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. Lori

    Bravo Zulu, Mr. Cooper for a journalistic job well done. I often look to you for honest reporting and once again you have proven yourself to be above your peers. Thank you for putting into a few words what so many people have yet to understand about the role of our military abroad. Deb in Vegas is right... it should never be about the politics, although too often the military is used for political agendas. Being in service to one's country falls outside of the political realm.. as for many of us it was, has and still is about doing the right thing by our fellow citizens and world neighbors.

    September 10, 2009 at 3:27 pm |
  2. Nathan

    Thank you for being true to the Marines, I got out after 7 1/2 years in the Corps and everyday I pray that the role we play helps out not only our fellow americans but the afghan people. Thank you for bringing the have to part of the job to life. Stay safe and tell the Marines we pray everyday for their safety.

    God Bless

    September 10, 2009 at 3:27 pm |
  3. Suzi Leggett

    I am a registered Democrat from OC California. No one ever have suggested 1) why don't all eligible U. S. citizens(residents) be provided the Health Insurance Plan the same plan as Members of Congress, either public are not aware of this or afraid to speak up? 2) U. S. should study the health care plan that is provided in the ROK. No one is denied of the doctor/hospital, prescription medichine is cheaper than of the United States. The Emergency Rooms are for real emergencies only and can receive the real emergency services.
    I would like to see a couragious Member to offer an amendment to these suggestions.


    September 10, 2009 at 3:27 pm |
  4. clem garcia

    I was that which others did not want to be.

    I went where others feared to go, and did what others failed to do.

    I asked nothing, and reluctantly accepted the thought of eternal loneliness...should I fail.

    I have seen the face of terror; felt the stinging cold of fear; and enjoyed the sweet taste of a moment's love.

    I have cried, pained and hoped...But most of all i have lived times others would say were best forgotten.

    At least someday I will be able to say that I was proud of what I was........A Soldier


    God bless the United States of America and God Bless our Soldiers!

    September 10, 2009 at 3:26 pm |
  5. Allen Kirkpatrick

    I've read your biography and was impressed. I also followed alot of your earlier reporting, from the field.
    Lately, I've been dissillusioned by some of your material/assignments and felt that many were below your level of talent.

    THIS is what you are good at. In the field, taking the risk, telling it like it is without the politics and editorializing.

    September 10, 2009 at 3:24 pm |
  6. Amy in Oakland

    Oh and by the way...stay safe, keep your head down, and don't become PART of the story!! We need you, Sanjay and Michael to keep on doing what your doing!! 🙂

    September 10, 2009 at 3:24 pm |
  7. sharon, sydney, ns

    It chilled me to the bone when I read of how "What's your blood type?", is usually the first questioned asked before partaking in anything. It's terrifying to me that the possibility of getting hurt is that prominent in their minds probably every moment of every day. Those soldiers are in over there for the right reasons. I pray not another has to die for those reasons. Thank you for a great reminder as to what is actually going on over there and why.

    September 10, 2009 at 3:24 pm |
  8. Joan O

    Thank you for standing up for these Marines. From what I've seen of you and your reports, you're Marine material yourself.

    September 10, 2009 at 3:23 pm |
  9. USMC

    OOH-RAH Devil Dogs!!!

    September 10, 2009 at 3:22 pm |
  10. Maj Mac USMC (Ret)

    Uhhhra Anderson! Outstanding story. Don't worry, those devil dogs will always watch your six! SEMPER FI!!!!

    September 10, 2009 at 3:21 pm |
  11. Miriam Cooper, NY

    Hi Anderson,

    Hope all is well at Afghanistan !

    September 10, 2009 at 3:20 pm |
  12. dina osullivan

    Dear Mr. Anderson,
    As always you report the truth without concern about the risks you take both physically and as a journalist. I respect you for your ability to show what is really happening.I am an avid fan of your show but more than that I am an avid fan of how you tell us the news.

    My son is a journalist who works for Media LIne which is about reporting the truth. You report the truth with clarity , concern and compassion. Keep doing it. You do it well.

