MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, SC -- A rocket explodes next to an officer and other Marines, knocking them to the ground. The first thing he sees after lifting his head are the legs of a 17-year-old Marine shaking under the power of the machine gun in his hands.
While in Iraq, Capt. Shawn M. Basco, pilot, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 115 servedas a forward air controller, calling in airstrikes and fire support for the Marines of Company B, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. During the fight to control Saddam Hussein’s presidential palace on April 10, 2003, Basco’s unit came under heavy fire, and Basco himself was wounded in the leg by a rocket attack.
“The first one up after that rocket attack was a 17-year-old Marine who had just received his driver’s license the year before,” Basco said. “He got up right away and started returning fire, his range of view only as far as the illumination of the muzzle flare, shooting at the oncoming Iraqis. That’s a real hero.”
During the fight, Basco set up a medical evacuation point for the wounded Marines. Despite his own injuries, Basco refused to leave the site and continued to move about, organizing Marines and relaying information about the situation to battalion command.
“I was losing so much blood, but I wanted to stay,” Basco said. “The hardest thing wasn’t going or staying in Iraq, but leaving. The hardest part was knowing there were thousands of Marines down there, and leaving them.”
Because of his courageous actions, 21 Marines were evacuated from the fight to receive immediate medical care.
On May 5, Basco received a bronze star with the combat distinguishing device.
“It’s not about the medals,” Basco said. “It’s about the mettle that makes the man. The medal could have never shown up, it was the opportunity that brought the medal up that matters to me.”
Before his experience in Iraq, Basco was unsure of his intention to stay in the Marine Corps. Afterwards, however, his outlook on the Corps changed dramatically.
Much of the Marines’ motivation came from the support of the American public, according to Basco. With the love of his wife and the backing of the American people, the Marines were an unstoppable force.
“I have found the reason I have been put upon the Earth—the reason for my life,” Basco said. “I could have died of my wounds out there, and I wouldn’t regret it.”