PATROL BASE TALIBJAN, HELMAND PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN
PATROL BASE TALIBJAN, Helmand province, Afghanistan - Marines in Afghanistan strive daily to defeat insurgents and support development efforts. Some end up paying the ultimate price, giving their lives for their fellow Marines.
These warriors come from all walks of life throughout the United States to join the Marine Corps, well aware of the sacrifices they may face. They share a powerful bond created through shared experiences and dangerous missions – it is a tight-knit family.
Lance Cpl. Travis Moldovan of North Canton, Ohio, lost a fellow brother-in-arms recently when Spring Valley, Wis., native Cpl. Michael C. Nolen was killed in action while conducting operations in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Moldovan said the loss has been painful, as it has undoubtedly been for Nolen’s family at home, but the Marine’s sacrifice is a symbol of selflessness and bravery that inspires Moldovan to press on with his mission each day.
The 20-year-old Squad Automatic Weapon gunner with 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, was there during the enemy attack that ended Nolen’s life, and he remembers the tragic event all too well.
The two Marines were out on a patrol with the rest of their squad when they found several improvised explosive devices and contacted an Explosive Ordnance Disposal team to safely dispose of the IED.
Nolen, who was a team leader with the squad, led his team away from the area. They went through an alleyway into an open courtyard, where they began to take enemy mortar fire. As they maneuvered toward the direction where the enemy assault was coming from, Nolen and Moldovan decided they would get into a better position to engage the enemy.
“I set [into position] and he set in five meters next to me, and that’s when he hit [an IED],” explained Moldovan. “I tried to keep him conscious, and even my squad leader was gripping his arm to try and keep him awake.”
According to Moldovan, the squad leader kept yelling, pleading with Nolen to stay awake. Nolen responded positively. Their efforts to save him kept him alive until a helicopter came to medically evacuate the 21-year-old Nolen.
“It was heartbreaking to see that [helicopter] fly off,” said Moldovan. “I didn’t know if he was going to be okay, but I could only hope for the best.”
He now carries Nolen’s dog tags with him around his neck and hopes to give them to Nolen’s younger brother when he returns to the United States. Moldovan said he knows how much the young man idolized the fallen Marine.
“That’s what’s so hard, man, is that his younger brother idolized him.[Nolen] would always show us pictures of his little brother wearing his gear,” he said.
Moldovan said he hopes to return to the United States and meet the entire Nolen family, but until then, the North Canton Hoover High School 2009 graduate knows he still has a job to do.
“Everyone knows what risk they’re going to take when they put their name on that piece of paper,” said Moldovan, referring to the decision to join the Marine Corps infantry. “All we can do now is hit the ground hard and [combat the insurgents], you know, because its people like [Nolen] who remind you of what you’re really fighting for.”
Nolen’s fire team consisted of Moldovan and four other Marines. He led his fire team on more than 60 combat patrols and located more than 12 IEDs since being deployed here in February.
All of his hard work was highlighted during his memorial ceremony as Marines stepped forward to comment on the man he was and his impact on those who knew him. During the ceremony, Moldovan ended his personal reflection with the following:
“If I could just let Corporal Nolen know he was a hell of a guy, he really was. He was relentless, hardworking and always put his Marines before anything. He was my friend and will always and forever be my brother.”
Editor’s note: The battalion is currently assigned to Regimental Combat Team 8, 2nd Marine Division (Forward), which heads Task Force Leatherneck. The task force serves as the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest) and works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Force and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces, and enabling ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its area of operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.
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This work, Ohio rifleman reflects on loss of fallen Marine, by Sgt Marco Mancha, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.