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Greetings from Sunny Baghdad!

6:47 PM, May 17, 2010 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
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As you can see, I'm not exactly roughing it at the moment, as war zones go. They told us in our tent city in Kuwait that Camp Victory is a resort by comparison, and in some respects, they were right. Obvious danger factor aside, you can still get a tasteful, decorative bamboo frame for your all your barracks decor needs. This picture was taken at a shopping complex on Camp Victory in Baghdad. In addition to the Ikea, it's also home to a Black & Decker store, a coffee shop, and a restaurant boasting the unorthodox combo cuisine of Iraqi and Italian food, which is owned by an Iraqi man who grew up in Boston, but has recently moved back to Iraq.

My days have been full of travel and not so full of Internet connectivity, but tomorrow should afford more time for blogging and photo-sharing. I'm traveling with retired Marine Col. Tom Manion and another Marine, Lt. Col. Joel Poudrier, who served in Fallujah in 2007. Col. Manion's son, Travis, was killed in action by sniper fire in Fallujah in April of 2007. His father has made the trip to Iraq to meet the Iraqi soldiers Travis trained. He wants to learn more first-hand about the cause for which his son gave his life, and the brotherhood Travis felt for the Iraqis.

As is to be expected, I'm meeting many admirable warriors, both American and Iraqi. More tomorrow, as soon as I can get back online. 

Update: William Kristol adds:

As we await further dispatches from Mary Katharine, I thought readers might be interested in knowing that Travis Manion was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for valor in combat (see the citation below). Last fall, the first of several new student officer quarters at the Marines' Basic School in Quantico, Va., was named Manion Hall in his honor.

For service as set forth in the following:
       The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Silver Star (Posthumously) to First Lieutenant Travis L. Manion, United States Marine Corps, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action against the enemy while serving as Company Advisor, 3d Battalion, 2d Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division Military Transition Team, Regimental Combat Team 6, II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, on 29 April 2007. As First Lieutenant Manion's patrol concluded a search of a suspected insurgent house, it came under precision small arms fire attack. With the Corpsman grievously wounded by enemy fire and the attack developing into a full-scale ambush, First Lieutenant Manion and a fellow Marine exposed themselves to the increasing fire to pull the Corpsman out of the kill zone. After recovering the Corpsman and administering first aid, First Lieutenant Manion led his patrol in a counter attack, personally eliminating an enemy position with his M4 carbine and M203 grenade launcher. As he continued to direct the patrol, another Marine was wounded by the enemy's accurate fire. He again moved across the kill zone, under fire by five insurgents, to recover the wounded Marine. Iraqi Army reinforcements, halted by an improvised explosive device, were unable to advance on the flank of the insurgents, and First Lieutenant Manion and his patrol found themselves taking fire from three sides. While fearlessly exposing himself to gain a more advantageous firing position and drawing enemy fire away from the wounded Marines, First Lieutenant Manion was fatally wounded by an enemy sniper. His courageous and deliberate actions inspired the eventual counter attack and ultimately saved the lives of every member of his patrol. By his outstanding display of decisive leadership, unlimited courage in the face of heavy enemy fire, and utmost devotion to duty, First Lieutenant Manion reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.

For more on Travis Manion, see here.

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