    Dina O'Sullivan

    September 10, 2009 at 3:19 pm |
  13. J. Jones

    In reference to Mr. Wilson and his comment: As a retired Marine I feel there's a point and time to have some intestinal fortitude and speak up. Especially when we all have a stake in how "trillion dollar bills" are being tossed around like a football. If Mr. wilson is right- prove it! If not his apology was correct. Your status in life doesn't give you the right to have no integrity. From the President down to a beggar.

    September 10, 2009 at 3:18 pm |
  14. WRB

    Thank you for reporting what really goes on and what the armed forces are trying to do for the population they are there to help in Iraq. My son served in Iraq and was disgusted when he was home on leave because of all the negative publicity that he saw on the news regarding the armed forces. The Iraqi people gave him care packages they put together while he was there in 2003/04, there were a lot of people that really appreciated what the armed forces were trying to do to help them. My son is no longer in the military due to injuries sustained during his tour, but my daughter is finishing MCT right now with the Marine Corp and we are very proud of them and all the other military men and women soldiers that are serving not only our country but assisting other countries to help themselves.

    September 10, 2009 at 3:17 pm |
  15. Mark

    I served in two deployments to Iraq. During that time, I noticed a very negative view toward the military in the media despite the fact that most of us were simply there to finish the deployment and get home to our loved ones. It is very refreshing and satisfying to see that you recognize the struggle and the sacrifices we make for a country who has all but forgotten us.

    September 10, 2009 at 3:17 pm |
  16. Jeff Kelly

    Thank you Anderson for telling it like it truly is. These men (although tough as nails on the outside) are going through an amazingly difficult time in their lives when they deploy. They might not show it, but they feel the same things any ordinary person would feel when they are seperated from their families and facing an enemy that wants them dead.

    Keep up the good work Marines and keep your spirits high. We appreciate EVERYTHING that you do for us back home.

    You might not hear it all the time, but you have millions of Americans that have YOU in their thoughts and prayers daily.

    September 10, 2009 at 3:16 pm |
  17. clem garcia

    It is honorable and nobel to show the pride these soldiers have in their mission. They get behind the mission with honor and pride – whatever it is. But, how can you explain to a blind man how pretty the "red" car is if he has never had the sight to know what "red" is? How can you explain to the Afghans what freedom is if they have never seen nor
    tasted freedom? What a waste of our brave forces.

    September 10, 2009 at 3:15 pm |
  18. Colleen

    As a mother of a Recon Marine and a Nurse at a VA hospital I want to thank you for showing these Marines as Human. Many believe that our Marines are only hard core warriors. They are far more than that, I would say that Recon Marinies, as I can not speak for any other Marine, are elite in their ability to comprehend the broad mission of what is needed in any and all communities that they serve. They have respect and admiration for the Afgans as well as the Iraqi people, they in turn are givin respect by these people. I ashall continue to pray for all who serve and have served, most of all, I pray for PEACE. God's Speed.

    September 10, 2009 at 3:15 pm |
  19. Mike

    Nice article. Maybe next time someone has a town hall meeting you can show this article to them. It is obvious most of this country has forgotten about these troops. I cant forget since my nephew has done 3 tours and most likely will do another one before he leaves Germany next year.

    September 10, 2009 at 3:15 pm |
  20. Mike

    So we are not in Afghanistan to fight terrorist? They why are we there? The USA is not an empire doing nation building so why are we there? Lets support our troupes and bring them home. All these young men and women dieing and being severely injured to to build a nation that has nothing to offer, except maybe cheap labor for Nike, to us in return. Once again why are we there?

    September 10, 2009 at 3:14 pm |
  21. Brenda Richardson

    Mr. Cooper,
    Thanks for telling the "real" story. My son is currently with the 2/8 in Golf Company, weapons plattoon. This is his second deployment (first was Iraq in 2007) His wife, twin 2 year old daughters, mom, dad, brother, and assorted aunts, uncles and cousins miss him like crazy. We are a very close family. It helps to get your report and your prospective. Keep up the good work and I'll tell you what I tell him, "keep your head down and stay safe".

