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. journalisticadventure

    Thanks for another great blog post, Anderson!

    September 10, 2009 at 2:48 pm |
  2. Steve

    I forwarded your article to most of my friends and coworkers in my office at the Pentagon. I am a retired Marine who still serves those in uniform. I regularly donate blood platelets, 12 times this year so far, to the Military Blood Services Program. I am asked why I do this so faithfully, your article answered that question although I have been asked why the question "What's your blood type?" is so important. It's the little things that those who have not been out there do not understand. Keep up the good work. Semper Fi!

    September 10, 2009 at 2:48 pm |
  3. Nina

    Thank you all you do for our military. My Father served 4 tours in Vietnam. Everytime he & his unit came home, they arrived at night as to avoid the angry crowds that would throw things at them over the fence onto the air strips, yell horrible things & even spray them with all kinds of unmentionalbe stuff. We could not wear anything in public that indicated we were military related because of the fears of retaliations. Now we honor all our service individuals for their dedications & you opened the door. My Father is now retired, he & my Mother drive to the airport daily to welcome home the troops! Awesome job! Keep up the great work. I keep you in my daily prayers!

    September 10, 2009 at 2:47 pm |



    September 10, 2009 at 2:47 pm |
  5. Keri McCoy


    It is nice to hear your perspective on the war in Afghanistan. I just wish you would acknowledge in some way that we have had Americans in the Southern Helmud Province for over a year. The men of the Illinois National Guard served and some died over in that very same region working with the Brits. I am glad the marines came in they were needed. it is just sad to me that the brave men who went before served without fan fare or reporters. They often had no water or food, but persevered. May God Bless them all.

    September 10, 2009 at 2:41 pm |
  6. carpenterslpl

    I was a Marine from '77-'81 and although I did not get the chance to serve in combat, I still feel that tug of once a marine always a marine! I think it's great that Anderson is telling it like it is, because those on the ground are out of the loop and sometimes feel that we back home don't know, or care, what they are trying to do or what they are going through. Keep up the good work!

    Semper Fi!


    September 10, 2009 at 2:40 pm |
  7. 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 replay 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 today.

    September 10, 2009 at 2:40 pm |
  8. jellymon

    Wow! AC, a liberal reporter, goes to Afganistan to report on our brave troops only after Pres Bush leaves office. Oh yeah that's right, the Iraq war was for oil, Barry's war in Afgan is for the people. Please...
    REAL everyday Americans know and have known how great our troops are. It's just a shame that you can only open your eyes now Anderson.
    Semper Fi

    September 10, 2009 at 2:40 pm |
  9. LCPL Gonzalez

    Thank You Cooper, From a Marine that been there, Twice!!

    September 10, 2009 at 2:37 pm |
  10. Lori, IL

    Wow - the "what's your blood type?" question must ba a little sobering at first. While it's in one's best interest for medics to have this information quickly - no one wants to think something can/will happen to them.

    Anderson, your reporting this week, (along with Dr, Sanjay Gupta's and Michael Ware's reports), has been outstanding. It should be mandatory viewing for all who are making decisions about funding and troop support for the war, as well as the American public. Bringing us the stories of individual service members puts a human face to all the numbers we hear. They are all someone's son/daughter, brother/sister, husband/wife, father/mother - who are loved by those back home. Their dedication to their country, their mission and each other is honorable. Thanks for telling us their stories.

    Also, thank you for showing us all sides to the war - and helping us to understand what is actually happening on the ground in Afghanistan. I truly believe that the only way to make our country safe, is to change the reputation of the U.S. one person, one village, one province at a time. I 'm sure I could not tolerate the dust and primitive living conditions for a week, but I admire the men and women who do, And I thank you and your crew for your honest reporting of the situation.

    I think we could all learn from the marines you are embedded with - "Despite their differences as individuals, they are willing to sacrifice for a common goal." Thanks for the blog, thanks for the reminder.

    September 10, 2009 at 2:37 pm |
  11. George Webb

    Thank you for saying something good about our military! I have two sons in the Army, one was in Afghanistan and the other was in Iraq at the same time and they couldn't understand the apathy here at home and the constant negative portrayal of our service personnel by some reporters. My younger son had several tours in Afghanistan and he called it the "forgotten war" and couldn't understand why it was hardly mentioned on the news despite the extreme sacrifices by the troops. My wife and I were besides ourselves with worry when either one was deployed and clung to any news from where they were serving. News was rare and mostly not positive. Arawa Damon acted like our troops were the bad guys, you at least seem to care about them and the difficult job they have been given and didn't ask for.

    September 10, 2009 at 2:35 pm |
  12. Victoria Alameda


    Having been a EMT I really appreciate the need for the blood type, The last thing you need in the golden hour is to have to type someone bleeding to death. Or kill them because you have the wrong type. Also one needs to make sure there is blood on hand to support the soldier in need.

