Kathleen Parker

We've been hearing a lot about heroes these days. You know The Name. But there are lots of others - people who have performed heroically - whose names you don't know.

Here's one. Cpl. Will Bachmann, a 22-year-old Marine from Belvidere, N.J. Bachmann is one of the quiet heroes. Just a Marine, just a guy doing his job. I spoke to him by phone at Camp Lejeune a few days before he was shipping off to Afghanistan after already having served a tour of duty in Iraq.

Bachmann doesn't know where he's going exactly, doesn't even wonder much. He's learned, especially after that day in Nasiriyah, not to speculate, not to entertain expectations, never to waste time musing over what might be or might have been.

"I don't make assumptions about anything until it happens," he says.

Nasiriyah. There's another name we've all come to know. It was in Nasiriyah where Jessica Lynch's company got lost, where her gun jammed, where she was captured and won America's swift heart.

The date was March 23, the same day Bachmann's company along with two others came into Nasiriyah to secure two bridges, one to the south and one to the north of the city.

Little did they know that they would be under fire from morning well into the night. Bachmann's Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, lost 18 men that day in the United States' deadliest battle of the war. Numerous others were injured - 15 by some reports - though Bachmann can't say for certain.

"There were too many and everything went too fast."

To a parent like me, Bachmann is a kid. Yet to talk to him is to hear the voice of an elder, one who has seen everything and learned to take nothing for granted. He is heartbreakingly earnest and stoic as he describes what happened that day. His deadpan delivery of "just the facts" makes "Dragnet's" Sgt. Joe Friday seem animated.

I find myself almost wanting him to speak of how terrified he was when the RPG (rocket propelled grenade) tore through the side of his "track," nickname for his amphibious assault vehicle, and left his squad leader's leg hanging by a tendon.

As Bachmann recounts the tale of his body half in and half out of the track, taking fire from all sides, I listen for panic and uncertainty. He's all business, all Marine, all about the job. He was unaware of men crying out in pain, he says. Between the track's engine and the shooting, he couldn't hear them.

Bachmann joined the Marine Corps right out of high school in July 2000 at age 19. "It was something I wanted to do since I was little," he says.

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
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