“Captain America”- Master Sgt. Andrew Christian Marckesano
Master Sgt. Andrew Christian Marckesano was known to his friends as “Captain America.” He served six tours in Afghanistan with the 82nd Airborne, and Army Rangers, as well as six other tours overseas. All were combat tours. He was a Silver Star recipient. Two days after the 4th of July, he committed suicide after dinner with his former commander. He had just been hired for a job at the Pentagon and was still on active duty. He left behind his wife and two children.
“His death sent shock waves through the military. His friends, family and military leaders were at a loss. Many told Fox News that Marckesano never got over his tour in Afghanistan’s Arghandab Valley in 2009 with the 2-508, a battalion that had one of the highest casualty rates of any unit during the war. “That deployment was like being in the ring with Mike Tyson for a year,” according to the battalion’s former Command Sgt Major Bert Puckett.
He sent a passionate appeal this week to the rest of the battalion: “Text me, I told you before my door is open… my phone is at hand. We did things that people make movies about and in some cases, writers and producers wouldn’t even try to write our story… the rucksack is heavy… and when it gets heavy we [&$#*] help each other, but you have to reach out… Don’t let the Valley win.”
Marckesano’s suicide was the 30th from this battalion.”
Let that number sink in: 30 members of the battalion have committed suicide.
The Arghandab Valley battle of 2009
Arghandab was the gateway to Kandahar, Afghanistan. The valley was a deadly tour for US forces, where 40% of the US forces killed in Afghanistan that year died.
The following is illustrative of some of the difficulties encountered by the 2-508. It is unclear if MSgt Marckesano was actually in Bravo company, but he was in the 2-508 in the Arghandab valley in 2009.
NBC reported in 2010,
The U.S. forces’ enemy is almost invisible in parts of this lush valley in southern Afghanistan. It comes not as gunmen but as bombs planted on footpaths, wedged into walls, nestled in trees and hidden under bridges.
The Bravo Company soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment have gotten caught up in only one significant firefight in the more than six months they’ve been stationed in a 1.2-square mile (3-square kilometer) area just north of Kandahar city.
But nearly every day they find — or step on — homemade bombs. As a result, they’ve had some intense on-the-job training in bomb-spotting, so they can continue to keep patrolling and keep the Taliban from threatening local villagers.
The military operation is completely different just a two-hour hike to the north or west. In northern Arghandab, schools are being set up and agriculture subsidies are making friends of farmers. To the west, paratroopers are in nearly daily firefights with insurgents who ambush patrols and assault combat outposts.
The 2-508 didn’t unseat the Taliban insurgents totally from the area, but they did their level best. Their constant patrolling kept the Taliban from moving freely in the area. Locals were no longer afraid to go out in the fields. They captured a bomb-making unit in the area. They did a lot of good, but it came at an incredibly high price. From heavy firefights to IEDs, the constant fight took its toll.
Master Sergeant Andrew Marckesano succumbed to the ghosts of war, as 20 others do on a daily basis. President Trump implemented a new suicide prevention program and Congress introduced a bipartisan measure called the Zero Suicide Initiative at the Department of Veterans Affairs designed to bring the numbers to zero.
But ghosts of war are hard to eradicate. Like the IEDS and firefights that create them, they hide and ambush service members at the least expected time. Rest in Peace, Andrew Marckesano, “Captain America,” your service will not be forgotten.
Featured photo: MSgt Andrew Marckesano