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September 10th, 2009
11:15 PM ET

One common goal

Program Note: Tune in tonight for Anderson's live coverage from Afghanistan. He is joined by Peter Bergen, Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Michael Ware. AC360° tonight at 10 p.m. ET.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/09/10/art.ac.afghan.marines.jpg caption="U.S. Marines listen to a brief before heading out on patrol in Helmand Province."]

Anderson Cooper | BIO
AC360° Anchor

"What’s your blood type?"

It’s the question you’re asked around here a lot. Before getting into a helicopter, before going out on patrol with a new unit. "What's your blood type?"

The Marines have their blood type sewn into the patches they wear along with their name and rank. Many write it in black marker on the band of their goggles. I know some guys who even have it tattooed on their chests, just above their heart. Blood types are displayed prominently in case something goes wrong – in case they get hurt. Doctors can treat them faster in an emergency if they know what blood type to use. At first, the question surprised me, now it’s just a routine part of the introduction.

When you’re an embedded reporter moving from base to base, you meet new Marines all the time. At first some are wary of reporters, but go out on a foot patrol with a platoon for several hours in a combat zone, and very quickly the wariness breaks down, especially when they see you don’t have an agenda.

"My wife emailed me," one Marine said to me this morning. "She said you're reporting the real stuff we're doing here. Thanks." He made my day.

I know it sounds corny, but it's impossible not to want to do right by these Marines. To get the story right. They are separated from their families, far from home, living in dust and dirt, putting their lives on the line every day.
They are doing it for their families, for each other, and for us, but they are also doing it for Afghans, many of whom are still on the fence about their presence here.

Most people in the U.S. probably think this war is all about hunting down the Taliban. It's not. The mission is far more complex. The Marines’ goal in Helmand province is to protect the population.

This is not a war about territory, or enemy body count, it is about protecting people, building confidence, convincing Afghans to choose sides. This is not the traditional role played by Marines, but they are adapting, and despite frustrations, and growing losses and difficulties, the Marines I'm with express a real sense of accomplishment and deep pride.

Many Marines here have already done multiple tours in Iraq. For others, this is their first deployment. I’ve met career Marines here, and some young men who plan to get out of the Corps as soon as their enlistment is up. Some love the mission, others can’t wait to get out.

The Marines here are as varied as the American population. What sets them apart, however, what they have in common, is their dedication. Despite their differences as individuals, they are willing to sacrifice for a common goal. It is humbling to witness. It is, I think, important to remember.


Filed under: Afghanistan • Anderson Cooper
soundoff (348 Responses)
  1. Jack

    Yeah yeah, we get it: AC the hero. AC the patriot. AC who stands in harms way and reports without any agenda.

    Could you possibly get any more obvious in your self-promotion? What are you trying to become – the next Rush Limbaugh of self-congratulation?

    A whole page about how great AC is. You make me sick.

    September 10, 2009 at 12:47 pm |
  2. Pat Sommerhalder

    Anderson and CNN are doing a great job reminding us that the war in Afghanistan and Iraq is still going on, and that many soldiers are putting their lives on the line. We sometimes tend to forget what is going on, because it's so far away and does not seem to impact our day-to-day lives.
    Thank you for a great job. Keep up the good work, and stay safe.

    September 10, 2009 at 12:47 pm |
  3. Linda

    Very important to remember indeed. We remember MJ for months, and have endless news coverage about his death – an entertainer. These guys are laying it all on the line for us, and we hardly give them a nod. Keep covering these men and women, and hopefully we will learn to give them the recognition they so richly deserve.

    September 10, 2009 at 12:46 pm |
  4. Roy Danks

    Anderson,

    As an OIF vet and someone who will more than likely be in OEF, I appreciate your willingness to go to the lines, meet the men and women of the military and report accurately.

    RD

    September 10, 2009 at 12:46 pm |
  5. socalgal

    Semper Fi! If only the young and ignorant could experience such service the country would be a whole lot better off.

    September 10, 2009 at 12:46 pm |
  6. Michael K. Tyson Baltimore, MD

    Being a fromer marine, I also thank you for putting out the truth and letting us see that the war is more than the 2 minute blurbs we see on TV. All service members have a difficult job to do over there, but we do what we do to know that we are making a difference. OOH RAH!!!

    September 10, 2009 at 12:45 pm |
  7. Teresa

    Our company made the patches that the Marines are wearing. Believe me...it struck us as we made the patches for these Marines...why. We prayed over the package before we sent them out. We pray every day for the Marines, Soldiers, Sailors and all our Service men and women in harms way. God bless them all, please.

    September 10, 2009 at 12:45 pm |
  8. Ted

    It is sad that we wasted so much time in the wrong country when it should have been Afghanistan the place to be...

    September 10, 2009 at 12:44 pm |
  9. Lois Dent

    As a MOM (mother of a Marine), I read your stories with tears in my eyes, smile on my lips and pride in my heart. I am so proud of my son, LCpl Rawley Dent, 1/5 H & S Co., all his fellow Marines I have met and all those who wear the EGA. I work with the children of US Army soldiers stationed in Germany and have great respect for the families left behind while the military parent fights for my freedom. Yet among the Hoorah, there is one loud 00-RAH.
    Thanks for bringing what our Marines are doing and facing to the forefront of reality.

    September 10, 2009 at 12:44 pm |
  10. Todd Brown

    As a Marine during the Viet Nam conflict, I know we looked at one another as one green group. There is no black, white, red or brown, only green.

    We did not start te cinflict, but we did the job we were asked to do. That is wat Marines do.

    When I got back to the states after two tours, there was a lot of unrest, both due to the war, but also between different groups of people. I did not really understand it then, and I am still foggy on it today.

    It would be nice it Americans could look to the left and right, acknowledge the people there and then get on with the job at hand.

    September 10, 2009 at 12:42 pm |
  11. Rob

    I think since Anderson is there with them and documenting this. They should make some kind of documentary out of the video and footage. 1hr special on HBO.
    Rarely do we get to see it from our soldiers point of view. Instead we have to buy into what we are fed on a constant basis which is the negative side coming from the liberal media

    September 10, 2009 at 12:40 pm |
  12. Nicole

    I really appreciate hearing about what is really going on in the Middle East. My boyfriend is a Marine in Iraq and I get scared sometimes watching the news.

    September 10, 2009 at 12:39 pm |
  13. Debbie Watson

    Thank you Anderson, also please take a moment and thank the troops for what they try to do, what they sacrifice and what they accomplish. It means a lot to me. I am proud of them.

    Thanks again!
    Sincerely
    Debbie Watson

    September 10, 2009 at 12:38 pm |
  14. Rich A.

    Anderson Cooper doesn't have an agenda? I doubt that, and I doubt that I'd have much to say to him if he ever rode on my patrol boat.

    While it's true that the mission isn't necessarily to hunt down the Taliban, I don't want to hear the mission objective from Anderson Cooper or CNN. I want to hear it from the government.

    Do you remember what freeing Afganistan got us last time? It gave us a well-trained Osama Bin Laden who turned around and attacked the country that trained and funded him.

    September 10, 2009 at 12:36 pm |
  15. Lynn

    This is the 2nd story I've read from this collection and I have to say "thanks" to Anderson Cooper. He said "I know it sounds corny, but it’s impossible not to want to do right by these Marines. To get the story right. They are separated from their families, far from home, living in dust and dirt, putting their lives on the line every day." Yes, they are doing these thing and it's about time someone took note. My husband spent 7 months in Iraq and missed most of my pregnancy and the birth of our first child. He was a Hospital Corpsman in the Navy stationed with Marines, which basically makes him a Marine, and he talks about his time over there now with pride and even says they had some good times together. Once you prove yourself to those Marines, they'll have your back and expect you to have theirs' as well. Please keep these first honest stories coming.

    September 10, 2009 at 12:36 pm |
  16. Helen

    Its nice to see the news giving those guys the credit they deserve. Ill be honest, I was never a big fan of A/C.. but this story changed my attitude. Keep up the good work. Semper Fi

    September 10, 2009 at 12:36 pm |
  17. Yobee

    Good job, Anderson. This war, as well as the Iraq excursion has long cried out for the truth from the field. To place these brave soldiers in harm's way and not tell the real story is a disservice to both them and ourselves.

    I lean leftward in my politics, but I've always felt that once our soldiers are in the field, whatever the justification, they require our unmitigated support.

    Please tell the next Marine you see that this liberal wishes him well in his tour and hopes that he can complete it whole in both mind and spirit.

    Keep up the good work.

    September 10, 2009 at 12:35 pm |
  18. Michelle Johnson, Lomita, CA

    The week in Afghanistan really makes me appreciate the hardships our military endures to protect the U.S. and other nations. Outstanding coverage on all counts.

    September 10, 2009 at 12:34 pm |
  19. Mike Armstrong TX.

    Marking the clothing with your name or initials has always been common practice but the blood type is a good idea to be added this knowledge of ones blood type would also be a good idea for cevilians my blood type is o+ whats yours ?

    September 10, 2009 at 12:33 pm |
  20. Anthony

    Anderson Cooper,
    Thank you. As a fellow Marine...It is heart warming to hear you tell our story. I did a year tour in Iraq and several tours as a Marine....it is the few, the proud and always Marine.

    Semper Fi,
    Anthony Bolin

    September 10, 2009 at 12:31 pm |
  21. Alex

    Ooo-rah!

    September 10, 2009 at 12:31 pm |
  22. Michael Foley

    Thanks. These chronicles are the one's we have always hoped to see make the media.

    "Most people in the U.S. probably think this war is all about hunting down the Taliban. It’s not. The mission is far more complex. The Marines’ goal in Helmand province is to protect the population."

    It's refreshing to read something that doesn't appear to be sensationalist or be political cannon fodder.

    September 10, 2009 at 12:31 pm |
  23. Vivian

    Absolutely! It is a terrible war in a hostile place and my heart goes out to them all and their families. Americans are not doing enough and seem to be forgetting the toll it is taking on our Marines, their families and other branches of service.

    Come on, every single American citizen, think about them, donate, volunteer, display your flag, something to let them know you care.

    September 10, 2009 at 12:31 pm |
  24. Paul Downey

    AC,

    Thanks for getting the real stuff out to us, and please let the Marines know that they're in our thoughts and prayers. In my business travels, I see so many of our troops in fatigues at the airports that I pass through, and I know that they're either going out or coming back. For the most part, they look sooooo young. Yet they represent us with the dedication that you speak of and they show their honor.

    Please pass along our best to them and tell them to be safe.

    Keep your head down, too!

    Paul Downey

    September 10, 2009 at 12:30 pm |
  25. Lilibeth

    Yes, your presence there helps the world to know that the Marines have a real mission in Afghanistan. I understand those who oppose the war, but this issue has been very complicated to say the least and the choices are difficult at best. Thank you for this blog Anderson, and keep up the excellent work.

    Lilibeth

    September 10, 2009 at 12:29 pm |
  26. Darci

    Hopefully the medical teams don't trust blood type the Marine has on his uniform. When my dad was in Vietnam, they has his blood type on this dog tags as A positive. Several years later, he had an accident and required blood. The hospital did a type and cross and found his blood type to be B negative. The military's simple mistake of reversing the slide could have killed him had he been given A positive blood. Hopefully the military is more advanced now in how they do their blood typing and are 100% accurate.

    September 10, 2009 at 12:28 pm |
  27. Donna Wood

    Thank you Anderson. The wife who emailed her husband about your coverage was absolutely right. You, Dr. Gupta, Michael Ware, Peter Bergen, and your great crew, because they are there too, you cannot do without them I'm sure, are doing great jobs bringing Afghanistan to everyone back home. And we do fully appreciate what you are all doing. but please be safe.

    Donna Wood
    Lexington, Tennessee

    September 10, 2009 at 12:28 pm |
  28. Jo Ann, North Royalton, Ohio

    Anderson,

    I think it is important to see these men and women as individuals and not just as a group of "soldiers." We need to remember that they are sons and daughters, husbands and wives, and fathers and mothers. The messages you have aired from the soldiers and your reports this week have helped to remind us of that.

    Although I understand that journalists must try and keep an objective perspective when reporting the news, I often wonder if being embedded with these troops changes your view on the war and if you lie awake at night wondering if you could endure what you are witnessing over there day after day, month after month, and year after year. You seem to be a more thoughtful journalist when you are in situations like this. The blogs you have written this week show that you are respectful and appreciative of what is happening over there.

    I don't know how the soldiers cope with the conflicting opinions back here in the states about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but I am sure it is discouraging at times. How do they keep their morale up?

    I am sure CNN has provided you with the best security money can buy, but I deeply respect each and every journalist who is willing to put their lives on the line and travel to the war zone to report on our troops. All of the reports by you, Sanjay, and Michael are deeply appreciated.

    Take care,
    Jo Ann

    September 10, 2009 at 12:26 pm |
  29. Teresa Tindoll

    Hi Anderson,

    Thanks so much for your reporting on this. We appriciate you very much.
    As a mother of 2 US soldiers my son and his wife are both getting ready to deploy. I will have my grandson for a year. Please keep reporting and please tell the Afgan people they deserve better than what they have had and we as Americans wish them only the best.

    Please tell all of our troops how much we miss them and love them and support them. They are heros and the best of the best!

    Blessings and peace to you all. Stay safe.
    Teresa daughter of a vet. and mother of 2 soldiers.

    September 10, 2009 at 12:26 pm |
  30. Dan

    Thank you sir,

    The greatest difference I have discovered about being a Marine and being a civilian is the lack of engagement. There is a palpable lack of willingness to set aside individual concerns and concentrate on a larger goal.

    I am often told it is because we are brain washed. If brain washing leads to honor and committment....

    Any way, thany you for pointing out that our Marines do not come from Mars, nor are they mindless automons doing the bidding of a corrupt people. They are of us, maybe the better part of us.

    SF

    September 10, 2009 at 12:25 pm |
  31. Nicole

    Thank you for reporting the real stuff. My best friend is a Marine deployed to Afganistan right now...and I can tell you. There is nothing more that breaks his heart, than hearing that we don't support them. More people need to support them and try to understand. So thank you.

    September 10, 2009 at 12:24 pm |
  32. James

    Too bad it's all a big waste of time and has been for the better part of the last decade. Most people agree that our military does the best that it can with the objectives it has been presented. But spending billions of dollars to police a country who doesn't even want our assistance is a joke. We went there to oust the Taliban and eliminate Al Qaeda. The first objective has only been partially met, as the local politicians seem to be willing to negotiate with these thugs, as they did in Swat valley. The second objective has not been met.

    At what point do we say enough is enough? People are crying because our economy is in shambles and we pay to much in taxes. Do they realize the ridiculous amount of money we are wasting on defense to help OTHER countries? Bring the troops home. They deserve better. They aren't cops.

    September 10, 2009 at 12:24 pm |
  33. Lee Shrader

    Thanks for the straight reporting. No matter what one thinks of this war or any other...and most are far too complex for most of us to really comprehend...there is no doubt that these soldiers–men and women–put their lives on the line for all of the rest of us, for each other, and for those they seek to protect and they are to be admired and respected for that with no equivocation.

    September 10, 2009 at 12:24 pm |
  34. Deb in Vegas

    As a 30 year AF veteran and having been deployed to Afghanistan shortly after 9/11, my thanks to you Mr. Cooper for keeping it real and honest about what these men and women are doing in Afghanistan. It isn't about politics–it's about doing what is right.

    September 10, 2009 at 12:23 pm |
  35. Bryan Gardner

    Please write more stories about the men and women in our armed forces. These stories about their tours of duty are very important.

    September 10, 2009 at 12:23 pm |
  36. Rob

    Semper Fi Marines!

    September 10, 2009 at 12:22 pm |
  37. Mary C.

    Nice article ... glad someone in the media appreciates our troops and writes about the things that matter.

    As an former military wife, I know what they and their families go through.

    Hats off to Anderson!!

    September 10, 2009 at 12:21 pm |
  38. Leatherneck

    GOD BLESS THE MARINE CORPS

    September 10, 2009 at 12:19 pm |
  39. Talbot Goldenbloom

    One can't help but feel that these brave American marines are giving far too much for some of our American countrymen. Compare GOP legislator Mike Duval's unethical and repulsive self-serving indulgence while our fellow 'best and bravest' fight in the trenches risking all for his freedom and privilege. One can't help but feel despondent at the hypocracy of our overpaid legislators and politicians. Our own president never served his country and yet he sends the best the USA has to offer, illequipped and underpaid, while insisting that 'health care' for all is a 'right'.
    Health care is not a right, someone must pay for it. Freedom is not a 'right' it is being paid for with the blood of our armed forces.

    September 10, 2009 at 12:18 pm |
  40. sharon

    My daughter is a US Marine preparing to be trained to head to Afganistan. Two nights ago her LT was killed in Afganistan. You were right in one area that distinguishes them is their devotion and dedication....Semper-Fi. They are always the first to fight. Lean and mean....... These are our proud Marines.... thank you for this article
    A Marine Mom

    September 10, 2009 at 12:18 pm |
  41. MCAS Marine

    I' ve deployed four times to the middle east (2003, 2004, 2006, and 200; all Kuwait/Iraq). Of those times, I've been in harms way in some shape or form. I can say that I'll be deploying again in 2010 to Afghanistan for my first time. Have been told this tour will last 12/13 months more then likey. I really have come to my senses as I asked to go those four times. I have this new edge that makes me wavy about what will come from this deployment. It could be that I found this woman who the most amazing person I come to know in my adulthood. It could be the fact that I am tired of going over there and seeing little progress to a country that is taking to long to rebuild. All in all....I wanted to be career, and now I just think that this will be it after 11 years of grinding and little reward. Always have someone saying thank you for what I've done when I done just my job. Suppose my pride is not fully evaporated yet! Just hope that this new administration can get us home and safe again!

    September 10, 2009 at 12:17 pm |
  42. Dave K.

    Outstanding. Can we get the press corps to emulate Anderson Cooper's example of representing our warriors and their selfless service? Once again, Anderson delivers a clear, concise piece that strikes home; while not all civilians "get it", they can begin to understand the compleixities these men face and yet despite their cultural and philosophical differences, they are Marines with a singular focus and mission. Unless you've been there, you cannot comprehend the deep loyalty, respect and admiratrion they have for one another. Semper Fi Anderson! Nice job.

    September 10, 2009 at 12:16 pm |
  43. tdl

    Semper Fidelis Anderson...

    September 10, 2009 at 12:16 pm |
  44. Christine

    As the fiance to a 2nd Recon Marine who served many terms, first starting in Afghan, then Iraq where his career as a marine came to an end after being injured, I would like to thank you Mr Cooper for reporting honestly and honoring the men and women serving out there. I find myself still seeking out articles written about our marines, as I still feel linked. It became habit for me to seek out news, no matter what, praying I wouldn't read any bad news concerning my fiance's unit. One would think, why put yourself through that? But it was my reality. I needed to know he wasn't a part of a ambush gone wrong, or on the humvee that was hit by an IED. Little did I know, I was to receive that phone call late in 2007 saying that his humvee was it by an IED and he was injured severly. To this day he struggles with the healing process. PTSD is what our life revolves around. But he is a Marine, he is a survivor, he is my Hero, and stronger than any man I know.
    Again Thank you for your honest reporting.

    September 10, 2009 at 12:15 pm |
  45. Anthony

    I have always looked at the media as a biased opinionated entity that shows the worst in the military. but reading this article shows that there are some reporters that actually care about what they are doing and will tell the truth about what we are doing over there. thank you.

    September 10, 2009 at 12:15 pm |
  46. Tony

    I met Anderson when I was in Kabul 3 years ago and he is a very stand up guy, a true reporter who is willing to riskit all to tell the truth. By far the most honest and best reporter in all the media!!

    September 10, 2009 at 12:13 pm |
  47. Beverly

    I can't believe that people claim that they are real Americans and are the first people in church and they don't care that fellow Americans don't have healthcare including some of their family members. How can they have God in their heart if they don't care about others. Love thy neighbor. I have health insurance and I believe everyone should have such a privilege.

    September 10, 2009 at 12:01 pm |
  48. julie Bumgarner

    Keeping all of you in my prayers out there – and you too Anderson.. Stay safe- .... Your Number 1 Fan

    September 10, 2009 at 11:49 am |
  49. Cindy

    Cooper,
    I'd like to say thanks too for showing the real deal over there! Often times reporters do have an agenda and just make their reports lopsided to spin things their way. I'm glad that you are not one of those! Plus I like that even in the hardest places you can always give us a little laugh to break the ice....like the bathroom humor and Sanjay sleeping. Nothing wrong with that!

    Keep up the great work Cooper! And PLEASE stay safe!!

    Cindy..Ga.

    September 10, 2009 at 11:45 am |
  50. Judy Stage/Brooklyn MI

    Hi Anderson,
    I know what you mean about the dedication of the Marines. One of my sons spent eight years in the Marine Corp and mustered out in 1988 and he is still a dedicated Marine.
    Thanks for telling their story. I could not even handle their living conditions.
    Take care
    Judy Stage

    September 10, 2009 at 11:36 am |
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