‘Mike Battery is here’: After loss, Marines regroup, move forward

Published July 22, 2015

The Marines of Battery M, 3rd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment pose for a picture with Col. Joseph Russo, commanding officer of 14th Marine Regiment, in front of Schultz's Battery M monument at Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park in Fort Oglethorpe on Monday. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Sara Graham.

The Marines of Battery M, 3rd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment pose for a picture with Col. Joseph Russo, commanding officer of 14th Marine Regiment, in front of Schultz’s Battery M monument at Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park in Fort Oglethorpe on Monday. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Sara Graham

By Shelly Bradbury
Staff Writer

The Marines of Mike Battery rolled into Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park early Monday morning in T-shirts and polos, shorts and jeans, unsure of exactly why they’d been called to the park.

And hurting. They’d lost four men when Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez, 24, opened fire at their offices on Amnicola Highway on Thursday.

Within hours, hundreds of federal investigators swarmed into the city, and the eyes of the nation centered on squarely on Battery M’s pain: Sgt. Carson Holmquist, Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan, Lance Cpl. Skip Wells, Staff Sgt. David Wyatt.

Monday would be the first chance for the group from Amnicola to reunite after the attack. Some of the Marines and sailors hitched rides to the park because their vehicles were still stuck in the crime scene. They’d left cellphones, wallets, cars behind in the rush to escape Abdulazeez.

“Basically, when we began we were all kind of disoriented,” Sgt. Jeff Cantu, Mike Battery supply chief, said of Monday’s meeting. “We didn’t know how to act. We were just standing around. We didn’t know how to react.”

But then they gathered together at Chickamauga, and someone pulled out Mike Battery’s guidon — a battle flag that represents all that Mike Battery is. Goes where the unit goes. Is the unit.

“It’s who we are,” Cantu said.

The FBI released the flag to the Marines from the reserve on Amnicola, where, like everything else, it had been left behind and swallowed by the investigation.

There on the battlefield, the Marines screwed the flag and pole back together and hoisted it at the front of the group.

“For me, it felt like once we put the guidon together, we started putting ourselves back together,” Cantu said.

The Marines then toured the Chickamauga Battlefield. They drove through some parts and walked through others. They weren’t in formation, but they moved as a group anyway. They kept the guidon at the front.

“It showed that Mike Battery is here,” said Sgt. Donovan Walters, battery ordnance maintenance chief. “We’re still here.”

They talked about what had happened, said Col. Joe Russo. And they talked about what to do now.

“It was day one on the calendar of this unit’s movement forward,” Russo said. “You could see it in the Marines’ faces, you could sense it as they put their arms around each other.”

The group arrived at a monument of white stone.

“Schultz’s Battery M,” it read.

That was them.

But it wasn’t them. A unit with the same name, from 152 years ago.

An inscription on the back told of the battery’s fight on Sept. 20, 1863. It explained how the men changed positions between 9 a.m. and noon, and then were attacked.

Four men, it said, were hit.

Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or sbradbury@timesfreepress.com with tips or story ideas.

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