By Nancy Cicco
The Portsmouth Herald, Wednesday, September 24, 2003
[Staff photo by Deb Cram]
RYE - Cpl. Nick Cyr, 21, was a little uneasy to hear the booming rat-a-tat-tat of fireworks going off along the Seacoast this past Fourth of July, but the Marine had his reasons: He'd recently returned from a tour of duty in Iraq.
Home again this week for a short stay with his parents, Elli and Phil Cyr, the military policeman and 2000 Portsmouth High School graduate reflected on his experience with candor and gratitude.
As an MP with the U.S. Marine Corps Task Force Tarawa, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, this past spring, Cyr performed convoy security for trucks bringing supplies to three Marine infantry battalions and a reconnaissance unit on the front-line in Iraq.
"We were the furthest-deployed support unit," he said, meaning the closest to the fighting in Al Kut and An Nasiriyah. "We were running supplies to them - beans, food, bandages, bullets."
Twenty-three Marines in the task force died between March and May. On March 23 alone - the same day Pfc. Jessica Lynch was captured - 64 Marines were injured in four hours of fighting.
"You see so much of it, you just go through it," Cyr said of the devastation around him. "That was the worst place we were, the whole city erupted."
Although he describes Iraqi citizens as supportive of U.S. troops, he called Saddam Hussein's Fedayeen soldiers and Iraqi resistance fighters "ruthless people."
"They would force civilian people into fighting us," Cyr said of the Fedayeen.
He also saw Iraqi resistance fighters shooting out of perches inside schools, mosques and hospitals.
"They were using those (buildings) as their defense," he said.
Marines in the task force slept in their trucks. Cyr spent most of his waking hours on top of a Humvee manning a 240-Echo machine gun in 120-degree heat. He did not have the benefit of taking a shower for some 45 days.
At one point, from March 23-April 1, the Marine convoys and Cyr's camp were under siege by rocket-propelled grenades and mortars for 10 straight days - a story Elli and Cyr's girlfriend, Hannah Czarick, had not yet heard him tell until Tuesday.
He also witnessed the results of violence apart from the war. In May, in An Nasiriyah, he came across the body of a 15-year-old Iraqi girl who had been killed by her father and brother because she looked at a man "in a flirty manner," Cyr said.
"That's normal practice; that stuff goes on," he said.
The country's infrastructure and economy barely exist, he said. A doctor Cyr met in An Nasiriyah told him it took about two years for Iraqi doctors to earn enough money to buy a bag of peanuts.
Cyr doesn't know how long U.S. troops will remain in Iraq.
"It needed to be done," he said simply of Hussein's removal.
Czarick, 21, of Hampton, wrote a letter to Cyr every night while he was away.
"I was used to him being gone but this was the first time I also had to worry about him. It was constant stress," she said.
Cyr left Iraq on May 19 and is now stationed at Camp Lejuene in North Carolina with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) Service Support Group. He expects to be deployed to a post in the Mediterranean next year, and will finish up his four-year Marine hitch next September.
A hunter and fisherman, Cyr hopes to pursue a career in law enforcement.
"It's nice to have him home, I'll tell you. It's just a relief," Elli said. "I want to thank everybody for thinking of him. So many people prayed for him."
Elli Cyr is a staff member at the Lane Memorial Library in Hampton