    The fact that you have to know your type also indicates the dangers you have to face. Sitting at a desk at the pentigon doesn't require you to give blood type. In theater oviously means (and verifys) everyday on every mission that you are in danger of being hurt and killed.

    As all way great reporting and be safe.

    September 10, 2009 at 2:34 pm |
  13. Jo Ann Schloe

    Thanks for the great reporting! I think we all need to be more aware of just what these soldiers are going thru day after day. I would think it would be depressing to see nothing but sand and dust and then more sand and dust. I think it makes us all more aware of what we have in our homes. Nothing like that, that's for sure.

    September 10, 2009 at 2:34 pm |
  14. Maria

    As the mother of one of the Marines serving in the Helmand province, I thank you for honoring them and showing in your reporting the respect they so much deserve for their sacrifice. THANK YOU !!!

    September 10, 2009 at 2:34 pm |
  15. Kellie

    Thanks for good writing, good insight, and good sensitivity. No more AP photos of dying marines, please. The written word is just as–if not more–powerful, and far more evocative of the sense of pride and sense of responsibility these troops feel toward their goals. Anderson appears to have taken his "embedded" situation to heart, and it's translating into a real depiction of a real world. Thanks, AC.

    September 10, 2009 at 2:34 pm |
  16. Madina Mokhtarzada

    Mr. Cooper

    I am an Afghan by birth and have lived in that region of the world most of my teenage life. I commend you not only for your courage to be in Afghanistan right now, but also for the intelligence and depth that you have shown in your reporting. My entire family and all the other Afghan-Americans that I know, really appreciate what you are doing. Knowing what our troops are doing in Afghanistan makes me even more proud to be an American. My prayers are with all our troops who are risking their lives to protect the Afghan population and give them the freedom they deserve. I hope that the American people realize that we are trying to help the innocent in this war, and not desert those poor people like before.

    Be Safe!

    September 10, 2009 at 2:32 pm |
  17. Ken Sawyer

    I also had a son in the military for 8 1/2 years and I have had friends who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and the conversations I had with them make me understand that all these comments would not be so positive if it were not for the agenda CNN serves which is Democrat. We all know that Bush's war was not a Democrat approved venture but even though it has not been won it is closer than this one will ever be. Why do you think Russia allowed us to fly over their territory? It was to get us mired in the same mess they were in and now we are in it. Fighting a war with no collateral damage as a goal is fighting a war of attrition for our soldiers. Moderate all you like but you can not hide history as it plays out.

    September 10, 2009 at 2:31 pm |
  18. Jackie in Pennsylvania

    Talking about their blood type being displayed on their patches, or goggles or chest really brought it home. I have tried to image how awful it must be..to live under those conditions...and I can't begin to imagine how hard it is on their families. I am so proud to be an American and even prouder of our men and women who are serving our country and trying to make the world a better place. May God protect them and bring them all home safely..you too, Anderson.

    September 10, 2009 at 2:30 pm |
  19. HorkusMac

    May God continue to bless our Marines, Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen – and Anderson Cooper for helping shed light on a very special breed of human being – the United States Marine. No matter your political preference, a comment made by Ronald Reagan stands tall: "Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world. The Marines don't have that problem."

    Semper Fidelis, my Brothers and Sisters, and thank you.

    USMC Sgt

    September 10, 2009 at 2:27 pm |
  20. Carlos

    Thanks for sharing the hardship that our men and women from the military must withstand. To all them Thank You! God Bless!

    September 10, 2009 at 2:27 pm |
  21. Mary-Beth Carroll

    cheers Anderson, love your reporting! Thank the soldiers for me. : )

    September 10, 2009 at 2:27 pm |
  22. Stephen

    Gotta a feeling that knucklehead bumbling about in the weeds might be Geraldo, so y'all keep a look out, just in case it ain't.
    It's a good thing to have Marines, it's not so good they have to do what they have to do.

    September 10, 2009 at 2:26 pm |
  23. Mike

    Thanks for bringing us the front lines of this war! My son is a US Army Ranger and will be deployed again in December. The more Americans see the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform the better. God bless every man and woman with the guts to serve our Nation in wartime! Thank you Marines, Army, Navy and Air Force!!!!

    September 10, 2009 at 2:25 pm |
  24. Ken

    When I served in the Corps (1992-1996) several of us got 'Meat Tag' Tattoos. They have the same inforamtion as your Dog Tag (ss#, name, blood type, gas mask size). Most of us had it tattooed under our armpit, on the upper rib cage. It took ften minutes to do and cost $30.

