Marler deployed to Iraq war with son

Published 2:03 am Wednesday, November 8, 2017

From natural disasters in Honduras, to firefights in Iraq, Richard Marler has experienced it all.

Marler spent 20 years in the Alabama Army National Guard as an 88M, also known as a truck driver.

He was assigned to the 781st Transportation Company for his entire time in service.

Marler’s first time in Iraq was in 1991 for Operation Desert Storm, for six months.

He was stationed in Log Base Charlie, and his unit ran petroleum to units that needed fuel to push back the Iraqis.

“It was a culture shock,” Marler said. “We stayed in tents, there was no air, no water, and sometimes to cool off we slept in the back of our trucks,”

Marler recalled one mission in which the tankers on the front line ran out of fuel, and his convoy went directly to the front line with the fuel.

“I saw dead Iraqis, run over by tanks, in trucks with holes in them,” Marler said, “It changed me.”

When Marler came home, his son, Dustin Atkins, went through training and was actually assigned to his same unit.

In 2003, the father and son pair deployed back to Iraq in Operation Iraqi Freedom. They spent 14 months overseas.

They were stationed in Nasiriyah, a setting of one of the first major battles of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

“It was real tough with my son there,” Marler explained.

Marler’s second time in Iraq wasn’t any better than his first.

This time, Marler was a sergeant, and he decided who went into the convoys.

“We’d haul to Baghdad, Anaconda, wherever they needed us,” Marler said. “Every time we went out, we were hit by small arms fire, IEDs. I watched my son go from a boy to a man in a single firefight.”

“I saw kids who were starving, I saw innocent lives being lost,” Marler said. “It absolutely changed me.”

When Marler came home from Iraqi Freedom, nothing was the same.

“I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t go to drill anymore,” he said, adding that he was still stuck in the war mentality, fearing of when he was driving he would be attacked.

“I missed out on my sons’ growing up,” Marler said, “But I wouldn’t change it, my experiences made me who I am.”