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. Samuel M'boro, TN

    Awesome! We can't forget the men and women who sacrifice day and night for this country. You are always in my heart and mind, and in the hearts and minds of every citizen of this country.

    September 10, 2009 at 4:20 pm |
  2. susan

    Maslow called it the basic needs.
    No. 1 Biologic or Physiologic Needs, aka water and food
    No. 2 Physical Needs aka Safety
    No. 3 Belongingness aka family and extended family|tribe and Country
    No 4. Self-Esteemn
    No 5 Creativity

    Afghanistan is still shaky in terms of physical safety. Somehow, getting flogged, honor killings, blown up in attempts to learning to read and write (whether to understand your religion or expand your mind and world) doesnt strike me as a very safe world.

    One aspect: The Marines form an extremely cohesive group. But at least the Marines can still respect and work with the Army and Navy and Air Force. How do we help the Afghani "tribes" learn to respect each other like our Military "tribes?" (or similarly for the Iraqis.)

    September 10, 2009 at 4:18 pm |
  3. Kim

    Thank you for the wonderful article. You don't hear much about the troops anymore. It's ashame that more isn't being written about them. We want to know what they are dealing with. The soliders and you Anderson are in my prayers.

    September 10, 2009 at 4:18 pm |
  4. Carrie

    Thank you Mr. Cooper. As a former military wife and the mother of a soon to be sailor, it's been incredibly frustrating dealing with civilians who didn't "get it" as to why the military is out there in Afghanistan.

    You do, and you're spreading the reason.

    Thank you so much.

    September 10, 2009 at 4:17 pm |
  5. Tom Arcaro


    I'll agree with others who have commented: this is good reporting. But the reporting is not as good as the poetry. I read your essay a couple hours ago, but I still can't get the "What's your blood type?" question – and all that it evokes- out of my mind. Like other great poets, you have captured the essence of a situation and communicated it in an effective, compelling manner. Thanks.

    September 10, 2009 at 4:17 pm |
  6. cajun101

    Judy Stage/Brooklyn MI

    once a marine always a marine

    semper fi

    September 10, 2009 at 4:16 pm |
  7. Tania

    Can you please let us know which congressman or senator have been lobbied by the Health Insurance Companies.? So, we can see who's interest they have American people or big Insurance Companies? Thank you!

    September 10, 2009 at 4:16 pm |
  8. Mallory Normandeau

    Thank you for this story, it is so true everything you have said about the Marines. They are brave, and wonderful for doing what they do. I have friends and a boyfriend out there with the 1/5, and I know every family is grateful for the media attention you are bringing to this issue.

    September 10, 2009 at 4:15 pm |
  9. Pat Mersky

    thankyou Mr. Cooper, as a parent of a Marine who is there right now we have watched every niight looking forward to maybe catching a glimpse of our son, or at least knowing what he is facing every day. It makes communicating alot easier. Thankyou for your report, that we cannot forget these brave soldiers and what they are giving up every day. Pat Mersky

    September 10, 2009 at 4:15 pm |
  10. Bob

    Question the politics of the war all you want, but have no doubt that because of the daily sacrifice of our finest and bravest soldiers we all sleep safely at night even while they are enduring unbelievably bad conditions. And at the end of their mission, all they ask from us is to be allowed to return to their life with their families.

    Remember this and be humbled. But never make the mistake that the fools from the 60's and 70's did and confuse the soldier with the politics.

    September 10, 2009 at 4:14 pm |
  11. tenz

    Anderson Cooper!!
    we love you.

    September 10, 2009 at 4:14 pm |
  12. Dave Ferrell

    Anderson is indeed doing a fine job...but what gets me are all these posts concerning the "opinionated" media. All good reporters strive very hard to get their stories and fact straight, regardless of the audience. Most of the time they do. They get labeled as liberal or opinionated when the stories they file do not jibe with an individual's beliefs. It's a shame that most folks don't trust the media or even their own government these days. Fear and distrust are not particularly desirable traits ...

