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. Qbert

    Hey Anderson, we sure could of used a news person of your caliber in Vietnam. A media reporter who dares to risk it all and reports the true facts. Wish all the media folks were like you!

    September 10, 2009 at 1:56 pm |
  2. Brian Olson

    My son Chris graduated from Boot Camp in February and will deploy with the 1st Marine Division to the Halmand Valley in a few months. We all need to read balanced and accurate stories of their sacrifices like this one. Thank you, Anderson. Oh and those of you with loved ones in the Marines, marineparents.com is a good resource.

    September 10, 2009 at 1:55 pm |
  3. Ian

    Having been deployed, having seen the blood type patches, and getting the sense of those who "get it" and those who are just "fubar" this story rings true. It's got to be hard as a report to leave politics out of it, because in the end, politics isn't on the minds of those in the field. Whether or not that Dust storm is going to jack up their hop to the COP and keep them from resupplying is. Or whether or not the route's been cleared in the last "x" hours is. Or whether or not they have all their cleared in the PCC's.

    It's important as a reporter not to give away operations critical information, but showing the day to day life of our soldiers builds a lot of confidence and pride in our population, and that goes a long way towards avoiding many of the difficulties our Vietnam Veteran's faced.

    And just to note, at first, I was one that didn't get it. But I do now.

    Thank you.

    September 10, 2009 at 1:55 pm |
  4. Dwight Taylor

    I think that Sen. Wilson was highly disrespectful last night. If there is a punishment that can be ministered it should used to the fullest.

    The republicans, and democrates act like little children, and not like educated adults. They are elected officials and should do what is best for the country and the people that elected them. Shame on them all. We all know that something should be done about the insurance companies, on health care and auto. There is alot of money involved and no one wants to step up. Wilson should be asked to resign by his voters. He is caught up with Hannity, Beck and the other guy.

    September 10, 2009 at 1:54 pm |
  5. Cindy A.

    This coverage is what you and your team do best, Anderson. Thank you for doing this series of reporting from the front lines...the sacrifices these men and women of our Military make everyday make all the other issues our country is facing and fighting about pale by comparison.

    September 10, 2009 at 1:54 pm |
  6. Rick Endy

    Thanks Anderson for the honest reporting from there. My son is in the Marine Corps and is scheduled for deployment to Afghanistan January 2010. As a parent and former Marine, it helps to know the challenges he will face over there. The pictures help to see the conditions he will be working under. These young men have a tough job and represent the best we have to offer as Americans. You are all in our thoughts and prayers. Semper FI.

    September 10, 2009 at 1:54 pm |
  7. Bruce Wiliams-Burden


    I was a Navy Corpsman who served with the Marines and flew as
    a MEDEVAC Corpsman in Vietnam. To this day I feel it was an
    incredible honor to have served with them and supported them.
    I want to thank you for reporting on these fine young men and women
    who are doing and serving in a place that few others have known or
    wish to go. To me, you are well on your way to filling the shoes
    (or combat boots as it were) of the late Walter Cronkite. God bless you and the Marines and keep you all safe........Semper Fi.

    September 10, 2009 at 1:53 pm |
  8. Sonal in Dallas,TX

    Thanks Anderson.I Love cnn.com.Please write more stories about the man and women in Afganistan.

    September 10, 2009 at 1:53 pm |
  9. Steve

    Semper Fi Marines!
    1/5 HQ

    September 10, 2009 at 1:52 pm |
  10. Cpl M (1994-1999)

    Bravo Zulu, Mr. Cooper! This is about the most accurate representation I've seen anywhere in the press about the best side of the Marine Corps.

    We are (well, in my case, WERE) all just ordinary folks who made a decision that put us in some extraordinary circumstances. You seem to understand the Corps better than most civilians could ever hope to.


    September 10, 2009 at 1:52 pm |
  11. Debbie Coy

    Mr Cooper, you are an honest and have so much integrity that my respect for you as a journalist is way up there. My son wants to be a sports journalist, I told him to watch you for example of excellent journalism.... keep up your awesome postion with cnn and you have a very big fan in Austin TX... These marines and the Afghan story needs to be told and who better than you... there are so many ignorant people out there who dont know, dont want to know or dont care.... you makeing a difference....

    September 10, 2009 at 1:52 pm |
  12. diane rowland ga.

    dear anderson,
    thanks for the coverage of such an elite group of men and women,the u.s. marines. they are very special to me, for my oldest son is a 1st. serg. with the marines and will be deployed next month to afghanistan.he has served 2 tours in iraq, and now i find myself about to send him off again to another war zone.as a mother this is so heartbreaking to do , but yet im so proud that he is the dedicated marine he always wanted to be since he was a little boy, he now has 15yrs. in and loves every minute of it.i pray that GOD will put a shield around all of these marines and all of our military men and women and bring them all home safe to their families.keep up the great job that you do for these guys, people here in the states need to know the sacrifice that these men and women make , so that we all can still live free.