    Thanks for your coverage and reporting,

    September 10, 2009 at 2:24 pm |
  25. YM

    Wow I was really touched by this. The story really makes you feel for these marines who sometimes may not want to be there and be home with their families...but are still proud to do their job

    September 10, 2009 at 2:20 pm |
  26. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    You've got to love our young men and women in the military, more than they love us. God Bless and Keep them safe.

    September 10, 2009 at 2:18 pm |
  27. Mike C.

    This is NOT what I expected from Anderson Cooper. My error for pre-judging what I thouhgt was just another TV talking head.

    September 10, 2009 at 2:18 pm |
  28. Scott

    Thanks Anderson. Prior to joining the Marines, I never even knew my blood type; fortunately, I never needed to make use of that knowledge during my time in Iraq, but I appreciate you reporting on the minutia that fellow Marines must keep in mind on the battlefield, as it makes it a bit more poignant for those stateside.

    Also, it helps clarify the reason why a Marine in a photograph might, like I once did, have the abbreviation "A POS" sewn on the back of his helmet. The unfortunate dual meaning can be taken the wrong way by those not in the know. 😉

    September 10, 2009 at 2:17 pm |
  29. allah akbar

    God willing we will defeat the Jews and the Americans, assisted by each of these words do not sneer because it will happen despite the will of any person, Allah Akbar and praise of God and what I say Oh martyr earthquake ground out from under their feet Oh what torment us including the Day of Resurrection is no god but God and Muhammad is the Messenger God's victory or martyrdom

    September 10, 2009 at 2:16 pm |
  30. Angela

    This is the kind of stuff that the people need to see. Once these warriors were hailed as heros and now due to biased reporting they are villified. They are heros, every one of them, because they are willing to lay down their lives on the alter of sacrifice for their country, and that includes its citizens, even though they've never met us all.

    September 10, 2009 at 2:15 pm |
  31. Bob Jones


    WE(The Country) have an Americcan Soldier being held "POW" in Afghan. He is hidden by terminology change and no outcry ? Why is that ? To protect his family ? You believe that? Retired Lt. Col. Ralph Peters on FOX stated "This guy could be deserter and Taliban could do us a favor"..it's ok to say stuff like that ? We change terminology which is there to Protect our troops ? Are our troops Negotiable or Disposable ?

    Bob Jones
    Meredith, NH

    September 10, 2009 at 2:14 pm |
  32. Cheri

    All of the men and woman deployed abroad deserve nothing less .Lee S. said it well "they are to be admired and respected for that with no equivocation." Thank you!~~~

    September 10, 2009 at 2:12 pm |
  33. G. Welch

    To my Marine Brothers
    Semper Fi

    September 10, 2009 at 2:11 pm |
  34. Ken Sawyer

    This war should be about killing the ones who planned 9-11 and all their followers who think killing their own is justified if it converts everyone to Islam. I don't know a soul that cares what happens in Afghanistan or Pakistan. It is about revenge for attacks on America. If it is missionaries they need then send them instead and bring our soldiers home . They are trained to fight and not carry out the whims of the politicians. Better yet send the whole Senate and House over there and let them fight a politically correct war.Talk them to death.

    September 10, 2009 at 2:11 pm |
  35. GV

    Thanks for taking the time to report the real story, not the viral one. That's what I call press.

    Go Army, Beat Navy

    September 10, 2009 at 2:11 pm |
  36. Max Vanguard

    If an un-biased, straightforward assessment of events on the ground in Afghanistan is what is being reported, then I'm all for it. I commend CNN and Anderson Cooper for such efforts.

    I can't stress enough how vitally important it is for American citizens to get accurate, factual, informative news from the battle front. It is this information that Americans at home use to steer our government's policies. It is this essential detail that helps us form our opinions, and guides our collective conscience to vote for leaders in whose policies we believe.

    When it comes to battlefront reporting, cast the pundits aside and let real reporters do their best work. We Americans count on this information every day. And more importantly, our military forces count on these reports to be publicized worldwide to show the world that Americans are not all imperialists or devils. Our forces are working for the benefit of everyone, and this is an important message to get out.

    Accurate reporting not only shapes American opinion, but world opinion.

    September 10, 2009 at 2:10 pm |
  37. DP

    Mr Cooper,

    Great reporting. It brings to light the fact that the mission of the these Marines is not about territory or just eliminating Taliban but protecting the peace loving Afghans from the Taliban.

    Be Safe and see you back soon at your New York Studios. If your trip is being staged from Pakistan please please please be extra careful.

