Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Capt Travis Patriquin - A Memorial Day tribute

An e-mail from a friend, who is a Captain in the Marines:

I consider myself fortunate. While I'm sure I've met or come in contact with several personnel killed in Iraq, off the top of my head, I can only think of one person that I actually knew, and even then, I had only met that Marine a few times. However, this past weekend, while vacationing in Florida with [my wife]'s family, I picked up a USA Today Memorial Day tribute at the front desk. I saw a headline about a Marine LtCol that honored two of his friends who were killed by naming his son after them. Out of curiosity, I looked to see what he had named him, and I noticed the small inset with the pictures and names of the two Marines who were being honored. One of them was not a Marine at all but an Army Captain with the name "Travis Patriquin." I stopped. "Is that Travis?" I thought to myself.

In June 2006 in Ramadi, the National Guard Brigade my Marines had been supporting left and was replaced by an active duty Armored Brigade who had been serving up north. It was a time of uncertainty for the Marines and soldiers that stayed behind in Ramadi as we were "feeling out" this new brigade. I remember being up at the brigade headquarters after one of the initial staff meetings with the new brigade and afterwards, this portly Army captain with shaggy hair and a mustache stuck out his hand and said, "Hey, man, I'm Travis." This was sort of refreshing coming from an Army Captain to a Marine Lieutenant. Travis and I ate a few meals together and shared small talk often. He was there to help engage the populace. To me, it was a lost cause, but thank God for folks like Travis to show us our ignorant ways. He was well respected in staff meetings and was the single source for cultural engagement, and he stopped at least one brigade initiative I can remember which would have done more harm than good out of cultural ignorance.

I had thought fondly of Travis from time to time since coming home from Ramadi often wondering how he was doing. His humor, confidence, and delivery (especially coming from someone as shaggy and portly as he was) could be interpreted by some as disrespectful. He spoke his mind to superior officers and did not alter his delivery at all. I had no idea until seeing the story in USA Today this past weekend that Travis had been killed by an IED in Ramadi in Dec 2006.

As most of you know, early 2007, Al-Anbar province (Fallujah, Ramadi, Al Asad, Haditha, Hit, etc) began to shift. It is now one of the safest (if not the safest) place in Iraq. The local populace has driven out the insurgents and embraced the coalition for that purpose. With the violence down, public services are being restored. This occurrence was a huge surprise to me and to the MEF whose Intel Estimate done shortly after I left said that it would never happen. I am curious how much of that would have happened without Travis or what affect he had on that. Travis made a PowerPoint (evidently made out of frustration and condescension) to try and get the message out about how to engage the population in Al Anbar correctly. It appears to have worked.