    September 10, 2009 at 1:51 pm |
  13. Erin

    My husband is Marine who is currently deployed. I think he would be proud of what you wrote. Many people forget why these men choose to do this.

    I don't think anyone could have expressed it as well as you did. Thank you so much for doing right by these men, for honoring their sacrifices.

    I look forward to what you have to say and see next.

    September 10, 2009 at 1:51 pm |
  14. Unknown


    September 10, 2009 at 1:50 pm |
  15. Reid Elem

    We need more editorials like this one. I am not a fan of the media, but I found this article to be refreshing. A very close friend of mine has been on tour for 7 months now and will be coming home in October. He is a staff Sgt. who has been involved with the Marines for close to 11 years. He is the most giving and loyal person anyone could ask to be around and my word from him is that he's tired, real tired. We can't undo thousands of years of civil unrest, but we can support our guys and what they are doing over there. Please keep up the positivity Mr.Cooper, it is widely appreciated.

    September 10, 2009 at 1:49 pm |
  16. Jackie in Dallas

    It's never corny in my book to feel empathy for those who are putting their lives on the line for our country, Anderson!

    You are following in the footsteps of some great journalists, like Ernie Pyle. Since photos seem to be too "real" for our mainstream citizens these days, your voice, your stories may be the only way to bring home to the people here the grit, the pain, the blood, the waste, the REALITY of war. It isn't pretty, clean, and the dead don't get up and walk away after the battle. There's no save and rewind in war. And though I do not agree with our current policies for being in Iraq or Afghanistan, that does not stop me, the fourth generation in my family to serve in the military (USAF, Vietnam era) from supporting with my prayers and thoughts that "happy few, that band of brothers" who stand there for me.

    September 10, 2009 at 1:49 pm |
  17. Martina Ilstad Germany

    Hey Anderson
    I saw a photo from you sitting in a helicopter,the black writing number on your right hand,is that your blood number,sometime its a question about time, safing lifes.
    i am really happy,that you now wear your helmet .
    You risk your life,and you are right,you just do it for a week,but the soldiers have to stay there,nobody knows how long.
    Will there ever have peace in this area,how long have we stay there,we can not leave the Afghan people alone,they belive in us. .What will happened with them,when we leave and the taliban comes back
    All that death for nothing

    September 10, 2009 at 1:48 pm |
  18. Al

    What is it about "The Network that Ted Created?"

    Just this week, we heard folks paying homage to the Great Walter Cronkite. It is true that we will probably never again see a Cronkite. Yet, CNN has produced some of the best, most well balanced news coverage, reporters, and anchors that I have seen in my lifetime.

    Bernie Shaw. If that name doesn't equate with the sort of respect, dignity, and goodness of Walter Cronkite, then who?

    With the cast of greats that CNN has, it's tough to sort out who will be the next Bernie Shaw. Then, it becomes clear. Anderson Cooper is that one.

    I salute the men and women of all nations who are fighting for goodness. I treasure Anderson Cooper for bringing that fight home! Anderson is the one who America – in fact the world – can trust to show us, "the way it is!"

    September 10, 2009 at 1:48 pm |
  19. Lisa, Louisville, KY

    You and your crew have my utmost respect.

    I pray that you all return home safely.

    September 10, 2009 at 1:48 pm |
  20. JA Cross

    As we are ~ you are Mr. Cooper!
    The "Elite of the Elite"

    Thank you Sir

    September 10, 2009 at 1:48 pm |
  21. Capt W.J. Deaver

    AC, keep up the outstanding reporting over there. We lost one of the greatest the Marine Corps has ever seen on Saturday. Capt Josh "Hee-Haw" Meadows. Semper Fi

    September 10, 2009 at 1:47 pm |
  22. Rick McDaniel / Lewisville, TX

    There is no tougher way to fight a war, than to fight a guerrilla war.

    I am always amused by the complaints about "civilian" casualties, when it is impossible to tell who the enemy is, from the "civilians", in the first place.

    Best wishes to those young men, as they attempt to do a very difficult job, with dignity.

    September 10, 2009 at 1:47 pm |
  23. Rick

    As a Marine from the Vietnam War, I commend you on your reporting. I am still a Marine at heart and will always be. There is no way to explain the dedication and loyalty that these soldiers have for one another, and their loyalty to their country for which they serve. I salute them all.

    September 10, 2009 at 1:46 pm |
  24. Francisco Barragan, Orange County

    Thank you to Anderson Cooper for reminding America and the rest of the world of the sacrifices that brave men and women of the Marines, in particular, and the US Armed Forces and others, in general, are making for the immediate benefit of the Afghan people, and the world community at large.

    We can all show our appreciation and honor the great sacrifices of our troops by welcoming a vet home, providing emotional support to the families, ensuring our troops are provided with a smooth transition back to civilian life, ensuring they receive the proper medical care or physical rehabilitation for injuries sustained as a result of their service, or by simply volunteering in our community with many worthy not-for-profit organizations.

    FJ Barragan USMC Reserves (87-94); CA Army National Guard 94-97)

    September 10, 2009 at 1:46 pm |
  25. Teresa Weybrew

    My son is a US Marine and in the Mojave Desert now – training. Just found out last week he has been deployed in March and will spend his 21st birthday there.
    I wait for 10P and hang on your every word. Have tapped some so I can re watch them...
    Thank you!
    A tearful Mom

    September 10, 2009 at 1:45 pm |
  26. colin

    God bless the young men and women who serve our nation daily. They are making a difference in the world that few understand and thanks for telling the their story.

    September 10, 2009 at 1:44 pm |
  27. Moogie

    There are only two kinds of people that understand Marines: Marines and the enemy. Everyone else has a second-hand opinion.-Gen. William Thornson, U.S. Army

    Freedom is not free, but the U.S. Marine Corps will pay most of your share.
    Ned Dola

    Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world. But, the Marines don't have that problem.
    Ronald Reagan, President of the United States; 1985

    September 10, 2009 at 1:44 pm |
  28. andrew lubin

    Good work, Anderson, on recognizing and talking about what makes these DevilDogs so special! S/F

    September 10, 2009 at 1:43 pm |
  29. cajun100

    Some of the most worthwhile reporting of this year.

    These Marines are the same as those that have fought for this land over and over, usually in dire circumstances. I want to contrast your reporting now with that of the Vietnam era, when certain "media stars" felt it necessary to characterize our troops as soulless barbarians.

    As one of the "old Corps" generation, I thank you for your sincerity. We need the truth about these unfortunate current wars, , and we need it unsullied by political bias. Please keep it up.

    September 10, 2009 at 1:40 pm |
  30. Barbara in Culver City, CA

    I hope you will be able to do some reporting on the women of Afghanistan.

    Great reporting so far!

    September 10, 2009 at 1:40 pm |
  31. Araceli

    "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." This is so true, and perhaps our leadership in Washington needs to be reminded. They need to be able to put down their wallet for the better of ALL. Our brave willing to take action and make sacrifices, might be able to teach them something.

    September 10, 2009 at 1:39 pm |
  32. Rachael

    Thanks so much for writing a piece that really shows how important these men and women are. My husband is now in Iraq for his 3rd tour, I could not respect him and his fellow Marines more for their service!

    September 10, 2009 at 1:38 pm |
  33. Marine mom

    Semper Fi......
    My son did two tours in Iraq.

    September 10, 2009 at 1:37 pm |
  34. Bernadette Derry

    Hi Anderson,

    Hope you the Marines stay safe. you are all a very brave bunch. Take care.

    September 10, 2009 at 1:36 pm |
  35. Theresa

    Hi AC, I enjoy your honest and integrity-filled reporting. Although I am against this war, I support our troops and their efforts. Thank you for making the war more visible, as too many people have become complacent about it. I think it is wonderful that you include a few short clips wherein our military say hello to their families. One tiny suggestion: when you return to the U.S., I wish you would continue to include such short clips (or anything else human and relevant) instead of the usual chit-chat segment between you and Erika Hill where you briefly comment on inane goings-on in the U.S. Take care, and stay safe - you're doing a great job!

    September 10, 2009 at 1:36 pm |
  36. Chaiah

    Anderson, thank you. Moreso, thank you to all those who serve.

    September 10, 2009 at 1:35 pm |
  37. justme...

    As a prior marine corps wife, at the ripe ole age of 23, I commend you for your reporting, it's tough work. My husband was in the marine corps, and went on 3 tours to Iraq, and while he felt and still feels a strong sense of duty, I couldn't wait for him to get out, and I very much made my opinion known about it. It's been a year since he got out, and now we are both going to college in a city a thousand miles away from his old military base, and we couldn't be happier. Our lives are completely different, except for a few friends still in the corps (most of his buddies also got out), we are completely removed from it and the war. So this is what it feels like to be normal...but I still feel guilty in a way, because I know exactly what other families are going through when their loved ones deploy, and the burden they bear– the stress, the CONSTANT worry, the separation anxiety, missing out on critical years with their child...and for me it never seemed worth it, to be in that suffering minority. Now, the war is a debatable topic, but it doesn't touch me, burn the way it used to when I would know that my husband was going back AGAIN. The military lifestyle is not for everyone, I believe the marine corps divorce rate is something like 75%. I truly admire those who are still carrying on, and the sacrifices that they make while everyone else is sheltered from this lifestyle. It is quite the cross to bear.