    September 10, 2009 at 3:14 pm |
  22. Rex in St Paul

    Thanks for walking patrol with those men. Thanks also for trying to tell the ground truth. These men and women are not heros and will tell you so. A hero is a type of sandwich...
    They are American Marines and that is so much more than most people can imagine. Sons, brothers, daughters, fathers, mothers, sisters, friends, boys just out of school, a mom who wants to be home. But they all serve and sacrifice for us. Whatever your political bent, honor these folks and thier families when you meet them.

    Semper Fi
    Cpl. R. Goetz 1989-1994
    O positive

    September 10, 2009 at 3:13 pm |
  23. Daniel Craig Jallits

    Mr. Cooper,

    I have tried many a time to explain what the culture is like in the Marine Corps (and what I assume is mirrored by our sister services) based on my own experiences in the Corps. I don't think it has ever been said so blatantly yet so poetically before. From here on I am simply going to email the permalink to this post.

    Thank you.

    September 10, 2009 at 3:12 pm |
  24. Brian Rushing

    I am not a Marine and while I do not support sending the US Military presence in Iraq, I am very much in support of their mission in Afghanistan. It's unfortunate that these brave men and women are seperated from their families in carrying out this important mission, but it is appreciated. May God go with you all .... and you to AC.

    September 10, 2009 at 3:11 pm |
  25. Amy in Oakland

    Best article yet...great to know what is going on over there (hello?..reality check with blood type!), and the very real danger these soldiers are constantly dealing with on a daily basis. I also really enjoyed Sanjay's piece last night on the medical teams that go into field to save the lives of the injured soldiers, as well as the Afghan civilians. These guys are the real deal, and the true heroes. Keep it coming!

    September 10, 2009 at 3:09 pm |
  26. Marine Dad


    "It is humbling to witness." Truer words have never been spoken.

    I consider myself blessed to have had the opportunity to hang around with these honorable and courageously committed men we call Marines. I've struggled trying to describe what I've witnessed but your reporting is spot on. Keep up the good work.

    Semper Fi,


    September 10, 2009 at 3:09 pm |
  27. Danielle

    I graduated with a B.A. in Journalism before marrying an Army soldier. Through his three deployments to Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq, I struggled with the reporting. Thank you for what you are doing. Your work helps soldiers and their families. You, too, are serving the country with your service. Thank you.

    September 10, 2009 at 3:09 pm |
  28. c.l.rose

    As the mother of a 3/5 Marine I want to thank you for reporting about the eveyday lives of our deployed Marines and soldiers. To Anderson Cooper, Hats off to you sir. To our Marines everywhere, You are my heroes.

    September 10, 2009 at 3:06 pm |
  29. RC

    With all due respect, this is nonsense. The press is supposed to protect these young men and women by making sure our leaders don't thrust them into endless wars or opaque struggles (now, we are nation-building and changing minds in Afghanistan? What the hell does that have to do with the original mission of the Marine Corps?)

    It's for Afghans to want to change their country and not for our brave US Marines to waste time and lives trying to change their deep-rooted biases. They will end up hating us in the end regardless...If we still had a draft this war would've been over a long time ago.

    September 10, 2009 at 3:05 pm |
  30. Kathy Cuevas

    Thank you so much for your vital and educational reporting. The issues involved in this conflict are very complex, but you never 'dumb things down' for your viewers. I was recently privileged to meet some Marines here stateside and spend a few enjoyable hours with them, and came away with the conviction that these were the most gentlemanly, honorable and interesting men I have met in a long time. These Marines should be a role model for all young people everywhere. Semper Fi!

    September 10, 2009 at 3:05 pm |
  31. BoB 1stShirt

    Marines! Semper Fi!

    Freedom isn't free. Fortunately, the Marine Corps is willing to pay most of your share. Our Marines are not only putting their lives on the line to protect our freedom but also to protect men, women, and children in a foreign land halfway around the world.

    September 10, 2009 at 3:05 pm |
  32. Charlie M.

    Thanks Anderson for putting some focus on the loyalty and dedication Marines have for each other and the rest of the country.
    Semper Fi Marines!

