I saw a Marine leaning out over the edge of a roof in the middle of a firefight, leaving himself in the open purposefully in order to tempt an enemy RPG shooter to break cover in order to end him.
I've seen numerous Marines standing a lonely post in the pre-dawn hours, keeping watch carefully and correctly even though no one would know if they cut a corner, but doing it right because they were responsible for their buddies' lives.
I watched a Sailor calmly grab his gear and run out in the open to a casualty who needed him, he never asked "How bad is he hurt?" or "How much enemy fire is there?", the only thing he asked was "Where's the casualty?" then he went. Because Corpsmen always come when they are needed, always.
I watched 19 and 20 year old men, who a mere few years before were undoubtedly typical self centered teenagers, earnestly try to make a young child who has only known poverty and war smile. I even saw a very imposing Marine in this Battalion who, frankly, scares the heck out of me, see a little girl off to the side of a group of kids with nothing in her hands so he very seriously went around saying "Somebody give me a teddy-bear, who has a F-ing teddy bear?" until he found one and presented it to her. The only person there with a bigger smile than the little girl was the Marine. He then went right back to chewing on his squad to keep their dispersion and move faster.
I watched FST medical personnel try every desperate measure to keep a good Marine with us, to the point of opening his chest and massaging his heart for what seemed like an interminable time. At the same time I saw a line of Marines and Sailors and Soldiers forming outside to donate blood, we had enough donors to transfuse all of Hannibal's elephants but they all wanted to do something and at that time the only thing they could do was give some of their blood.
I watched an NCO very patiently sum up all the complex nuances of counter-insurgency warfare to a young Marine while both were being pummeled with stones and physically knocking intruders off our wall from a mob threatening to breach the walls of our police station; "They want us to shoot them, so then they can make us all look like bad guys." So we didn't shoot, even though we had more than sufficient justification, and in the end what could have been a horrible incident broadcast around the world actually became a positive as the locals started talking about the restraint of "their Marines" and became angry with the rioters for their "un-Islamic" behavior.
I watched a Marine, with excruciating slowness and superhuman patience, lead an Afghan Policeman through a patrol brief. And I saw the pride in the ANP officer's face when he lead his patrol out the entry control point, in his town and in front of his people, with the Marines trailing along behind in case he needed some help. I also saw an Afghan Policeman's face when I told him that the Marines thought highly of him and had told me that "Spider" (his nickname) was a good guy to have alongside you in a fight. He sputtered a little bit then said something short and stared at me very intensely, the linguist told me "He says he is just so very proud that the US Marines think that". Once Spider was sure that I understood that he meant it, he strutted away like he had just won the world's highest honor. And perhaps he had.
I know that for the rest of my life I will cherish this period in which I had the honor to spend my days among such incredible men. And I know that it has been your sacrifices that have made it possible. I thank you for allowing me this time with your loved ones.
We are coming home.