    September 10, 2009 at 1:34 pm |
  38. paola (Italy)

    thanks Anderson. you are an honest man. working for SETAF for several years given me the opportunity to meet these real men, these outstanding soldiers. Good blees all of them.

    September 10, 2009 at 1:34 pm |
  39. Melissa

    As a mom of a soldier facing deployment, the information and honesty in your reporting is more valuable than you can imagine. Thank you for your insight and for personifying the soldiers. I see the pictures and think of them and their families and wonder what they are sacrificing to fight this war. God be with them, and with you as you continue your mission.

    September 10, 2009 at 1:32 pm |
  40. Jeannine Ayres

    Anderson, thanks for your courage and coverage, near, in and around mine fields......your respect for our troops is always evident in the way you talk with them and in your manner of reporting "in their voice".
    Please be careful...that's my message for you and the troops you accompany. God's blessings every minute of the day and nite.

    Jeannine, Long Island

    September 10, 2009 at 1:31 pm |
  41. Heather

    Hi Anderson,

    I'm an employee at a VA Ambulatory Care facility and I am so honored to have the priviledge to serve the heros of our nation everyday. Reading your words about the amazing men and women overseas fills my heart with pride...especially to be an American. Thank you so much, from the bottom of my heart, for giving credit to our soldiers where it's deserved. Stay safe!!

    September 10, 2009 at 1:31 pm |
  42. Jason in Washington

    Great story! If only our politicians had the same qualities!

    September 10, 2009 at 1:30 pm |
  43. suzzanne yuhasz-wike

    Hello Anderson!

    I just wanted to say thank you for bringing our men and women into our living rooms where we can all get a true grasp for what they are going through over there. My son was "blown" up in a road side bomb 2 years ago along with 12 of his buddies. Luckily they all survived. My son broke 3 vertibre in his lower back was sent home to CA and is now traveling once again with the 1/5 company. I am following your series and just wanted to tell you that your an amazing man and I know along with alot of moms, dads, brothers, sisters, etc. that we all appricate what your doing. THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT, LOVE AND COMMITTMENT TO OUR TROOPS AND FOR GIVING THEIR FAMILIES A REAL EYE OPENING EXPERIENCE!


    September 10, 2009 at 1:29 pm |
  44. Tami

    I am a nurse for the VA and have come to be very aware of the danger we are sending and keeping our men and women into. I feel so bad the war is down the list on news coverage and danger awareness from the current administration . We are loosing more men now than when we did in Iraq in this time frame and it is unfair to not notice this more. Stopping this carnage is a true priority. The new media speaks out on such stupid things and not what are people are going thru over there. I thank you, Anderson, for speaking out and representing the truth and hardships going on over there every day. May there be more notice and an end to this awful war. TAMI

    September 10, 2009 at 1:28 pm |
  45. Nic

    Thanks for the fair reporting on our military. As a 17 year AF wife, with my Army nephew currently serving in Afghanistan it's nice to see genuine appreciation for the realities that our troops face. I would like to see more stories like this one.

    September 10, 2009 at 1:28 pm |
  46. Julie

    No one's doubting our soldier's dedication.

    What we're doubting is why they've been sent into a situation that is EXACTLY THE SAME AS IRAQ – UNWINNABLE. That is the story you should be reporting on.

    The only people winning in this situation are the companies profiting from the defense contracts. It will be death and misery for everyone else, soldiers and Afghani civilians. Ever since Katrina, you've been drinking the kool-aid, selling out, parroting the party line. Did someone promise you a spot in Washington when you're done with CNN?

    As for the drama about the blood type, get over yourself Anderson. They ask that question to every woman going into childbirth too and you don't hear us getting all spooked over it. Could it be women are tougher than you?

    September 10, 2009 at 1:28 pm |
  47. Archihbold

    I am not a fan of all of the DJ's and former models who act like their own calling is to tell stories about what real people are doing...and call it news. I do not give respect easily. That said, your observations about the U.S. Marines is a bullseye strike. Watch what everyone does when shots are heard. Most people look to hide. Not the U.S. Marine, he will orient on the sound and move toward it to fight. The strength of our nation rests on shoulders of men and women such as these. An ever-increasing burden...

    Do we build democracies or destroy or enemies? Is there a difference?

    September 10, 2009 at 1:27 pm |
  48. Joy

    Thank you for reporting the truth in an honest manner.

    September 10, 2009 at 1:27 pm |
  49. Matthew

    Thank-you, it is good to hear stories like this about every day hurdles the military have to face over there.
    Reminds us they are human beings, not just objects to do a job.

    September 10, 2009 at 1:27 pm |
  50. Jackie Barton

    Hey Anderson! I come from a family of Marines. We just wanted to let you know we love you and appreciate your dedication to keeping us informed on our loved ones that are half a world away. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

    Athens, GA

    September 10, 2009 at 1:25 pm |
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