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‘For God & Country’: A sniper’s story

"For God & Country: A Marine Sniper’s Story" tells the extraordinary tale of Matt Orth, a 22-year-old war veteran whose job is to silently stalk the enemy in advance of the front lines to identify and eliminate key enemy personnel.  Through raw photos and video, Matt shows in bold detail what it’s like to kill and how it feels to come home and be called an “assassin.” 

Marine Scout Snipers are some of the most elite fighters in the American military services. 

"For God & Country: A Marine Sniper’s Story" tells the tale of Matt Orth, a 22-year-old war veteran whose job is to silently stalk the enemy in advance of the front lines to identify and eliminate key enemy personnel.  Through raw photos and video, Matt shows in bold detail what it’s like to kill and how it feels to come home and be called an “assassin.” 

Orth is now discharged from the Marines after a tour in Afghanistan and two tours in Iraq. "Doc Block" caught up with Orth via e-mail to find out what affected him the most on the front lines of war and how overwhelming it was to come home. 

Doc Block: What attracted you to join the Marines? 

Marine Sgt. Matt Orth, Scout Sniper with 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment: I was in the Marine Corps JROTC in high school so I guess you could say that I grew up in the Marine lifestyle.

Doc Block: Did you have any preconceptions about what life at war was going to be like?  How did the reality of everything compare to those preconceptions? 

Orth: The only thoughts I had prior to any deployment was that I knew I was going to get shot at. I knew I was going to lose friends and that I would see horrible things but, it still was shocking once I was there.  I really thought I was mentally ready for what I was going to do and see but in reality, I wasn’t.

Doc Block: What did your family think when you joined? 

Orth: My parents were great.  Just like any other family they would rather me go to college than into the military but they knew that this was what I wanted to do and backed me 100 percent.

Doc Block: What were your other options besides the Marines?  

Orth: Basically, like any other 18 year old I could have gone off to college, but at the time I knew I wasn’t ready to settle down and focus on school.

Doc Block: What were your first impressions of Iraq and its people when you arrived?

Orth: When I first interacted with the people I realized that they weren’t that much different than Americans. 

Doc Block: Did you ever question your purpose in Iraq?

Orth: No, not really.  I was sent there to do my job and that’s what I did - no questions asked.

Doc Block: How was the way you were received in Iraq different from Afghanistan?

Orth: More bombs and bullets.

Doc Block: What were you doing when you weren’t out on a mission? What was your typical day like in Iraq?  

Orth: We would sleep during the day and be up at night because that’s when we would usually go out. I would wake up and go to dinner chow then come back read a book, listen to some music, clean my gear, play a card game or watch a video.

Doc Block: What are things you missed the most when you were away? 

Orth: My friends and family of course but most of all the small things like driving to the beach, listening to the radio, special foods, or riding my motorcycle.

Doc Block: If you had to pick one, what is the one thing the American public doesn’t understand about Iraq?

Orth: That there were WMD and the people talk about them all the time.

Doc Block: What is the one thing that makes you angriest about news coverage of the conflict? 

Orth: Most news networks will interview us during combat and completely change what we said just to have better ratings. That means the American public does not get the true story on what is taking place in Iraq.

Doc Block: What was it like to come home after combat? How had you changed? Could you go back to living the same life?

Orth: You will never be the same. You approach life differently, the way you think is different.  You’ve seen and been through things that people can’t dream up in nightmares, but in the end your life and personal interactions somehow mean more than ever.

Doc Block: How were you received by family? Friends? The public? 

Orth: With love and support by most people.  Others would ask me questions about what we were doing and why we were over there, and I could see once we were done talking, that they understood a little bit better of why we were doing in Iraq.

Doc Block: Were you aware of the public’s generally negative attitude about Iraq while you were overseas?

Orth: Yes, we all knew that the American people thought negatively about the war but we didn’t care because the media is telling different stories about what is really going on, how could they know the truth unless they were over here fighting the fight?

Doc Block: What are your plans now that you are back? What was the first thing you did when you got home? 

Orth: First thing I did when I got home was drink a beer.  For the most part I’ve been working on my mother’s house to sell it because she became ill. Other than that I’m just trying to find a job until I can start college.

Doc Block: What are the images from Iraq that will stay with you for the rest of your life? 

Orth: Mostly death and destruction like everyone else but also the happy kids that can now play in the streets safely, sitting down and eating lunch or dinner with an Iraqi family, but most of all, the friends and brothers I made.

Doc Block: Emotionally, how hard is it to adjust? 

Orth: When I first got back, it didn’t seem too hard, but after a while you sometimes out of nowhere you start to cry or just feel totally alone like there is no one there for you. That’s the really hard part.

Doc Block: Have you experienced any form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? 

Orth: Yes, I think everyone does.  I came home the first time and thought any car on the road that got close to me was going to blow up.  I couldn’t drive. I would get panic attacks.

Doc Block: If you could go back in time to the moment when you signed up for the Marines, would you do it again? 

Orth: In a heartbeat.