Prior to the official conclusion of the U.S. war in Afghanistan in August 2021, Marines prepared for combat operations in both Afghanistan and Iraq primarily at the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. For 20 years, the base was the hub for training and constant deployment for troops serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
Now, a book written by a local Marine formerly based at Camp Pendleton, titled "Heroes Live Here: A Tribute to Camp Pendleton Marines Since 9/11" showcases the compelling stories of those who served in those wars and gave the ultimate sacrifice.
Camp Pendleton's Monuments Pay Tribute to Marines Who Served in Iraq and Afghanistan
“The book is a way to keep their names alive, inspire the next generation of young service members, to be proud of their service, inspire patriotism, but also honor those sacrifices,” said Amy Forsythe, who was first stationed at Camp Pendleton in 1995 as a Marine combat correspondent.
“It also tells our Gold Star families and those fellow Marines that we remember their service,” said Forsythe.
The book is a compilation of photographs and stories, and also gives insight to memorials and tributes placed across the base not accessible to the public.
“There are a lot of memorials here on Camp Pendleton that a lot of people don’t know about and so I wanted to bring that to life and share with those Marines who have moved on, or with the Gold Star families,” said Forsythe.
Among them are memorials that were originally built in Iraq and Afghanistan and are now on display at Camp Pendleton.
The Blue Diamond Memorial standing outside of the 1st Marine Division Headquarters building was built in Afghanistan, and includes dozens of dog tags adorning each side.
A “T-Wall,” which is typically a 12-foot-high concrete wall used as a protection shield, built in Iraq now stands outside of the base canine training center. It honors Sgt. Adam Cann, the first dog handler killed in action since the Vietnam War.
“It’s worth sharing and telling the younger generation of what happened after 9/11. From 2001 to 2021, is that the great sacrifice from our Marines and sailors from right here at Camp Pendleton,” said Forsythe.
Among the more sobering and poignant monuments on base is the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force memorial wall. Modeled after the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C., it displays the names of more than 1,200 Marines who died in Iraq and Afghanistan etched in stone.
At least one of the memorials is found where Forsythe calls "off the beaten path" on a hill top overlooking the sprawling base.
A stone has the words “McClung Ridge” etched on it to honor Maj. Megan McClung, the first female Marine officer killed in the Iraq War. McClung and Forsythe were deployed together in Iraq in 2006.
Earlier this year, on Memorial Day, Forsythe was able to show McClung’s mother the tribulte.
“Her response was just so overwhelming, and so emotional. That while, Megan rests at Arlington National Cemetery, we have a west coast memorial for her here at Camp Pendleton,” said Forsythe.
A particularly moving statue on base is called No Man Left Behind.
The statue is a replica of a photograph showing a wounded 1st Sgt. Brad Kasal in Fallujah, Iraq. The statue is now in front of the Rafael Peralta Wounded Warrior Complex. Sgt. Peralta was raised in San Diego and was killed in the battle of Fallujah in 2004. The sculpture was crafted by an artist whose Marine son was killed in Ramadi, Iraq.
The book "Heroes Live Here" is available here.