    September 10, 2009 at 4:09 pm |
  13. Nathan Sisson

    I think it is great that you are spending so much time with the troops in combat zones. This beefs your credibility alot. Many combat troops display their blood type on themselves. I am sure this makes them feel better. However, the doctors who give blood to the injured soldiers always do a blood type and cross match check at the treatment facility before transfusing blood. The risk of serious complications from giving the wrong blood type by going off what is worn by the soldier is to great a risk. If the casualty can't wait then O- blood can be given. Most soldiers don't know this. I am a combat veteran and by knowing this I never wore my blood type. I am not trying to put anyone down for doing it. I am just putting it out there. If it makes you feel better/secure by doing it by all means go ahead.

    September 10, 2009 at 4:08 pm |
  14. Danielle

    Thanks for the report. This is the kind of stuff people should appreciate hearing and reading about. My husband served in Iraq, and this down-to-earth reporting is what people need!

    September 10, 2009 at 4:08 pm |
  15. Airdale

    Once a Marine, always a Marine!

    Even a Sailor can appreciate a Grunt and what they endure doing what they do…….whether it be a “wing wiper” or part of a MEF riding it out on the “Gator Navy” waiting for the hammer to fall when they receive that 9-1-1 call! Since 9/11 they have answered the call time and time again as have all the Armed Forces, including the USCG!

    God Bless them and theirs……..especially the Sailors (Navy Corpsmen) of the FMF that volunteer to join their brothers in arms in the sand box!

    From an ol’ Sailor

    September 10, 2009 at 4:07 pm |
  16. Joy Helms

    Thanks for the story, my son is a Marine that will deploy next month to Afghanistan. He went to Iraq last year. God bless all of our troops and bring them home safe.

    September 10, 2009 at 4:05 pm |
  17. Colleen in Anaheim

    Thank you, Anderson, for the heartfelt commentary. As the wife of a Marine and mother of a Marine that is getting ready for deployment, it is important to hear once in a while that people really appreciate what my husband has done and my son is getting ready to do.

    No matter what one's opinion of the war, I would hope that people would at least support our family members that are risking their lives for people's right to have an opinion. . . .Semper Fi, Anderson-keep up the excellent work. . .

    September 10, 2009 at 4:04 pm |
  18. Cortney

    Thank you Cooper!
    I appreciate you standing by our troops and keeping their stories fresh! My husband served with the 101st Airborne in 2003 in Iraq. He only had to serve 1 tour and is been home safe and sound since Dec. 2004. That DOES NOT mean we forget all of his brothers/sisters still in Afghan and Iraq. We live in Northern CA, where many news stories show no appreciation to the sacrafices that these men, women and their families make on a daily basis. I appreciate your courage in reporting truthfully and standing by our men and women in uniform. May you and our troops remain safe and come home soon!!

    September 10, 2009 at 4:04 pm |
  19. Bill Phillip

    To comment on your comment,

    "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..."

    Actually, the Marines have done or tried to do this before, dating back about 100 years or more. It was the method the Marines preferred to use in Vietnam. I think it was also the method of the Army's Green Berets in Vietnam. But S&D became the mission instead.

    September 10, 2009 at 4:02 pm |
  20. Margie, Modesto CA

    A job well done once again Anderson.

    Thank you for keeping the Marines and those sacrificing in the military, in the news. These are our heros and I pray they come back to us soon. God Bless you out there!

    Your other Number 1 fun.

    September 10, 2009 at 4:02 pm |
  21. David

    Thank's for YOUR hard work and dedication Anderson. It means a lot for friend's and families to learn how it "Really Is" out there in the Mideast while serving their country.

    8 year veteran of the Marine's.

    September 10, 2009 at 4:01 pm |
  22. Carol

    Anderson your reporting with the Marines made it to the top of my list along with with Dr. Gupta after he put down his reporters notebook and picked up a scalpel in Iraq to help out.

    CNN is the only network I can say that about.

    Keep up the good work!

    September 10, 2009 at 4:00 pm |
  23. Daniel

    Ooh-rah, Anderson. Thank you for the honest truth.

    Semper Fi.

    September 10, 2009 at 4:00 pm |
  24. Brandon

    Top class reporting Anderson. Thank you for showing what is really going on!

    September 10, 2009 at 3:59 pm |
  25. zachary

    hey AC, stay there for a few weeks I will be there oct 1st. already done 4 tours in iraq. thanks for keeping it real!

    September 10, 2009 at 3:56 pm |
  26. Bonnie C.

    Thanks for giving us the real deal for "fair and balanced" reporting. We get too much of the other stuff, where it's filtered so that we're only getting what someone else thinks we can handle.

