Marines 'Pretty Ecstatic' About Bin Laden's Demise

The hideout of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is pictured after his death by US Special Forces in a ground operation in Abbottabad, Pakistan on May 2, 2011.
The hideout of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is pictured after his death by US Special Forces in a ground operation in Abbottabad, Pakistan on May 2, 2011. Farooq Naeem/AFP/Getty Images

Marines in Afghanistan welcomed the news that Osama bin Laden had been killed by U.S. forces in Pakistan, seeing it as a breakthrough in their mission. NPR photographer David Gilkey is embedded with marines in Helmand province.

NPR photographer David Gilkey, who is embedded with the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment in Helmand Province, tells Morning Edition co-host Renee Montagne that the Marines hope the event will offer a sense of "conclusion" for Americans.

News of bin Laden's death spread quickly — and as one Marine told Gilkey in an interview, they wanted to share the news with the Afghan public.

"The word got passed over the radio," says Sgt. Liam Dwyer, 29. "And you could tell the Marines were pretty ecstatic about it. I mean, we were, if you want to call it holding back our emotions, being out on patrol there, but you could tell — you know, everybody kind of got uplifted at that point."

And while he also wanted to pass the news of bin Laden's death on to residents of the town he was in, Dwyer says he was careful when doing so.

"I didn't want to come across as crass and harsh like that," he says. "I wanted to get their feeling for it first," he said.

The Afghans told him they don't like bin Laden, so Dwyer told them the news. "And a lot of them were very, very happy to hear that," he says.

U.S. civilians were also on the Marines' minds, Gilkey says.

The Marines "hoped it was a conclusion for people back home, especially the people in New York, and they also felt like it justified a lot of what they were doing over here," Gilkey says.

But the news that Osama bin Laden had been killed didn't mean their job was done, either.

"So as fast as the news came that this had happened, they also had to put their helmets on, literally, and go back out and patrol."

"I think it's a tempered sense of a bit of relief," Gilkey says of the reaction to bin Laden's death. "I think it's a tempered sense, with the reality that they still have six months left on their deployment."

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