Park Forest, IL—(ENEWSPF)— Lance Corporal Brian Wiley has served two tours in Iraq. At 21 years of age, he’s seen more pain and violence than most see in a lifetime. He is prepared to serve again. A native of Park Forest, graduate of Rich East High School, Wiley shared with eNews Park Forest his fidelity to the Marines, his service in Iraq, and his thoughts on Park Forest.
Lance Cpl. Wiley received a Certificate of Recognition for his service to the country from the Village of Park Forest at a recent board meeting. Mayor John Ostenburg commented, "The Village is trying to recognize, whenever possible, local residents who are serving their country."
Wiley said he always felt drawn to the military, "My dad always watched those war movies with me, and I always wanted to be in [the military] since I was a little kid. I didn’t do too well at school because I didn’t realize what an opportunity education was at the time. Now that I’m looking back at it, I’m seeing education was a great thing."
"I joined the military because that’s what I always wanted to be since I was a little kid," he says. "I felt like I belonged there. I just wanted to be proud of something in my life. I played soccer, I traveled all over the United States with soccer, but I never felt that I actually belong to something. So, July 12 of 2004, I went to boot camp, came out of boot camp into infantry training, trained in the infantry. February 4 of ’05, I went into my unit 2/7 Gulf 3rd Platoon."
2/7 refers to the Second Battalion, Seventh Marines, out of Twenty-Nine Palms, California.
Lance Cpl. Wiley was deployed to Fallujah, Iraq, on July 5, 2005. While in Fallujah, Wiley was involved working ECDs, “Entry Control Points.”
"Entry Control Points are points around the city of Fallujah to control how many people we let in and what we let in. We search people, and we search their vehicles.”
Widely described the ECDs as roads broken up by concrete barriers so that cars were forced to slow down, driving in a serpentine path.
“It’s a way to slow down traffic. Instead of having them speeding in, having some bombers who tried to blow themselves up, we have Jersey barriers, concrete blocks that they have to drive around. So they have to slow down."
“We checked their identification, because everybody in all of Iraq, actually in the Al-Anbar Province in Iraq, has a badge. We’ve issued badges out to them. Some of them don’t have them. The Iraqi army actually checks the vehicles. It’s safer for the US troops. We train the Iraqis to search the vehicles."
The FOB, Housing Inspections, and Neighbor v. Neighbor
Wiley said the Marines occasionally will rent a house from an Iraqi family, using the house as a Forward Operating Base, or FOB. The family is compensated by the military. Wiley says they tell the family that, yes, some things may be damaged, but "we’ll reimburse you for everything that’s damaged."
"We fortify the house, put sandbags all over it, we put our machine guns, rifles, all over it [to make sure] we can defend ourselves.”
Wiley says the Marines are also called on to do inspections of houses from time to time. He described circumstances where feuding neighbors will falsely accuse each other of harboring contraband such as weapons, bombs, etc. It’s an event that makes the worst experiences Park Foresters may have had with neighbors seem frivolous. These often petty disputes can lead to serious action by the Marines.
"So, two next door neighbors make up a story, so we go arrest this guy, and make this guy’s day a living hell. They say, ‘Mohammed over here is making bombs, has sniper rifles, has machine guns….’ So we go through the house, go through the whole area, we have engineers do the mine sweeps, make sure there’s no metal under the ground, and then, we don’t find anything."
"Then we find out these people just said that to mess with them, so to speak."
He says there is little the Marines can do anything at that point except have their commanding officer go over, tell the original complainants they can’t do that sort of thing, a basic slap on the wrist. It’s a wasted day for the military.
When in Iraq just one month, Wiley became a team leader. He said initially some of the other Marines questioned his new position because he was "the new guy." "It’s kind of unheard of, especially since I’m so small. For the first month I had a hard time, but, you know, sooner or later I started proving myself.”
He expressed frustration with some of the media coverage of the war in Iraq. "They don’t always give the whole [story], because, if they gave the whole thing, nobody would be interested. We know that ourselves.”
He’s proud of the good he sees in Iraq, "Yes, there’s a lot of bad stuff going on over there, but there’s a lot of good stuff going on. Like, children who’ve been shot in the midst of a firefight, we saved children’s lives. While Al Qaeda is saying, ‘We’re trying to help the people, America is just breaking stuff down.’ Al Qaeda is blowing up businesses that the Iraqis are trying to make money out of, and then we rebuild them. They blow them up, and we rebuild them. They’re shooting people, and we help them: we give them medical aid and medical care.”
From War to Home
Wiley references the events on September 11, 2001 as a motivating factor for seeking a career in the Marines. "I saw what 9/11 did. Everybody was very pissed off about it, everybody was very upset about it. So I enlisted in the middle of my junior year [in high school]." Since the war in Iraq has already started, he says he knew very well what he was getting himself into. When given a choice of jobs in the Marines, he chose the infantry.
"I’m not going to lie to you. Iraq — it’s not the greatest thing in the world. I’ll never forget it. But, I didn’t go in there saying, ‘I can’t believe they did this to me.’ I did it to myself.”
When asked to reflect on how he deals with some of the more difficult things he’s seen in Iraq, without going into details, he says he thinks he deals with it better than some. "There are Marines who have PSD [Posttraumatic Stress Disorder]. When you first get back, in that month, things happen. You wake up, and you look for your rifle. Your rifles is always next to you. Your rifle’s always with you, wherever you go, your rifle goes.”
He described one recent experience at home, "The other morning I woke up, kind of disoriented, I woke up and I was sitting there looking for [my rifle]. But then I realized where I was.”