    September 10, 2009 at 3:55 pm |
  27. Touche

    How refreshing. Not just a brief mention of the spirit of our soldiers, marines, but a thoughtful expression.

    More of us need to remember, those men and women are first citizens. Possessed of freedom. Free to choose what to do with their lives.

    We are the beneficiaries of those choices. We, at a minimum, should be unafraid and eager to be openly appreciative and respectful.
    There is a low key but powerful way to say "thank you" without making a big fuss and puts the soldier and you at ease.

    Gratitude Campaign (search it).

    September 10, 2009 at 3:52 pm |
  28. dougsak

    I'm a disabled veteran of another unpopular war. When we came home we were spat upon. It's heartwarming to see at least one journalist just reporting the facts and giving our troops the credit they deserve. Keep up the good word and see if you can get your colleagues to emulate your example in their work. For you Marines, I was a Navy "squid". So you know I really mean it when I say Semper Fi.

    September 10, 2009 at 3:52 pm |
  29. Michael Ensley

    Thank you for this article. My son is a Marine and has done two tours already. One in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. He saw combat in both places. His sacrifice and those of all the Marines should be lauded. They are brave young men who will live with the memories of what we as a country have asked them to do for the rest of their lives. May we all be forever grateful.

    September 10, 2009 at 3:50 pm |
  30. Vishala

    Anderson Cooper,

    Thank you for carrying me into a world i hardly know. Please keep telling me stories about this world and stay safe because you have to keep telling us. hope to shake your hand someday.

    September 10, 2009 at 3:49 pm |
  31. Jacqueline, NY

    Thank you, and the entire CNN staff and crew over there for your efforts. And especially, Thank You Good Soldiers. Get home safe and soon all of you.


    September 10, 2009 at 3:48 pm |
  32. Leslie Berenger

    Thank you for keeping America up to date on the situations happening in Afghanistan. Real and honest from you and your team is gratefully appreciated!

    Stay safe and keep up the excellent work.

    September 10, 2009 at 3:47 pm |
  33. Angela S.

    From a fellow reporter – kudos on the type of journalism you're doing.

    September 10, 2009 at 3:47 pm |
  34. DH in California

    I am the proud son of a career Marine. Thanks, AC, for reporting with honesty, insight, compassion, and dignity. You set the journalistic bar high, and you clear it consistently. That's why I am - and will continue to be - your loyal reader.

    September 10, 2009 at 3:47 pm |
  35. Deborah in Pennsylvania

    Mr. Cooper:

    Thank you for your excellent reporting on our Marines. I am a mother of a U.S. Marine who will be deploying to Afghanistan in March. As a mother of a son facing deployment it is just nice to see honest reporting on what our sons and daughters our doing over there and for all of the American People to see the truth. Thank you for keeping it real. May God Bless all of our Nations Best.

    September 10, 2009 at 3:46 pm |
  36. Roze

    I have a grandson in the Army in Iraq. He is a medic. I can only imagine what he has seen. I have another grandson who is a Marine and who will be sent to Afghanistan in a few weeks. He begged his mother to allow him to enlist. He said he wanted to serve his country and protect his and other's families. He wants to become a career Marine and be a Drill Instructor. I am so touched by the devotion of these two young men. It means a lot when someone like Anderson tells it like it is for them.

    September 10, 2009 at 3:44 pm |
  37. Mary Beth

    As a proud Marine Mom I thank you Anderson for reporting what our Marines go thru on a daily basis. When my son was in Iraq I was pretty much glued to CNN. I am so happy that you have not forgotten these men and women who serve our country and risk there lives everyday for us.
    Semper Fi

    September 10, 2009 at 3:43 pm |
  38. sharp2

    Thank you Anderson Cooper for being a fair reporter. This article is deeply appreciated.

    September 10, 2009 at 3:43 pm |
  39. Robin

    You got to love a man in uniform. I am so greatful for all of them keeping me and mine safe. God bless them. Anderson, if you find one with no family, I would love to adopt.

    September 10, 2009 at 3:41 pm |
  40. Uwe Reinhardt

    Our son served two tours in Iraq as an officer in the Corps, and one in Afghanistan, where he was wounded when his Humvee was hit by an IED.

    Now retired from the Corps and in civilian garb, he is back in Afghanistan, serving the same cause.

