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Marine Corps Combat Vet Takes Pride in Military Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 27, 2016 — Having grown up playing soldier and watching war movies in Puerto Rico, Marine Corps veteran Alexander Munoz said joining the military was something he had to do.

“I was just born to be a Marine,” said Munoz, an Iraq combat vet who’d served in the Corps from 1998 to 2005.

“When I went to the Marine recruiter, he said, ‘What you want is a job. I can offer you a job. You want to provide for your family. We can do that. You want to go to school. You can do that.’”

“He was very professional,” Munoz said of his recruiter.

Munoz joined the Marines on Sept. 1, 1998, and he served seven years as a security specialist and infantryman, attaining the rank of sergeant. He also coached the rifle and pistol shooting at the Marine Corps Coaches Course. His most memorable assignment, he said, was his deployment to Iraq.

Combat Duty in Iraq

Munoz said he and his fellow Marines took part in convoys in the Sunni Triangle in the south part of Fallujah in Iraq, during the main push.

“We were getting incoming mortars, rockets, IEDs (improvised explosive devices) so it was pretty harsh. They didn’t want us there, and they were ready for us. They wanted to fight,” he said. “We lived day-by-day. We lost a couple of Marines there. For me, it was just me and my squad. The whole platoon, it was pretty rough. We were the main effort. We were just kicking and firing, making sure everybody from left to right was still alive.”

Munoz said he and his team would blow up houses that had big caches of weapons but they always feared being blown up by remote-controlled bombs.

“We found one big cache and had to blow it in place, but I was a little bit scared one day because they used to use those Motorola cell phones. They were already set up, and you would just need somebody to click the send button and that was it. Nothing happened, thank God,” he said. “We blew it [up] -- that was one of the lucky days we had.”

‘Hell House’

During Operation Phantom Fury in 2004, while assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines out of Camp Pendleton, California, Munoz and his team went to help his fellow Marines who were trapped inside a house near his compound.

“[Marine Corps 1st Sgt. Brad] Kasal went into this house to clear it, and was hit 13 or 14 times. There were Marines trapped inside the house, and we were trying to figure out how the hell we’re going to get those guys out,” he said. “The 3rd platoon took a lot of injuries but the first and second squad from 2nd Platoon worked together with them to get them out. We worked as Marines to take care of each other to not leave anybody behind.”

He said there were two houses pushed together with a second-floor catwalk where the enemy was shooting at them and throwing grenades.

“They were crazy. They just wanted to kill,” Munoz said. “Thank God we managed to go in. We trapped one guy on the stairway and kept shooting him and two of our Marines, [Private 1st Class Christopher] Marquez and [Lance Cpl. Dane] Shafer, who got shot in the arm, they took Kasal out.

The Hand

“After that, we put 20 pounds of C-4 [explosive] and blew the house [up],” he continued. “We could see the house crumble and then one of the Marines shouted out, ‘Take cover,’ and you could see a hand coming out like a horror movie. It’s like throwing a hand with a grenade in it at us. We just turned around and started shooting and the grenade explodes.”

Munoz said he remembers hearing bullets whizzing by his ears, seeing his friends hit by snipers and how he got his wound from a buried enemy grenade that exploded. He has a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder from his time in Iraq.

Munoz said he’s proud to have served his country and was especially proud to have served alongside fellow Puerto Ricans.

“When I met people overseas from the island, I was proud to see we were doing our part for America, not only in the infantry but in medical, dental, pilots, all of that. It’s cool,” he said. “We know how to serve, and we know how to say thanks. We’re part of the nation. We’re here to fight for each other. It’s a big family. I’m very proud to be a Marine.”

Distribution channels: Military Industry