This is...hard to write. Although I didn't know Lt. Fitz, as we called him, as well as many others in Weapons Company Third Battalion Seventh Marines, did, I knew him well enough for him to leave an impression on me. He left the mark of a true leader. A man who, somehow just understood how to relate to his men and display the difference between a man in charge and a leader. Lt. Almar Fitzgerald was a leader.I'll never forget this time at Hurricane Point, a small Forward Operating Base in Ramadi, Iraq. The year was 2005 and Ramadi was an extremely dangerous place. But this story isn't about how dangerous Ramadi was or still is. It's not about actions performed on the battlefield. It's about how a true leader can teach you so much through one seemingly simplistic experience. As a writer, sometimes I see the beauty in a short concise prose of an author when they could have droned on for pages with superfluous commentary. There is a brilliance to be had in the basics.We had a basketball goal outside of our hooch, and Lt. Fitz came down to play. An officer playing a pickup game of basketball with a whole bunch of Corporals and Lance Corporals. Usually, in our downtime, officers did stuff with other officers, staff noncommissioned officers hung out with other staff noncommissioned officers, etc... that's how the culture worked. I was just a mere PFC at the time, or maybe I'd been promoted to Lance Corporal, everything runs together and dates are hard to separate.Lt. Almar Fitzgerald came and played basketball with us.
That's it. That's the action. It seems so simple and so inconsequential. How could any sort of leadership be gleaned from that? Because a leader, a real leader, understands that he is not above his men. He is one with them. Lt. Fitz showed us that day, that despite his higher ranking, he never thought himself more important as a person. He valued us as he valued himself. Maybe it was on purpose, maybe it wasn't, I'll never know. Lt. Fitzgerald was hit by an IED in February of 2006 and never recovered from his wounds. I never got to ask him about that day he came and played basketball with us, just like he was one of us.Read more stories of American Grit here: