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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. 1/5 Marine Mom

    Thank you for giving the Marines the credit they deserve for doing their jobs well. They make such sacrifices for us and we need to remember to support them any way we can. As a 1/5 Marine Mom, I'm proud of my son. I also love seeing the faces of these brave men and women. It's been many months since I've seen my son's face. I will have to wait a little longer until he gets home!

    September 10, 2009 at 1:24 pm |
  2. carl sutphen

    anderson,
    excellent reporting as usual, a change from the nonsense going on here at home, nice seeing americans from differing backgrounds focused on a singe purpose, even if they are Marines, go navy.
    keep up the good work, come back safe all of you.

    September 10, 2009 at 1:23 pm |
  3. Michael in Albuquerque

    This is a remarkable view of the sacrifice our troops are making for us every day. Thank you Anderson Cooper for reporting the unvarnished truth and getting the real story. Our men and women in uniform are lucky to have you there to tell it like it is.

    September 10, 2009 at 1:21 pm |
  4. Herman

    If you email the Department of Defense, ask for BATTLE DEATHS. You will see the Army will lose 12 men to every one Marine. Up until the Persian Gulf the Marines have lost 39,827 men. The Army has lost 490,374 men. Where do the Marines go first?? The big battles in WW11 were in Europe. I served in England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany and Austria. Never seen a Marine. I served in the 506 Parachute Infantry Regiment, part of the 101st Airborne Division..
    I went back to Fort Benning since WW11 one time. The Army was teaching Navy, Air Corps and Marines how to jump. I went to Fort Campbell one time and the Army was teaching Marine how to get out of a Helicopter. The Army does the fighting.

    September 10, 2009 at 1:21 pm |
  5. Sean C

    To Christine, I'm glad I read you're comment. God bless you and your husband!

    September 10, 2009 at 1:21 pm |
  6. CPO USN Ret.

    Holy Smokes Batman, there stil is a reporter who understanding reporting. It is very refreshing to see a reporter who can deliver a story without putting his/her bias or spin on it to achieve their agenda. Thanks Anderson for reporting with honesty and courage the true picture of what our miltiary is trying to accomplish in Iraq and Afghanistan and the price they pay daily in terms of life and family. Please continue to do the job you are doing and reporting the true story on the armed services in the future, you are the only true voice in the media they have today.

    September 10, 2009 at 1:20 pm |
  7. Marinegrunt

    Thanks, AC. I've read to many reports by journalists who don't put a human face on military reporting. If more of your collegues would realize that we are people just like them, then maybe their reporting could begin to reflect the decency and honesty of yours.

    September 10, 2009 at 1:20 pm |
  8. Donna Manna

    Thank you for your reporting my Marine is in Iraq. I have been trying not to watch the news. However I have been drawn to what you are writing. Semper Fi, Anderson!

    September 10, 2009 at 1:19 pm |
  9. Doreen

    Thank you so much for your honest reporting of our Marines... My daughter is a Marine and her husband is a Navy Corpsman about to be deployed for the first time in a few weeks to Afghanistan...Our country needs to see more of what you are reporting on, to see that what is going on over there is real.. And to the men and women in our armed forces.. we thank you so much for your service and dedication... they are the true heroes!! Semper Fi Marines!!!!

    September 10, 2009 at 1:19 pm |
  10. ronvan

    Anderson, Dr. Gupta, Ware & Bergan: If you want to hear the "real deal" then these are the 4 that will tell you. I cannot remember how many times that I have listened to these 4 making statements that I would imagine had the "bosses" ripping their hair out! They do not care about politics or policies, just tell us what they see! I have so much respect for these guys. Each one on their own set the standards for others.

    September 10, 2009 at 1:18 pm |
  11. David Wessner

    Anderson, thanks for the job you're doing and the fair reporting. As a retired Marine after 23 years and combat tours in Afghanistan, Iraq and other places, fair reporting is at a premium. I believe that by living alongside our Marines the truth has a chance to come out. As you say, they are as varied as the American population, but bound by dedication. No better service to all our servicemen and women can be performed by the media than fairly reporting all sides. They execute war as the final option and the will, not the whim of the American people. Stay safe and Semper Fi.

    September 10, 2009 at 1:17 pm |
  12. Bill K.

    Excellent Reports Anderson....

    As a nine-year veteran of Marine Infantry and several combat tours and other operations I learned to be wary of reporters myself. It was only proven in Fallujah in 2004 that our fears were well founded. Thank you my friend for showing the full picture and helping todays America understand who we are and how we are.

    Thanks again for a job well done!

    September 10, 2009 at 1:17 pm |
  13. Carrie

    Thanks for the candid look into their lives while in Afghanistan. As a Mother of a Marine who did a deployment there-it gives me just a little insight into the Man my Son has become.

    September 10, 2009 at 1:16 pm |
  14. jA

    Anderson*

    blood-type? not yours but what is the deal with the question?

    September 10, 2009 at 1:16 pm |
  15. AK Army Wife

    It is good to see the "real story" being told. Thanks for the dedication to make it happen. And, thanks to the boys over there making it happen everyday. God Speed

    September 10, 2009 at 1:16 pm |
  16. Petar Krajinovic

    I work with KFOR in Kosovo. Every nation present in KFOR wears blood type patches. Not the US soldiers. I was wondering why.
    And as always good reporting from Anderson.

    September 10, 2009 at 1:14 pm |
  17. Clair Eisenhart

    Anderson, Thanks for your reporting about the great respect for our marines. I'm a WWII, navy veteran. My concern is can we achieve anything in Afghanistan. The Taliban will still be there when we leave. The Russians left. The French left. The British left when we stayed and fought for our independence. In my opinion only the Afgan's can fight this battle. I cry for each Marine that is killed fighting there. Another Vietnam. There must be a better way to protect ourselves against terroist . Help bring all our Marines and yourself home safely.

    September 10, 2009 at 1:13 pm |
  18. Melissa Myers

    Anderson, I served in the Marines Corps from 1991 – 1995 and am a veteran of Desert Storm. It means a lot that someone is out there trying to tell the real story for today's Marines. I remember how frustrated I felt when I got home, because no one "back home" truly understands what it's like not only to serve so far away from home, but to serve in such stark war time conditions as these men and women do. Thanks for the respect. I think I can speak for all of us and say that it's appreciated.

    September 10, 2009 at 1:13 pm |
  19. S Callahan NYS

    Anderson, please convey to OUR soliders that we are Proud of them, and truely APPRECIATE their sacraficies. Our prayers are for them daily, and for you too.

    September 10, 2009 at 1:12 pm |
  20. Damian Hoffman

    As a former Marine with combat experience in the first Gulf War and in Mogadishu, Somalia, I want to thank you for reporting on these Marines unbiased and without an agenda. Too many of the reporters we had go out on missions with us in Kuwait and Somalia were falling over themselves for an opportunity to find something bad or wrong to report about. They always came across as somewhat devious and angry at what we were trying to do. To see you bring the truth to the American public is refreshing. Marines are by far the most chivalrous and noble human beings you will ever meet. It is unfortunate that some reporters don't want to share that. Thank you for what you are doing. And BE SAFE!!

    September 10, 2009 at 1:10 pm |
  21. Francesca

    My husband is currently in Iraq and due home in the next few weeks. This is our second tour and I am beyond thrilled knowing he will soon be safe in my arms again.

    I want to thank you personally for taking the time to recognize the troops still over there; many don't take the time to acknowledge that the troops are still over there. Overall it isn't about if the war is "right" or "wrong" it's about standing beside our troops as a united country. Every last man and woman is in my heart and prayers until they make it home again.

    Thank you.

    September 10, 2009 at 1:10 pm |
  22. Wendi Stanley

    As the mother of a Marine who will be deployed to Afganistan within the next few weeks I'd like to say thank you for honoring our young men and women who put their lives at risk every day for the sake of our way of life. You are a very courageous and honorable man as well as a great role model. I will be keeping you and all of our brave military personnel in my thoughts and prayers.

    September 10, 2009 at 1:10 pm |
  23. Greg Walker

    Anderson Cooper, you are the best at what you do. I remember you from when I was in middle school watching Channel 1 news. Keep up the good work. May God Bless and protect our troops.

    September 10, 2009 at 1:10 pm |
  24. Greg

    Glad that you "get it" with regard to "complexity" did it take you a while to figure it out? If only Afghanistan were as "simple" and "straight forward" as Iraq is.

    You do realize where the American public gets it information right? "It is, I think, important to remember" that.

    September 10, 2009 at 1:09 pm |
  25. Roberta

    Semper Fi to my brothers and sisters everywhere in harm's way. Once A Marine Always A Marine. I pray for each and every one of you every day.

    September 10, 2009 at 1:08 pm |
  26. Patrick Powell

    Nice to see that CNN finally finds it politically acceptable to recognize the sacrifice of our soldiers.

    Too bad Cooper's blatant political bias meant he had to minimize and demonize them for the first 6 years.

    September 10, 2009 at 1:07 pm |
  27. April

    OOOOH RAH!!

    thanks for this.

    September 10, 2009 at 1:06 pm |
  28. Jason B.

    Now there's just one other thing we so badly need to work on. Our military works so hard to "build" our soldiers, but we need to be SO much better at helping them out when they're done serving.

    I'd also like to mention that soldiers and their families can turn to their American Legion, VFW, and other organizations for help.

    September 10, 2009 at 1:04 pm |
  29. Laurence Bruneau

    Amazing piece. You're the best! Thanks to you we have a better idea of the work they're doing. I think it's very important, even crucial.
    Will you do a complete documentary about your time in Afghanistan? Every evening, when we see one of your report (including of course Sanjay, Michael and Peter), we wish it lasts longer!
    Thanks for your work and thanks to the US Marines.

    September 10, 2009 at 1:04 pm |
  30. Maria

    Anderson:

    You and your crew are doing a magnificent job over there, as you did with Katrina. Come back safe you all!

    Hope the wars will be over soon, and that all the American troops are back home. Personally I believe is such a waste of life and tax payers money. What a mess!

    Maria Escarra

    September 10, 2009 at 1:02 pm |
  31. Julie

    In our daily media circus, it is heart warming to read truths about what our enlisted personnel are doing, how they feel and what life is like for them. Forget the agenda of the United States for just a minute, picture yourself in the middle of a foreign country that mostly does not want you there. These men and women can't call in sick, compain about how horrible their lives are because the government is not helping them enough, and they can't just quit and go home. They go to work every day so that everyone else has the right to voice their opinions, worship as they wish, and, yes, carry guns. Thank you to all of those who have fought and those who continue to fight for the freedoms so many take for granted. Your honor and dedication are commendable.

    September 10, 2009 at 1:01 pm |
  32. Jody

    It is so easy for us to to forget and go on with our day to day lives. I am just as guilty and your posts keep that alive.

    I commend you Mr. Cooper and your staff for keeping the men and women of the Military in our heads and in our hearts. We cannot forget about them and the job they do.

    Thanks to you and yours!

    September 10, 2009 at 1:00 pm |
  33. JM McKoy

    So many Americans, I feel, judge this war and have preconceived notions without even realizing the sacrifice that is made to fight this war. I am blessed and honored to be an American! If it weren't for any service men and women with their level of patriotism then our country would be in a much worse condition I feel. All in all, I want to thank the service men and women of this nation! We as a nation are forever in gratitude for your service and patriotism.

    God bless America.

    September 10, 2009 at 12:58 pm |
  34. Peg Luther

    Anderson, Please keep filming, keep reporting. Let us see the real Afghans, those under 30 without jobs. Let us see how the criminal element is driving more bullets into the hearts and minds of all concerned. Thank you for your courage.

    September 10, 2009 at 12:58 pm |
  35. Jerry

    Why is this news today? In 2003 we had our blood type displayed on our uniforms. Military dog-tags, part of your battle uniform, have had your blood type engraved on them for the past 50 years.

    September 10, 2009 at 12:58 pm |
  36. Jake

    It still surprises me when someone doesn't know their blood type... 6 years in the corps, and a tour in Iraq kind of made me think that's just common knowledge.

    Cpl Jake USMC (AB+)

    September 10, 2009 at 12:57 pm |
  37. Lisa

    I knew I love Anderson just didn't know how much! Thanks for getting things right for all OUR TROOPS

    September 10, 2009 at 12:57 pm |
  38. Jonathan Schlegel

    As a Marine back here in the U.S., I also say thanks for doing what's right. Thanks for reporting what's really happening, and the price that is paid by so few, for so many.

    September 10, 2009 at 12:57 pm |
  39. Susan

    Anderson

    My dad is passed away now. He served in the Navy during the Korean War. I gave his two sets of dog tags to each of his grandchildren. Along with his name, rank and serial number was his blood type and also his religion.

    As you stated, it would be a humbling experience to be around such professionals that are really dedicated to a sense of duty and honor, not only to our country, but to the citizens of Afghanistan. They are truely my heros and I respect and admire them.

    I also appreciate you, Dr. Gupta, & Michael Ware taking us along into the conflict and giving us an up close and personal vantage point
    on just what is going on.

    We all need to know and never forget the sacrifices that the men and women of our US military make for us.

    September 10, 2009 at 12:55 pm |
  40. chris tecmire

    Anderson; My son John Tecmire serves in Charlie Company, 1/5. If you need a well spoken Marne to interview, find him. We are watching and grateful for all you have done to show these wondwerful warriors who have a mission that affects the world. Chris
    Tecmire; Oklahoma City, O
    klahoma

    September 10, 2009 at 12:54 pm |
  41. Eli

    You are a conceited, disgraceful and ignorant human being, and all that is wrong with our country. You report the obvious, as if we don't already know that one's blood type in the military is a ubiquitous notion. The possibility of imminent death has been and always will be a staple of military service. The first thing you receive at Parris Island Boot Camp after getting scolded by your drill instructor is a dog tag, that reveals your name, service number, religion (if any) and blood type.

    There was a time when everyone (even the blue-blood, uber-wealthy like yourself) served in the military and learned about war through their service in the armed forces, not as a grad student in a class about Stephen Crane with their rich Upper West Side buddies.

    Your contempt for this country's middle class values is palpable.

    September 10, 2009 at 12:54 pm |
  42. Matt

    No Marine said that to him, I promise. As a former active duty marine, I guarantee no one took the time to tell anderson friggin cooper that.

    September 10, 2009 at 12:54 pm |
  43. Max Ryan

    Why are we in Afghanistan? We need to withdraw and let the Afghans complete the war. Has Obama gone back on his promise?

    I voted for Obama and I want him to succeed but we need to end this Bushishan mistake and soon! Let's get these soldier ont of this endless waste of a war! NOW!

    September 10, 2009 at 12:53 pm |
  44. Ken Sawyer

    It really grits me when I see a soldier die trying to protect a newsmans rearend and the newsman get the headline and the dead soldier get the second line as an afterthought ,as if he was expendable.

    September 10, 2009 at 12:53 pm |
  45. Jennifer - Michigan

    Hi there Anderson,
    Wow, great post today – or tonight from your perspective. You and your CNN team are doing a great job reporting on the war. It's great that the soldiers are not too weary with you. I'm sure they're glad that the story is being relayed honestly. Thanks for all you do. I bet you can't wait to get home to a nice cold drink and air-conditioning. Take care, stay safe – you are in our thoughts.

    September 10, 2009 at 12:52 pm |
  46. Ross

    Honestly, most people have no clue what we're doing in Afghanistan (and many probably don’t even realize we’ve been there for as long as we have). The mission and it’s current status is poorly articulated by the current administration and the entire endeavor is poorly reported on by the media in general (Can we have a few more Jon & Kate stories??? OMG!). And you can add to that the general apathy that always descends upon our country when something gets too complicated or goes on too long for them to digest. Our military men & women deserve a great deal of respect and, more importantly, even more ‘actual’ support then either the Right, Left, or Center have ever provided, either pre or post deployment. Good luck to all and come home safe.

    September 10, 2009 at 12:51 pm |
  47. A Pround Marine Mom

    Thank you, Anderson. You are doing a great job reporting what it's like for our Marines in Afghanistan. My son has not yet been deployed (graduated from boot camp a year ago this week), but I know it's coming.

    Please let these Marines know we are behind them and what they are trying to do. No surprise to us Marine Moms that they are dedicated!

    Ooh Rah, Anderson, and Semper Fi.

    September 10, 2009 at 12:51 pm |
  48. Rob

    Those guys in Afghanistan are heroes. If we had sent more of them in and faster initially we could have found Bin Laden and been done by now. But they are doing their best and will win us the war.

    Good for them.

    September 10, 2009 at 12:49 pm |
  49. Diane N.

    Semper fi!!!

    September 10, 2009 at 12:48 pm |
  50. Jack

    And I say that as a veteran.

    September 10, 2009 at 12:47 pm |
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