Meridian soldiers share experiences from Iraq
PROUD SOLDIER U.S. Army Spc. Chase Hatcher of Meridian looks at the gas mask that he says became a part of his daily existence while stationed in Iraq with the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne. PHOTO BY KYLE CARTER / THE MERIDIAN STAR
By Penny Randal / staff writer
July 27, 2003
There was no cake or candle to blow out when Chase Hatcher celebrated his 26th birthday on July 2.
Instead the Meridian native sat in a military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, recuperating from non-combat injuries he received while fighting in the war against Iraq.
At the same time Hatcher was fighting in Iraq, another Meridian soldier was also there.
Lance Cpl. Mark Quimby, a graduate of Clarkdale High School, joined the U.S. Marines on his 20th birthday Aug. 13, 2002.
Quimby arrived in Kuwait on March 6 with the 1st Battalion 11th Marines.
Unlike Quimby, who had never been overseas, Hatcher, a paratrooper and weapon specialist with the U.S. Army's Bravo Company 1st-325 Airborne Infantry Regiment, had traveled extensively with the military.
Time to fight
Hatcher looks back now at the days before the war in Iraq broke out and said he saw the war coming.
He left the United States on Valentine's Day and got to Kuwait two days later on Feb. 16.
Hatcher, along with his fellow soldiers from the 82nd Airborne, moved into As Samawah, Iraq, on March 28. He said from that time the days blur together.
From As Samawah in Southern Iraq, Hatcher headed north by truck to Fallujah traveling through what he calls a "barren wasteland."
From Fallujah, Hatcher walked into Baghdad behind the 3rd Infantry Division and said that was where the military "cleaned house."
Quimby said the cities look like, "you're in Bible times. Most of the cities didn't have electricity and a lot of the roads weren't paved. It was pretty nerve racking."
His trip into Iraq was also at night. Quimby was awakened from sleep in the middle of the night and told to get his gear ready.
Four hours later and near midnight Quimby was at the border between Kuwait and Iraq.
Quimby said through the weeks of fighting one moment from his time in Iraq vividly stands out.
In the middle of one of the most intensive gunfights in which Quimby's unit was involved, an Iraqi man walked out of his front door and stood in his yard holding up an American flag.
Approves of war?
When asked if he approves of the war against Iraq Hatcher said, "I'm not one of those people who hate the war. It's my job. I guess it would be hard for a civilian to understand because you're not there. War is a very very horrible thing. People die in war."
Both Quimby and Hatcher said their military training saved their life.
In December, Hatcher will be discharged and return to Meridian as a full-time recruiter with the Mississippi Army National Guard.
But Quimby, who married his girlfriend Megen last Sunday, has three years left to serve and will be leaving for California on Aug. 3.
Quimby said if there is one thing he learned it's not to take comfort for granted.