Nashuan presented with combat medal earned in Iraq war



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Eric Marro thought he’d go to a congressional office Monday, collect his overdue military medal without much fuss and be on his way. The 48-year-old Nashua resident was a little surprised when he arrived at U.S. Rep. Paul Hodes’ downtown office to find there was no plan to quietly slide a medal across a counter. “You are an example of the finest this country sends to protect us,” Hodes said while formally presenting Marro with the Combat Infantryman Badge he had earned for actions while under enemy fire in Iraq. Marro seemed overcome with modesty by Hodes’ words as the congressman affixed the rectangular medal to his plaid shirt. Marro repeatedly bowed his head, only to raise it to look Hodes in the eyes. At his turn to speak, Marro said, “It wasn’t just me . . . there were others. I think I was being scared and ducking. I don’t know if they stopped shooting. I don’t know if they ran out of bullets.” Hodes and the U.S. Army have a clearer accounting of Feb. 7, 2005. Marro, then a specialist in the 3rd Battalion, 172nd Infantry Regiment of the National Guard, had a gunner position on a 30-vehicle convoy traveling between Samarra and Baghdad. The convoy fell under heavy fire. Manning the 50-caliber gun on a Hummer, the most exposed spot on the vehicle, Marro’s calm demeanor paid dividends as he silenced the opposition with return fire, Hodes said. When the attack ended, Marro performed CPR on several of the wounded. The lead truck driver, though, died. It was one of five hostile combat exchanges Marro experienced during his tour in 2004-05. In fact, things were rarely quiet near Camp Anaconda in Balad, located in the Sunni Triangle that saw heavy violence during the most heated period of the Iraq war. Marro said he planned camp activities around expected insurgent fire. Marro found himself at the camp after volunteering for the National Guard at an age many wouldn’t consider joining the military. But Marro, who served in the Marines from 1979-84, watched the war unfold and thought he could help. He figured he’d end up training infantryman stateside. “I felt like I could do something,” he said in Hodes’ Nashua office. “I wasn’t necessarily for the reasons we were there for.” Despite ambivalence for the government’s reason for invading Iraq, Marro said he accepted his mission. That mission simply meant making sure everyone who went beyond “the wire” - the term for leaving camp - returned safely. Marro’s superiors had recommended him for a Combat Infantryman Badge in 2005, but the paperwork was lost. Hodes filed a new request. Marro now teaches drafting and woodwork at Alvirne High School in Hudson. He joined the Marines out of high school because it was time to reciprocate for the sacrifices his parents made while raising him. He served in Lebanon, and had left Beirut shortly before terrorists bombed a military barracks that killed 241 American servicemen. Every Memorial Day, Marro places flowers on a memorial at Mine Falls Park in honor of his friend, Nashua resident and Marine Staff Sgt. Allen Soifert, who was killed by sniper fire nine days before the barracks bombing. Marro thinks a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq is “a good thing.” He’s unsure about Iraqis’ future once the U.S. military leaves, believing they’re “stuck between a rock and a hard place” of competing ethnic forces within. But he’s certain of one thing about most Iraqis. “They’re just like us,” Marro said. “They want their kids to grow up and do their thing.” Edit ModuleShow Tags