    September 10, 2009 at 3:05 pm |
  33. Laura Venter

    I am writing to you kindly asking for an autographed picture that we would frame and exhibit in our new community center known as the Romanian Heritage Center, located at 7777 N. Caldwell Ave., Niles, IL 60714.

    The Romanian Heritage Center is comprised of several organizations: Romanian-American Network Inc. (a multi-media community organization http://www.Ro-Am.NET), the Romanian Library & Cultural Center, the Romanian Village Exhibit, and the Romanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The Romanian-American Network Inc. owns and publishes the Romanian Tribune newspaper which is the largest Romanian newspaper in the United States. We also own and publish the only Romanian-American community guide in printed version, known as the Romanian-American Yellow Pages. The electronic edition is posted on the internet at http://www.findromanians.us

    The main entry of the Romanian Heritage Center has a large foyer of over one thousand s.f. which we want to dedicate for a European cafeteria which we'll call "The Newsroom Cafe". The idea is to have this room exhibit in glass enclosed showcases antique typewriters, phones, cameras and video equipment, while the walls will have numerous pictures of "Newsroom People", news anchors and reporters that are known in Chicago's Romanian community of over 150,000 people.

    We take pride in our culture and heritage and we plan to use these facilities to host multicultural events in partnership with other organizations, local and international. We are privileged to have a great name after 14 years of service in the Romanian-American community and our relationship with the Romanian Consulate General of Chicago as well as the Romanian Embassy of Washington D.C. is noteworthy.

    We would be honored to have the autographed pictures as part of the "Newsroom People" exhibit in our heritage center. Could you please let us know at your earliest convenience if this is agreeable to you so that we can count on your having your autographed pictures?

    With kind consideration,

    Laura Venter
    Communications Director

    P.S. Could you please dedicate it to the Romanian-American community of Chicago?

    September 10, 2009 at 3:04 pm |
  34. Randell C

    Anderson: As a retired Hospital Corpsman who spent much of his career with the Fleet Marines, I have seen that dedication first hand. I know they appreciate having an advocate in the press.

    September 10, 2009 at 3:03 pm |
  35. Paula, Colorado

    It's great to see your thoughtful writing on the blog today. As difficult as it is to watch your reports from Afghanistan, the focus you give on what is happening there on a daily basis is of significant value. You give a much more human dimension to it all than just telling war stories. I am glad you have only a few more days in such a dangerous place. I agree, though, that it's important to remember those who continue to be involved in and affected by the war. I pray for you all, and look forward to your reporting later.

    September 10, 2009 at 3:03 pm |
  36. William M. Anderson

    Mr. Cooper: Thanks for spot on truthful reporting. As a former Marine Officer with a combat tour in Vietnam, I still have major resentments about the way the politicians and press turned the American people against my warriors of 40 years ago. My call to you is don't let that happen again.
    Semper Fi,
    William M. Anderson
    Captain, USMC

    September 10, 2009 at 3:01 pm |
  37. Kerry J

    These guys are amazing and they are in our prayers everyday. Thanks for keeping your reporting unbiased and straight. Loved your coverage of Katrina also. Just listened to the audio book. Right on.

    September 10, 2009 at 3:00 pm |
  38. Armen

    "I know it sounds corny, but it’s impossible not to want to do right by these Marines."
    How can we expect unbiased reporting regarding activities on the front from journalists that so readily admit to being emotionally swayed in this manner?

    September 10, 2009 at 2:59 pm |
  39. Brian

    We always found it a good idea to lace a dog tag in our boots in case we got blown up. that way it helps put the pieces back togather.

    September 10, 2009 at 2:59 pm |
  40. Sharon Vladic

    My son is a Marine scout sniper. His 4 years will be up next June. He said there is still work to be done, he will re-up and is hoping to go to Afghanistan. He is on his 2nd tour to Iraq. I am so proud of all who serve and sacrifice! There couldnt be a better trio, AC,Mike W and Dr. Gupta!! I enjoy and respect your reports. Thank you and God Bless.

