In The Company Of Heroes: A Private Gathering Of Combat Wounded Marines
“Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they’ve made a difference. The Marines don’t have that problem.” …Ronald Reagan
I spent four years on active duty as a Marine and twenty-six years as a street agent for the FBI. In retirement I’ve penned three books and have written for television. I’ve met Medal of Honor recipients and the Commandant of the Marine Corps, award-winning actors and Hall of Fame athletes, politicians and POWs, sociopaths and Godfathers. But one of the most memorable nights of my life occurred this past week when I spoke to a private gathering of combat wounded Marines and their loved ones. I was truly humbled to be in their presence.
More than a year ago I appeared on Sean Hannity’s TV show discussing my book, THE LAST UNDERCOVER, which details my undercover career and chronicles my three-year infiltration of NAMBLA, the North American Man/Boy Love Association. A day later I received an email at my website from Stuart Upchurch. In essence, “Uppy” said he had gone to Marine Corps Officer Candidate School with a Bob Hamer and although I looked like I’d “been ridden hard and put away wet,” he wondered if I was the same guy. We re-connected through emails and phone calls, and this spring I saw him for the first time in forty years.
In our many conversations, I told Stuart about my weekly visits to Balboa Naval Medical Center meeting with the recently wounded, most of them Marines. Although he lives on the East Coast he wanted to help in some way to honor those who are serving and sacrificing. He and Edith, his wife, decided to sponsor a steak dinner for the combat wounded and a spa day for the loved ones caring for these warriors.
Stuart asked me to host the event and speak at the dinner. I had met many of these Marines when they first arrived at the hospital and over the past year or so shared lunches, dinners, holidays, even trips to Sea World. But as I looked out over the crowd I swallowed hard, trying to dismiss the lump forming in my throat. I was reminded how young these men are, almost everyone younger than our son who is a Marine on active duty. I knew many of their stories but listened intently as they laughed, retelling heroic tales, stories which will probably only be told over a dinner or a few beers. They joked about their latest prosthetics and challenged each other to wheelchair races in the parking lot. These heroes ask for nothing, not even recognition. They are anonymous warriors who swore before God to protect this nation against all enemies, foreign and domestic. They answered the call after 9/11 with more than a bumper sticker and refrigerator magnet. They didn’t worry about pension plans, medical benefits, or take-home cars. They understand our nation is at war with an extremist element which will never be satisfied until we surrender or die.
There were double and triple amputees in the crowd: men who were injured saving the lives of innocent civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan; men who raced to recover fallen Marines and lost a limb or even two in the process; men who deployed five and six times dismantling thousands of IEDs, batting nearly a thousand but near perfect isn’t good enough and now have no arms or legs. These men put their lives on the line without hesitation because this nation asked. They ran to the sound of gunfire!
With a nation focused on a congressman and his cell phone or unemployment rates and the economy, the war on terror has been buried on the back pages of almost every newspaper. For many, the war is an afterthought. It no longer fits neatly into a comfortable personal agenda. Too few are touched by this war with only a small percentage knowing anyone serving. Many Americans prefer to just move on, retreat before the problem is resolved, and blindly hope somehow the jihadists bent on destroying this nation will focus their efforts elsewhere. But for these Marines and their families the war is all too real. They have been in the arena, not up in the stands criticizing the players on the field. They will live with the scars of this battle forever, as will their families.
Not once in my time with these warriors have I heard even a whimper, never a “woe is me.” Even those who will never walk again yearn for the chance to get back to the fight. They know when they took the oath to wear the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor there was no expiration date… once a Marine, always a Marine. Like every soldier, sailor, and airman in this fight, they understand we are in a life and death struggle against an enemy’s irrational hatred for our values and our freedoms.
The Marines have a saying, “No better friend, no worse enemy.” I am proud to share the title “Marine” with these men but question whether I could ever measure up to their deeds. I thank them for allowing me to be “in the company of heroes.”
I hope tonight as your head hits the pillow you will take just a minute, I’m only asking for a minute, to thank God for that small percentage of the population who have chosen to defend us, who have taken the oath, who continue to serve in places we can’t pronounce or find on a map. We sleep under the blanket of freedom because members of this generation have decided this nation and our way of life is worth preserving.
Semper Fi…always faithful.
Bob Hamer spent twenty-six years as a “street agent” for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), many of them in an undercover capacity. In his various covert assignments, he successfully posed as a drug dealer, contract killer, fence, pedophile, degenerate gambler, weapons dealer, and white-collar criminal. He received numerous awards throughout his career including the FBI Director’s Award for Distinguished Service, four United States Attorney Awards for Distinguished Service, and numerous letters of commendation including one from then U.S. Attorney Rudy Giuliani.
Now retired from the FBI, he is a member of the Writers Guild of America and the Writers Guild of Canada and has written for television. He has worked as the technical advisor for The Inside and Angela’s Eyes and consulted for the hit television series, Law & Order: SVU and Sleeper Cell. He appeared as a guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Sean Hannity Show, The Laura Ingraham Show, and other national and local TV and radio programs to discuss his role in the NAMBLA investigation.
He is the author of The Last Undercover, which was named Best Memoir at the 15th Annual San Diego Book Awards and the novel, Enemies Among Us. Bob is a law school graduate and a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. He is married and has two children.