He also described a momentary flashback when attending the Batman Show at Six Flags in California. "I was preparing myself for the explosions. I knew something was going to happen.” He says the show started with an explosion that caught him a bit by surprise, "…and yeah, I kind of had a flashback. Some Marines stepped on a pressure plate, some ugly things happened, and I kind of had a flashback. And then I collected myself, I watched the show, and I enjoyed it. I enjoyed it very much."
He says he still has what he describes as the "Iraq mentality” — a feeling that "…something might happen." He may hear something strange, react to it, and then he calms back down.
Things got easier for him after he had been home for a month or so, "I started realizing I’m in a safe place, I’m in a safe area. Yeah, things happened, but I need to calm down."
He said things have improved for the veterans of the Iraq war. A little more than a year ago, he says some Marines might say they had Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, and they would be told, "No, you don’t." But in the last year, things have improved dramatically.
“This year they’re actually pretty good about it. They have pre-deployment services, asking you questions, ‘How do you feel?’ Then, during the deployment they do the same thing, and after the deployment they do the same thing."
"Some Marines, they can’t sleep at night, they get freaked out, they’re too scared to come talk to people. But now, they’re pushing more, ‘Help is okay,’ and we understand that you’ve seen some things that, some horrible things, you might have done some horrible things, but we’re here to help. Just because this happened and you feel this way, it doesn’t mean you’re crazy, it doesn’t mean you’re going to go to jail…, it means, you need help, and we’re here to help you."
"I was actually glad to hear that they’re trying to help us a lot more."
Children and War
When asked whether he got to know any Iraqi family members, or civilians, he smiles, and says yes, they did, to some extent. The kids like them, and the Marines give them candy. Even this, however, brings back an unpleasant memory.
"During the first deployment, during one of the [Iraqi Presidential] election days, we were in Fallujah and we were passing out candy to kids. And the same kids we were passing out candy to, two kids went in front of a convoy and throw grenades out." The children, he says, were five or six years old. "We were all shocked. And the thing was, we weren’t going to shoot at the kids. Nobody really wants to deal with that on their conscience. You know somebody told them to do it. An older person gave them money, or something, and they went out and did that."
"You have to safeguard yourself from everybody."
When asked whether he was looking forward to trip number three to Iraq, Wiley said, "I’m not going to sit here and lie. I love what I do.” He says people he knows in the Marines are among his closest friends. "Yes, I have close friends here in Chicago, but they will never share that bond, you know, when it’s 140° outside, we ran out of water, your buddy has only a little drop left, and he gives you that drop of water. That’s a bond.”
He says he loves Marines, "We take a lot of pride in what we do.”
In spite of some of the tough times he’s had in Iraq and some of the truly difficult things he’s seen, Wiley speaks favorably of the efforts being made, "I like the war. I appreciate what we’re doing there. I appreciate the United States for supporting us at all times. I appreciate the President of the United States for putting us in that type of situation, because the Marine infantry will do everything possible to make the United States proud.”
And he loves the Marines.
“Everyone enjoys wearing their uniforms, everybody loves showing off that they wear their uniform with pride, decency, honor."
He enjoys the following video, which showcases the Marines’ Silent Drill Team. He says he admires the disciplined, synchronized marching.
Any advice for the young man or woman who might be considering entering the Marines?
“If you’re entering, if you’re about to sign up, think about your options first. Think about what really fits you, because some people, the Marines don’t fit you because physically, some people don’t have what it takes to meet the requirements physically, and some people don’t have what it takes mentally. When you get into camp, they play a lot of head games. But the only reason they play it is to toughen you up, for war stress, combat stress.”
He spoke about the other branches of the military as well with great respect, saying that there are some excellent job opportunities through the Army, and the Navy.
“Think about what you really want to do in life before you jump into something like the military," he advised.
When his own service to the military concludes, Lance Cpl. Wiley hopes to land a job as a police officer, possibly with the Los Angeles Police Department.
And he enjoys his trips home. "It’s not Vietnam," he says. "Everybody meets and greets me with open arms. I appreciate it, like what happened at the Village the other day. It’s great — people putting forth the effort to show that people actually care. Because, when you’re over there, you’ve been eating the same thing for days in a row, you’re sweating, you’re tired, you’re irritated, something happen to your buddy and you’re all pissed off…. sometimes you question, do people really care?”
What can those back home do?
“Prayers are good. If you’re a religious person, prayers are wonderful. Letters are great. Nothing makes you feel better when you’re coming off an eight hour patrol, you just feel like passing out, and you see this letter on your bed. Even though it’s not from somebody you even really know, you open it, and you see that somebody actually cares about you.”
Additionally, Lance Cpl. Wiley says military personnel still appreciate care packages, “Care packages are wonderful — gum, bowls of soup, those little heat up bowls. Chef Boyardee is wonderful — you can always just heat it is up, open it up, and you’re good.”
Lance Cpl. Wiley also shared his thoughts on Park Forest, "I moved to Park Forest when I was little. It’s a beautiful place, and I see Downtown Park Forest looking great. I see that Park Forest is making a lot of improvements. It’s really my home. Every time I come home and see Chicago, the lights and all, I feel good when I finally see Park Forest.
“I’ve had so many memories: soccer, baseball, the Library, Boy Scouts, high school especially. Park Forest is starting to grow and starting to look really wonderful. I remember back when the Police Department and the Fire Department or in the same building, and so was City Hall. So, it’s really starting to grow a lot. It’s starting to look beautiful.”
Park Foresters who wish to write to or correspond with Lance Cpl. Wiley may reach him at the following addresses:
L.Cpl. Brian D Wiley
2/7 Golf PTL 3rd
Twenty-Nine Palms, CA 92278
Email: [email protected]
Subsequent to this interview, L.Cpl. Wiley learned that he would not, in fact, have to return to Iraq for a third tour.