    September 10, 2009 at 2:58 pm |
  41. Katy

    My husband is in 1/5 and seeing what they are doing over there has made me more confident 🙂 I'm so glad that you are able to show exactly what is going on over there. I haven't felt this close to my husband since the day that he left for deployment. Let them know our thoughts and prayers are with them every single minute of the day. You are making alot of wives and families happy right now! 🙂

    September 10, 2009 at 2:57 pm |
  42. John Landgraff

    First – Semper Fi Marines and Cooper

    Second – Cooper I think everything can be summed up in you r final 3 paragraphs

    This is not a war about territory, or enemy body count, it is about protecting people, building confidence, convincing Afghans to choose sides.

    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.

    GySgt USMC (Ret)

    September 10, 2009 at 2:57 pm |
  43. Diane N.

    Anderson, your conviction, dedication and enthusiasm for these soldiers and this effort is contagious and inspirational. Even to those who believe this effort is very nearly insurmountable. Thank you for all you are teaching us about what is going on over there even if it means putting your own life in danger to do so, your efforts are by no means mute. I hope you know that fact. Thank you again and god speed.

    September 10, 2009 at 2:56 pm |
  44. Robert Cunningham

    Thanks Anderson for your willingness to be in harm's way to present objective reporting to America. I would like to make a point to dispel some myths in the field. Having served as a nurse in both Iraq and Afghanistan I wish to point out that having the blood type listed on the uniform, tatooed etc. does NOT speed up care. Regardless of where or how the blood type is listed, the troops do NOT get type specific blood until it has been confirmed by the lab in the receiving EMEDS. The injured person will receive universal blood (O neg) until type and cross-match is confirmed. Giving the wrong blood type can be fatal so we can't take a chance that something written on the helmet etc. is correct. While it may seem reassuring to have the blood type listed on the body, the reality is that it doesn't change the course of care in terms of type of blood administered. RC

    September 10, 2009 at 2:56 pm |
  45. JoJo

    Thank you for your honest opinion and honest writing. You don't get a lot of that. You get everything horrible without hearing why it is how it is. We need more honest articles about those who serve our country. Thank you for providing this one. I hope everybody stays safe and returns home soon.

    September 10, 2009 at 2:54 pm |
  46. Keith M

    The public will always have some stereotype in mind; especially dealing with the Armed Forces. Marines have a better image due in no small part to the rigorous mystique of boot camp and Parris Island. As a former enlisted Marine, I recall all too well how I was looked down upon by my civilian peers as well as the Officer corps in my own command. Serving your country is often viewed as a "last resort" for those with little career opportunities or education. The sad part is that no matter what our reasons, the men & women of the military sacrifice so much for those who will never comprehend, nor appreciate the effort. I too thank AC for his thoughtful and factual representation of our troops. I fear, however, that his reporting will only make those of us who care feel vindicated while having little or no valuable impact on those that do not care to understand and appreciate the efforts of our military.

    September 10, 2009 at 2:54 pm |
  47. SSgt Pond

    Keep up the good work, Cooper. These Marines need all the support that can be mustered. Freedom has a price and it's important that we all understand just who it is that is willing to pay it.

    Semper Fidelis!

    September 10, 2009 at 2:51 pm |
  48. stephanie


    Thanks for acknowledging this war. No one else, including our President, seems to care.

    September 10, 2009 at 2:51 pm |
  49. Michelle

    Thanks so much for the article, Anderson. My son just got out of the Marines after 8 years. He did a tour in Afghanistan. It is so important for people to read articles like the one you wrote. People need to remember our service men and women. We know we will never forget them. Semper Fi.

    September 10, 2009 at 2:50 pm |
  50. chipsDad

    Thank you.
    My son was a USMC inf Sgt/platoon leader in Iraq.

    Please do some personal storeis about who these guys are – their backgrounds, etc .

    Many people belive these are undeducatred oafs who like to kill.
    My son's unit was so diverse – college graduates, gangsters, poor, middle class, of many colors & faiths & homes.

    He was amazed at the diversity , & highly grateful of his Marines.

    He's gone now, PTSD, right after he came back.

    Thank you for writing your stuff – he would like it.

    September 10, 2009 at 2:49 pm |
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