Nov. 10-16, 2005
U.S. Marine Lcpl. Andrew Murray, left, ’04 Ludden grad, visits his alma mater to talk with students about his experience in Iraq
By Luke Eggleston/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Ludden Graduate Returns Home for a Break from the War While his neighbors in Syracuse have spent the better part of two years watching the news on Iraq, Bishop Ludden Junior/Senior High School graduate Andy Murray has been living it. Less than two years ago, Murray made a decision that would forever change his life. With offers on the table for college football, Murray decided to commit the next four years of his life to the United States Marine Corps.
Shortly thereafter, he found himself involved in the most significant American war since the Viet Nam conflict and immersed in a city that saw some of the Iraq War’s fiercest combat between Coalition forces and insurgents. A football captain and a basketball standout for the Gaelic Knights, Murray began to seriously consider his future when hoops season ended. While mulling over participation in a college’s Reserve Officer Training Corps, Murray was inspired, in just a few short weeks, to enlist in the Marine Corps. “It just kept growing from a side thing to a thing that I really wanted to do and I felt like if I didn’t do this by my sophomore or junior year in college I’d be wishing I had done this,” said Murray, who is home in Syracuse on one-month leave from the military. “Now that I’ve done it I really feel like it’s set me up so much better for farther down the road in life in every aspect.”
Murray said joining the Marine Corps was just something that he needed to do, something that he needed to prove to himself that he could do. “I wanted to say that I’d done this. I wanted to be a Marine. When I actually looked at it, from all aspects, the Marine Corps stood out to me,” he said. “I wanted to be able to say that I’d done this for my country and further on down the road I could say I was a United States Marine and I’d done it and done my time.”
In April of 2004, Murray enlisted and, before long, he had landed with the First Battalion Sixth Marine Charlie Company at Camp Victory in Kuwait. On March 12, Murray arrived in the insurgent city of Fallujah in Iraq and he has spent the last eight months making it a more habitable place. He said that he never questioned his ability once he got to Iraq as the Marines had prepared him for the situation.
“I felt comfortable, I guess is a good way of saying it. The chain of command did a good job of preparing us. I felt I had everything I needed and I felt confident going over there,” Murray said. Nevertheless, Murray added, he could not have known what to anticipate upon arrival. “At the same time, what was I supposed to expect? Everything I had seen was just the same thing everybody else had seen on the news,” he said. “None of the guys I was with had been to Iraq. They’d all been to Afghanistan…all of the older guys. But none of us had been to Fallujah, Iraq, in a city environment.”
Last week, Murray, who returns to the Middle East at the end of November, went to his alma mater Bishop Ludden to discuss with his former classmates just what a soldier’s life in the Iraq War is like. Knowing that many of the students are aware of little more than news briefs and headlines, Murray wanted to give them a first-hand account. “I just want to let them know that there are young adults my age and little kids out there that go about living normal lives [in the Middle East],” Murray said. “I just want to let them know that there are things in the world that they haven’t seen.”
Murray wanted to relay to the assembly stories about the lives of their peers in the Middle East and the trials they face simply to have the privilege to go to school. “You’re in this classroom. I’ve built schools over there, put up chalkboards in schools where their window was a hole that a tank round went through,” he said.
Murray has primarily been involved in security and stability in Fallujah while the city tries to return to normal following prolonged months of combat between Marines and insurgents. Seeing the lives of the children of Fallujah return to normal has made the biggest difference for Murray. He noted that in places where the Marines have a strong presence, the children seem happier and freer. Meanwhile, in neighborhoods and areas outside the city where the Marines are less active, insurgent propaganda has made people wary of the Americans in their midst.
“If you went to a place where there weren’t Marines there all the time, the people were very hesitant and wouldn’t talk to you for very long…even the kids get the parents’ attitude whereas in other parts of the city come out and play and be around….Just to see these kids go to school freely and go out and play without fear is just a great thing,” Murray said. Murray won’t be discharged until 2008 and when he finishes he expects to pursue a career in law enforcement. He said that his experience with the Marines has prepared him well for any challenge he might face.
“For the past two years it feels like my life has changed so much but at the same time it feels like just yesterday I was saying ‘Bye Mom, bye Dad’ when I left for Boot Camp,” Murray said. “I want to do my time, but I’m looking forward to what I’m going to do after. This has helped me so much. I feel like I’m better prepared for college. I think I appreciate the chance to go to college whereas kids sometimes think it’s a right.”