A Message from Sergeant Major Brookshire
Written by Sergeant Major Matthew B. Brookshire.
To all the Marines and Sailors of 2/7 (OEF, 2008),
March-December 2008. What do these dates mean to you? To me, these were some of the best and worst days of my life. The best in the fact that I had the honor to be the Sergeant Major of 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines and got to serve alongside all of you. The worst in the fact that, while deployed, we lost 20 of our brothers (including our 1 terp) and had over 150 of you wounded. No matter what I do from this point on, my time with 2/7 will be the highlight of my Marine Corps career. I am proud, as each of you should be, of all the battalion accomplished while deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The entire battalion fought with such honor and courage each and every day. All of you have my upmost respect and admiration, and I will forever consider each of you my brothers. Thank you for all you did and continue to do for our Country and Corps.
I am writing this in the hopes that we can pull together and win another battle. For some, the battle from that deployment continues. We have lost 5 more of our brothers due to suicides since our return in 2008. I don't have the answer or solution to cure this, but something has to be done. What I can say is a lot of you have seen and had to do things that no one should ever have to endure in their life, and many are still battling those demons today. Gentlemen, suicide is NOT the answer. When you take your own life, you are also affecting those who love you the most. Suicide is permanent, and there is always another solution. There is always someone or something to live for. There are resources available, whether still on active duty or not, to help you through the issues you are going through. There is no shame in seeking help. Get the stigma out of your head that someone will think less of you if you are having a hard time dealing with what you went through. Seeking help does not make you weak; it's courageous if you ask me. There are professionals, fellow Marines, pastors, friends and families that can help. Call someone, anyone. We cannot allow this trend to continue.
There is not a day that goes by that I do not think our fallen brothers. I have all 20 of their photos hanging in my office and in my home. No matter what rank or age we are, those loses affect us. Some of you have had to hold a dying or wounded friend in your arms, or deal with the constant stresses of combat on a daily basis, or deal with the fact of killing the enemy, or the thought of the near misses from IED or small arms attacks. Some question, why did ____________ have to get killed or injured or if I/we would have done this, _______ would still be alive or wouldn't have gotten hurt.
We can "what if" all of these questions for the rest of our lives and still not get the answers we are looking for or change the outcome of the past. Only God has the answers of who was taken from us and who was wounded. So, you cannot continue to beat yourself up over our tragic loses. What has helped me getting through the thought of our fallen Warriors and our Wounded Warriors is the trust and faith in the Lord, my wonderful wife Tracie, my fellow Marines, and friends. I have spent many hours on the phone with friends like Raul Mendoza (Sgt. Mendoza's Dad) when I'm having a bad day or if he's having a difficult time. There are others like Sgt. Maj. Rummel, Mike Washington (Sgt. Washington's dad), Col. Hall, Col. Reed, Deb Helton, Sgt. Maj. Sanchez, Sgt. Maj. Cagle, 1st Sgt. Colon, 1st Sgt. Pearson, and the list could go on and on and on, that I know I can count on to talk to and let my emotions out about anything and they can do the same. All of you have someone that is there for you whether you realize it or not. Just pick up the phone and call someone, anyone. We have so many inspirational Marines within this family that can help. I can't take away pain. I can't change the past (no one can).
But, I am here to listen and help in any way I can. We never leave a Marine on the battlefield behind and we are not going to leave anyone behind now. If you are having problems, do the courageous thing and call someone and seek help. Your friends will always be there for you and so will this brotherhood. You can also always call or contact me or Tracie. Now, I absolutely refuse to get a facebook account, but I do have a phone and an e-mail and you can always pass messages to Tracie on facebook. She will ensure I get the word as she keeps me informed of you all. I ask all of you to do me a favor, pick up the phone at least once a month and call someone you served with in 2/7 during this deployment and see how they are doing. It's free and it gives you a chance to catch up and tell your LCpl stories Also, pass this letter on to as many Marines/Sailors as you can. Thanks. Remember to always honor the memory and sacrifice of our fallen and wounded brothers and please keep their families in your thoughts and prayers. In addition, honor and look after each other. You are your brother's keeper.
—Sergeant Major Matthew B. Brookshire sits with his wife, Tracie, before his retirement ceremony begins at Lance Cpl. Torrey L. Gray Field Aug. 19, 2013. (U.S. government photo by Corporal William Jackson/released)