    Once a Marine, always a Marine.

    As you note, Andersen, he was deeply suspicious of journalists; but he would have liked you. We follow your reporting. It is superb and courageous.

    September 10, 2009 at 3:37 pm |
  41. Isabel Siaba, Brazil

    Hello Anderson!

    Excellent article!! I was really moved at the part you wrote "They are separated from their families." The family is important in people's lives, in the life of a nation.

    So good that the Marine made your day when he confirmed to her that you're reporting the real stuff we're doing. You're doing a very good job and deserves this return.

    It is also important to clarify that the common goal is much greater. The goal is that Afghan progressively assume their responsibilities as a nation.

    Thanks and take care!

    September 10, 2009 at 3:37 pm |
  42. Joe Sexton

    Thank you for this story. Too many of us here in our lives of relative safety and luxury, forget that we are at war and there are people serving and dying under our nation's flag. The servicemen and women who are overseas deserve our attention and respect. As you say, we should remember the sacrifice and dedication.

    R. Joseph Sexton
    Former Marine
    Operation Iraqi Freedom Vet ('03)

    September 10, 2009 at 3:37 pm |
  43. John W.

    Ooh-Rah, Anderson. Thank you for the honest portrayal of our brave marines.

    Semper Fi.

    September 10, 2009 at 3:36 pm |
  44. Cynthia Johnson

    Hello Anderson,

    Thank you for braving the austere conditions there and bringing us news directly from Afghanistan. I applaud your courage and commitment to bringing us factual news about this war. My son is currently deployed there and I really appreciate the inside look at the life and situations there. I try to follow everything I can as it makes me feel closer to him. There is such a distance between us geographically and this helps to bridge the gap somewhat, in that we get to be a part of this information here on the home front. Please let them all know how much we miss, love and support them here at home. My son deployed May 5 with 3/11 out of 29 Palms. Semper Fi Marines..........Thank you Troops in all the Branches of the Military for all that you do, for your Sacrifices to our Country and for your dedication to this mission. We are counting down the days until our heroes come home!!!

    September 10, 2009 at 3:35 pm |
  45. Karl

    After finishing up with a tour of Marine Corps recruiting and the lies others told to have these kids sign up was nothing like when i joined. I left in 2007, i miss my brothers in arms, but enjoy the freedom i once helped protect. Thanks to those who are still in and hope that your recruiter was as honest as i was with my poolees. And don't let the old timers tell you its your only choice to stay in, i'm now beging my 2nd year of law school, and have a wonderful job! You can get out and watch your kids grow up, not your kids watch mommy and daddy get old and tired.

    September 10, 2009 at 3:33 pm |
  46. Monica

    I watched your piece on the Afghan war recently and I just want to thank you for being there and reporting the way it is over there. My only son is serving over there currently and is with the 2/3 Echo Company and I am extremely proud of him! I worry about him every minute of every day. I appreciate the fact that you are reporting what is really going on there and not fluffing up the story. America needs to see what our young men and women are having to face over there on a daily basis. Thank you for being the extraordinary and honest reporter that you are.

    Thank you to ALL the military forces over there! Be safe and come home soon!

    September 10, 2009 at 3:32 pm |
  47. Sandy A.

    Semper Fi Marines! Once a Marine always a Marine. My father was a Marine 50 years ago and the flag of the United States Marines waves at our home to this day. God Bless our Marines. Thanks Cooper, be safe.

    September 10, 2009 at 3:31 pm |
  48. Robert & Evie Lucas

    Thanks for the reporting. We have two sons in Helmand Province (Marines) and you are giving us an idea of how they are living. The thought of all of our U.S. Military fighting in Afghanistan is overwhelming and yet we are very proud of all of them and thank you for this straight information, as our press is doing a very poor job of the coverage of this war. Seem to be much more interested in how Michael Jackson died then our brave military men and women.

    September 10, 2009 at 3:31 pm |
  49. Jack van Dam

    Another alternative. Have the blood type stamped on the dog tags. This was done when I served in the dutch military ('79).
    Good article.

    September 10, 2009 at 3:30 pm |
  50. Douglas Griffith

    Semper Gumby Marines! Stay Flexible.

    Father of LCPL Josh 3/7 Marines

    September 10, 2009 at 3:29 pm |
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