Last week a US Marine showed up in Grenada with an offer we couldn’t refuse.
Hearing his story was a one in a lifetime experience that I won’t soon forget.
Greg Nelson was one of the few and the proud who, 28 years ago, landed in Grenada on the orders of President Reagan. What he found was a country in turmoil, Cubans who wanted a fight and marines who needed a little backup.
After a couple days of mopping up what he described as light resistance, Nelson sat on the point with a few of his fellow Marines. They all marveled at Grenada’s beauty and promised that one day they would all return.
But in a bitter twist, his friends and comrades died during Nelson’s next engagement in Lebanon.
“Of the 7 guys I was here with, 2 of ‘em didn’t make it back,” Nelson said from the podium in his deep-voiced Louisiana drawl. “The day before we were sitting on the point, settling down and getting ready to leave. And we had always talked about how we were all going to come back.”
He paused for a moment then somberly said, “Such is life.”
“Things don’t work out that way. And it took me quite a while but I decided that I was going to come back. If not for myself then for them. If you knew how I felt right now …”
Nelson’s voice trailed off again, but not for long.
The weathered Marine had come back to this now-peaceful little island on vacation with his family. Somehow he connected with the Significant Others president and agreed to give a presentation on his experiences.
I recorded his experiences on my iPod for you to enjoy. Unfortunately, all the audio editing in the world couldn’t get rid of the awful echo.
A few of the interesting high points are:
- While scared and grateful, the American med students were probably in a lot more danger than they realized. As the situation started getting desperate for the Cubans, a hostage situation wasn’t out of the question.
- Unlike other US invasions, Grenada was successful because the Grenadians took control of their government and were willing to work for peace. Nelson gave them a lot of credit.
- The Grenadians were fighting under duress, meaning that when they saw the blunt end of a Marine’s machine gun, many surrendered. The Cubans however, didn’t have any place to go, so their fighting was a little more violent. A few tried to blend in with the local population, but it wasn’t very successful.
- Once the Cubans and Grenadian resisters disappeared into the tangled, impenetrable jungle, things got tricky for the Americans. However, putting a $250 price on the hostile’s heads gave the locals a great incentive to help. Once that reward was declared, resistance was rooted out in a matter of hours.
- If anything, Nelson wants people to vote. To actively support their democracy. “It’s so easy to just let things slide and before you know it, you have Cubans and communism knocking on your door.”