Around the time Branson was deployed to Ramadi, Iraq, TIME magazine ranked the city as the most dangerous place in the world.
“For us, Ramadi was sort of like a fistfight in a phone booth,” Branson said.” We never knew where the ambush was going to come from.”
“You’re walking down a city, it could come from any window, and they could hit you from the window with small arms, fire, an RPG, an IED in the trash, and then they would disappear out of the back of that building,” he recalled. “The whole thing would be over in three minutes, but it was incredibly violent, and there wasn’t a lot you could do about it.”
Branson went from serving in the most dangerous city on Earth to what journalist Rick Leventhal described as likely the second most dangerous place on Earth: Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
The violence in Afghanistan was so bad that it would take a rocket to wake Branson up.
“We would be attacked two or three times a day,” he told Fox Nation. “It could be five minutes. It could be 30 minutes. I told my platoon staff, anytime we’re in contact, you’ve got to wake me up if I’m asleep and then I didn’t sleep for, like, three days.”
Branson then told the platoon to wake him up if they were in contact for more than five minutes, but he still didn’t sleep, so he instructed them to wake him up if a rocket hit.
“We were basically in contact so often that… I decided that a rocket was the threshold for waking me up,” he explained.
The Marines confronted terrifying situations with bravery.
In one rare circumstance, Branson described how he was tested to the limit when the Marines had no weapons to resupply themselves in a battle.
“We started that engagement at 4:30 in the morning and the last shot was fired at 11:00 AM,” he said. We were essentially surrounded for most of the time, so ammunition became a problem. As the officer in charge, that was the most concerning.”
In one firefight where the U.S. Marines killed 34 Taliban members, a Marine was hit in the face with an RPG that had hit bulletproof glass leading part of a turret to injure him.
“We are very fortunate in that it didn’t… detonate. It was a dud,” Branson told Fox Nation.” So, it was really the force of impact that hurt him. So, he had to be medevaced, and he was back in the fight within a week.”
Along with being prepared to fight in very dangerous situations, Marines were also trained to be resilient in Afghanistan’s sweltering heat.
Branson explained that it was so hot in Afghanistan that the Humvees would overheat and not work in midday. Marines even cooked a lot of their meals on the hood of the vehicles.
“You just drop the canned food on the hood of the Humvee at noon and 15 minutes later, it’s cooked,” Branson explained.
Ultimately, in each situation the Marines faced, they did so with courage and love for their country.
Branson reflected on how his time in the Marines really shaped him, adding that “service in any form is one of the most gratifying things” of his life.
“Selfishly, I got a lot out of being a Marine. Being a Marine matured me at an early age,” he told Fox Nation. “It gave me leadership skills. It gave me a brotherhood. It gave me appreciation for life.”
“As Ronald Reagan said, you know, Marines don’t have to spend a lifetime worrying if they’ve made a difference,” he added. “And again, I don’t think you have to be a Marine to make a difference, but public service is a rewarding thing for anyone to go into.”
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