CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq -- 1st Sgt. William S. Skiles can't say enough good things about his Marines.
"You know, we've only been here two months and we've awarded the Purple Heart to one third of the company," said Skiles, of Company E, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment. "They're still charging on."
Skiles' Marines were among those units that pressed into Fallujah during the offensive last month. They took their share of wounded and some dead. Still, they never flagged and even most of those wounded returned to the battle.
"We arrived at fighting weight, but in all we lost a squad of Marines - great men," said the 43-year-old from San Juan Capistrano, Calif. "But my guys are all team players."
Injuries ranged from perforated eardrums from improvised explosive devices to gunshot wounds. Some Marines lost limbs. Others are likely paralyzed. Thirteen Marines - a full squad's worth of Marines - were medically evacuated to the United States.
For those who are able, they're not going anywhere. Skiles said their commitment to the cause in Iraq is astonishing.
"I have one Marine in the rear but he stands guard," Skiles said. "Another is on mess duty - that's dedication, huh?"
"My perforated eardrum is not worth being taken out of the fight," said Pfc. Miles J. Guthrie, a 19-year-old from Nederland, Co. "I'd rather stay back and fight along side my brothers."
Skiles' chalks up that level of commitment to traits like camaraderie and esprit de corps; traits rarely understood by anyone but a Marine.
"The pride U.S. Marines have is an untouchable brotherhood, and we have it from the PFC to the first sergeant," Skiles said. "We only fight for each other - for our brother to the left and right to stay alive and to go home.
"Just like the Marine Hymn says, 'First to fight for right and freedom,'" added Skiles.
That sense of duty, Skiles said, starts at the top with the company commander, Capt. Douglas A. Zembiec. Zembiec was wounded in his left leg by an enemy grenade in a three-hour firefight. He never left his company.
"The enemy we've encountered is an undisciplined one," said Zembiec, of Albuquerque, N.M. "My Marines have fought like lions and will continue to do so. Ten million insurgents won't even begin to fill the boots of one of my men."