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Fighting to Clear Their Name: Military Connection

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By Debbie Gregory.

Maj. Fred Galvin led the first Marine Corps Special Operations Command unit to ever deploy to Afghanistan. He was also the subject of an investigation into a controversial firefight that got his unit booted from the country.

Less than a month after Fox Company arrived in Afghanistan, Galvin’s unit was accused of firing indiscriminately following a car bomb attack that killed as many as 19 Afghan civilians and wounded 50 more.

The incident began when a platoon convoy from Galvin’s unit was hit by a suicide bomber. Galvin was riding in a Humvee at the rear and saw an orange fireball rise hundreds of feet into the air

He said that in an instant, gunfire was coming from both sides of the road, and his Marines opened fire, disabling a Toyota SUV speeding toward them. In five minutes, Galvin said, his men had killed six to 10 combatants.

The Marines returned to their base in Jalalabad, only to find out that the BBC was reporting that they  had just killed 10 Afghan civilians.

By the end of the day, news reports quoting Afghan officials and villagers said some Marines were drunk and had shot wildly at civilians. They were accused of charging into homes and shooting the inhabitants.

While Galvin and his men were cleared in court of any responsibility, Galvin feels that his and the unit’s reputations remain stained by the accusations.

Haji Liwani Qumandan, who said he was driving the blue Toyota SUV, testified that he and his passengers were all unarmed civilians who came under fire of thousands of bullets. He said that his father and nephew were among the casualties. But following his testimony, he was described as an active Taliban member. Furthermore, a U.S. military police patrol that arrived on the scene about 30 minutes after the incident found no dead or wounded Afghans.

The accusations of civilian casualties basically ended Galvin’s career, and he was never promoted after the court decision. He retired after 27 years, and is concentrating on his post-military life, working toward an MBA. But he has made it his mission to clear the names of his Marines.

“We were ambushed, and we fought on the battlefield with honor,” Galvin said. “There were allegations of homicide, and we’re living with that to this day. This haunts us.”

Galvin says all he is asking for is redemption.

Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-N.C.) has demanded a public apology from the Marine Corps commandant, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, and demanded that the Marines’ service records be corrected “to remove the stains of being wrongly accused of homicide.”

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Fighting to Clear Their Name: Military Connection: by Debbie Gregory