    Good Luck

    September 10, 2009 at 2:09 pm |
  38. Douglas J. Henderson

    It's funny to see how people just cannot comprehend our commitment to country. We Marines believe in our minds that if we die then that is our duty. We Marines are willing to lay down our lives for our mission and goals as a whole. Together, Marines are one and never are we not. Marines are not individuals, but rather the whole conscious of our nation and what all others in our nation are willing to theoricize but we are willing to execute. We Marines are not afraid to die in combat because we know our mission will be carried forward by our fireteam, platoon, battalion, and brotherhood. Normal people think that these commitments are silly... Normal people make me so mad when they do not understand that our commitment to each other, through death if need be, is real and ever-lasting. We Marines are everyone else's theory... we make it so, my brothers, my fellow Marines. I just hope that everyone knows that when we come back out of the fleet we may be different at times, we may be quite, and we may be demanding on others (to list a few things), but we shall always be the leaders in difficult times of conflict... wherever that may have the misfortune of arising.

    September 10, 2009 at 2:08 pm |
  39. Carole Tindoll Weldon

    I always count on you to give us the truth, "unshackled and unfettered." I pray for your safety, the safety of your crew, and that each Marine there will return home safely.

    September 10, 2009 at 2:08 pm |
  40. josh


    September 10, 2009 at 2:08 pm |
  41. Auntnee

    About time you did some straight reporting. You said, "it’s impossible not to want to do right by these Marines". Now if you could afford us the same type reporting back home you're giving these Marines.

    September 10, 2009 at 2:07 pm |
  42. Michael Ashby

    Anderson, I've been an admirer of yours for quite some time now because of your honesty and willingness to go into the "storm" to report the real news. Being a Marine myself of the Vietnam war I know first-hand the trials and frustrations our troops are experiencing and I commend you and praise them for the jobs you are all doing.

    God Bless you and your efforts. It's not often I will say this to just anyone other than a Marine, but for you there is a special place, so I say to you – SEMPER FI! Thank you for your service to the world.

    September 10, 2009 at 2:04 pm |
  43. Debby/Soldiers' Angels

    Anderson, Soldier's Angels need you! We care for these Marine's too. If you see my infantry son, say hello for me.

    September 10, 2009 at 2:04 pm |
  44. Russel A. Long

    Anderson....continue the straight shooting...I don't watch TV news much anymore, but when I do, it is usually you.

    September 10, 2009 at 2:03 pm |
  45. Jim

    It is nice to see a reporter report something good about the military. As a marine for several years I still keep in touch and a dedicated marine. If the rest of the reporters would report the truth on what they see and not decide what to write which is mostly negative on our troops people would actually see what our miltary truly does. Keep up the great work.

    September 10, 2009 at 2:03 pm |
  46. EB in NC

    Great reporting Anderson. I watched CNN and your hour report last evening, and you are truly the best reporter in television today. Most have gone to manipulating the news toward their objectives, or simply reading a teleprompter, but you obviously tell it like it is! Never, never,
    compromise that mission! We in America so desperately need the unbiased simple truth today.

    September 10, 2009 at 2:02 pm |
  47. Laurenza Pertiwi

    Mr. Cooper, this is a real and honest article! You are truly a fine journalist. Be safe and thanks!

    September 10, 2009 at 2:00 pm |
  48. Lou

    Thank you Mr Cooper for all of your work. We need to let the rest of the US citizens know more about these very special soldiers. I would hope your organization can one day do a special report during prime time and enlighten those of us who are really clueless about what these men are going through. I know my kids have no idea but I would certainly force them to watch something as important as this. Thanks.

    September 10, 2009 at 1:57 pm |
  49. Mike

    I spent a year in combat in Afghanistan so I know what its like and Anderson is very right on what he has reported and said so far. It is about protecting the people while at the same time rebuilding their infrastructure all to build a level of trust between us and them so that they stop supporting the taliban and follow their own government. I met many afghans and considered some of them very good friends. They want a stable country where they can prosper as our country has. They want peace and for their children to go to school. Unfortunately the taliban uses force and intimidation everywhere it goes to get what it wants. The people have a difficult choice, if they support us openly and then all of a sudden we leave, they will most likely be killed by the taliban. If they support the taliban, they face being arrested or killed by afghan officials. So many people I talk to have no clue what is going on there and I LOVE seeing stories on afghanistan so that others can learn more about what is going on there. Anderson usually gets it right because he cares about the truth. PS the country really is covered in fine dirt, what anderson called Moon dust. It gets into EVERYTHING!!!

    September 10, 2009 at 1:56 pm |
  50. Fay - California

    Although polls have shown that support for the war in Afghanistan has eroded over the months and Americans are uncertain about what can actually be accomplished by our troops being there, this post makes it clear what the real goals are and why it's so important that we continue to try and achieve them–great writing Anderson and the reports from on the program this week from Afghanistan have really been excellent.

    September 10, 2009 at 1:56 pm |
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