of Marjah, the largest U.S. helicopter assault since Vietnam. Ray has received the following personal awards: Navy Commendation Medal with Valor, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Good Conduct Medal, and Combat Action Ribbon.

After graduating from CFCC and UNCW, Ray was employed as a Veterans Service Officer for Pender County, NC and is now CFCC’s Veterans Coordinator. Ray is active in the Veterans community serving as a DAV Chapter Service Officer, board member for the Coastal Carolina Community Veterans Engagement Group, committee member of the Cape Fear Purple Heart Dinner, and NCDAV board member.

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