Although I am focused on the actions of 3/2 Battalion and the stories of 3/2 veterans will be front and center in the book, other units were also key to the fight. Foremost among these was 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, a reserve unit out of Ohio. During the 2005 deployment, 3/25 was essentially 3/2’s “brother” battalion under the command of Regimental Combat Team 2 (RCT2). In particular, 3/25’s Lima Company was paired with 3/2’s Kilo Company for both Operation Matador and Operation Spear.
Lima 3/25, known as “Lucky Lima”, was fated to become tragically unlucky, suffering the most casualties of any other Company during the Iraq War. Two infamous events occurred during Operation Matador, one on 8 May, where two Lima Marines went down. Another on 11 May cost the lives of six more.
I recently connected with Scott Bunker, one of the 3/25 Marines who was wounded in New Ubaydi on 8 May, during the engagement at a fortified house. He has posted this detailed account on his Facebook page, and gave permission for me to post it here:
Operation Matador May 8th 2005. Never Forget.
–by Scott Bunker
SSgt Anthony Goodwin and Cpl Dustin Derga. Semper Fi Marines, and may you rest in peace knowing you have given the ultimate measure of devotion to your country. You will always be remembered.
The Following is my story….
The thunderous boom from the M1A1 Abrams tank’s 120mm cannon snapped me out of my daze. As I stared across the street through the darkness at the house The Washington Post would later dub “the death house,” I heard my friend Cpl Hildbrand whisper, “Semper Fi Staff Sergeant.”
It had been nearly two hours since the first Marines to enter that house had been ambushed and that didn’t give SSgt Goodwin much of a chance. In the gun battle after the initial ambush three insurgents were killed, along with three Marines wounded and two dead. One of the dead, SSgt Goodwin, was still inside the house. He was the reason we were going back in. He had gone down in a part of the house that made it impossible for us to get to him without also being hit during the firefight. But Marines don’t leave anyone behind dead or alive, we knew that and so did the enemy.
The radio headset in my ear crackled to life as the last of seven main gun tank rounds had been expended, “Red two two, Red two two this is Red two.”
My dry parched dust encrusted throat strained out a hoarse response, “This is Red two two, send it.”
“Red two two, get your team up, you’re making entry.”
My heart pounded in my chest as I heard those static, almost robotic words. “Let’s move boys, we’re going in to get SSgt. Neighbarger behind me, Martin in the middle, Porter you got rear security. I’ll take point.”
We made our way stealthily across the street to the six foot wall that surrounded the house. Two grenades were prepped and on a silent three count they were simultaneously thrown into the gaping holes the tank had torn into the house. As soon as the boom of the detonations was heard we moved in. Rifles shouldered and at the ready, each man covering his assigned sector in anticipation of the brutal close combat, with a well entrenched enemy, which we knew was imminent.
As I entered the building my eyes strained to see down the long dark hallway before me. The sight I saw was straight out of a horror film. The hallway was littered with empty shell casings and a long trail of blood ascended the stairs to the roof. One of the M1A1’s rounds had struck a propane tank and caused the building to ignite, shadows from the flickering flames danced eerily in the dark house. Further down the blood soaked hall, in front of a now closed door, my heart sank as I saw the boots and camouflaged utility pants of a United States Marine. As my team edged closer, weapons still at the ready, SSgt’s injuries came into view.
He was lying on his back and had been hit the length of his body with what appeared to be a medium caliber machine gun. His helmet slumped over his face leaving only his mustache and lower jaw visible. The American flag bandana he had worn around his neck, like a cowboy from an old western film, was now saturated in blood. His hand still tightly gripped his M4 carbine. As my team cleared the remaining rooms of the house I remained by SSgt’s body. There was only one place left to search, behind the closed door. Lance Corporal Erdy and I took up positions on either side of the door and the adrenaline surged through my body and my heart rate seemed to triple. After another silent three count LCpl Erdy grabbed the door knob and swung it open.
“ALLAH AKBAR!” A voice screamed before the deafening roar of a machine gun erupted from beyond the door. In an instant my right eye winced shut in a white hot blinding pain, and the force of what felt like a colossal avalanche slammed into my left side sending me violently to the ground. When I regained my senses I saw my left forearm twisted in an unnatural position and my labored breaths came in short painful gasps. After trying in vain to return fire with my damaged rifle, I rolled onto my stomach and started to crawl for the door, trying desperately to stay as low as I could to avoid the still firing mad men. I half crawled and was half drug to the door by LCpl Erdy, and when we got to the door I could see the horrified faces of the other members in our platoon. My vision faded in and out and the next few moments were fuzzy and dreamlike. There were people all around me in a frenzied panic. They were covered in blood but I could not see their wounds. I suddenly realized that it was my blood that covered their bodies and a sickening feeling began to form in my stomach. I could only comprehend brief portions of what they were saying and what I heard made me begin to prepare for death, “Shit, he has a sucking chest wound…….. his lung is collapsed……… somebody call in that medevac, and tell ‘em we’ve got an urgent surgical!”
I was unsure how long it took from the moment I escaped the house to the moment I arrived by helicopter to the hospital, but the ride seemed to last an eternity. When the chopper finally touched down and its doors flung open exposing me once again to the dry desert night air, the last thing I heard before I finally could not fight back the creeping darkness on the edges of my fading vision was, “Welcome to Baghdad.”