That Smell: A Wounded Marine Reflects on Veterans Day

by James Brobyn

If you asked me what I remember most about my time as a U.S. Marine in Iraq, my answer would probably be a surprise.

I remember the smells more than anything. To this day, I can still smell the Iraqi towns and local foods, which trigger fond memories of exploring a new culture with my fellow Marines. Less pleasant smells include hydraulic fluid leaking from my Light Armored Vehicle and a platoon full of Marines after not showering for 45 days.

Those smells are harmless. The pungent odors of dead and decaying bodies, blended with the strangely sweet smell of explosive residue, are not. Years later, these smells still trigger guilt, bad dreams and regret.

Some people don’t ask me to explain why these odors elicit such a visceral emotion. Perhaps they are unsure or even afraid of what I might say next. But for those who want to hear what I experienced in combat, I will always continue. It’s a story I want to tell.

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Author: Cpl. Beddoe
Cpl, USMC 1981-1985 MCRDSD Plt 3042, Aug 28, 1981 Work hard. Be kind. Pay it forward. Twitter: @txdevildog
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Dave Althoff
Dave Althoff
2012/11/22 11:04

Having flown many many emergency med evac missions and picking up literally hundreds of dead and severely wounded Marines from the jungles of Vietnam I know the odors of combat quite well. My most poignant memory is feeling embarrassed for my fellow Marines who were severely wounded and sometimes suffering horrific burns. The cabin of my chopper was often filled with sickening odors exuding from the bodies of those heroic young Marines. I always felt that was such an injustice and such an indignity that they would end up like that. I have shed many a tear thinking about that situation.