Jason K. Doran
U.S. Marine Corps / Silver Star
Marine heads back into firefight for ambushed company
On the third day of the U.S. advance into Iraq—March 23, 2003—the battle inside the city of Nasiriyah had escalated. Marines had been told the locals would be greeting them with flowers but instead had fought a rolling battle since early morning against a determined enemy.
Gunnery Sgt. Jason Doran, operations chief for Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, and his men had just finished a firefight against Iraqi fighters so close that Doran used his shotgun. M1-Abrams tanks and Cobra helicopters ahead of them helped blast the way through the city.
But a Marine company to the north was taking heavy casualties, so Doran’s unit joined a convoy driving to reinforce them. Doran and his Marines fired at Iraqis in buildings above, the Iraqis returning the volleys.
A mile up the highway sat evidence of a heavy fight: One disabled Marine vehicle had crashed into a telephone pole; another nearby burned furiously, rocked from explosions within. Dead Iraqis littered the road and, in one building, 15-20 Marines fired as they tried to wave down the convoy.
Doran exited his Humvee to see what had happened. A corporal shouted over Iraqi rifle fire that the unit was OK, and Doran promised to return for them shortly.
As the convoy reached the Marine unit further north, Doran was appalled by the carnage and destruction. Three burning Marine vehicles belched an oily, choking black smoke. Dead and wounded Marines were being moved to a casualty collection point. Body parts and pools of blood, along with destroyed pieces of equipment, lay scattered around the burning vehicles. Enlisted men were firing back from wherever they lay. Lieutenants were trying to find their platoons.
Doran knew where one platoon was located, and he knew someone had to go back and retrieve them.
“I need two SAW gunners who are ready to die,” he announced. For an instant, no one moved. Then one young Marine took a step forward and others fell in behind him.
Doran refined his orders as he commandeered four more Humvees: “I don’t want anyone who is married, and I don’t want any fathers,”
As Doran led the convoy back into the city, the world exploded around them. Seemingly thousands of AK-47′s and RPG’s opened fire on them. But Doran’s Marines returned fire with a vengeance. His young gunners pumped out rounds nonstop from their squad automatic weapons, or SAWS, the most powerful piece in a rifle squad.
The vehicles were wreathed in smoke and flame as they raced down the highway, firing in every direction. With Doran directing, his driver jammed the Humvee next to the tenuous Marine stronghold.
The scene was chaotic as Marines exchanged fire with Iraqis across the street. Then, to everyone’s amazement, Doran got out of his Humvee with an unlit cigarette hanging from his mouth. He approached his driver for a light, who said “no,” so he got a light from one of his SAW gunners in the back of his Humvee.
“If I’m killed, they’ll fight harder,” Doran explained afterwards. “And if I live, they’ll know everything is cool.” He stood next to his Humvee as the Iraqis continued to shoot then turned and walked into the house to retrieve the Marines.
“Time to go,” he announced, and the Marines headed for the door, many down to their last M16 rounds. Doran went upstairs to be sure the top floor was clear.
“Get into any vehicle!” Doran shouted, and the Marines mounted up.
With the Humvees pulling out, he leaped onto the hood of the last one and began firing his shotgun. As the convoy drove to safety, the Marines continued to shoot. Suddenly, the Iraqi fire halted.
Doran’s rescue mission was complete—almost. When he discovered another Marine had been left behind, Doran turned his Humvee around and brought him back. Now his mission was complete.
Andrew Lubin is a freelance writer from Pennsylvania who has embedded with the Marine Corps in Iraq; Afghanistan; Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; and Beirut, Lebanon. He is the author of “Charlie Battery: A Marine Artillery Unit in Iraq.”
Jason K. Doran
U.S. Marine Corps / Silver Star
Born Oct. 17, 1965, in Dallas, Texas
Wife, Lisa; daughters Addie and Jennifer.
Enlisted in Marines in August 1983. Was gunnery sergeant with Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, and serving his first tour in Iraq at the time he was awarded the Silver Star.
WHAT HE DID
As U.S. forces advanced into Iraq, he led a convoy into Nasiriyah to rescue survivors in an ambushed company of Marines.
WHERE HE IS NOW
Doran retired in September 2003 and now lives in McDade, Texas. He is program director of the Texas Veterans Leadership Program, a jobs, education and training network for returning Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans.
WHY HE JOINED THE MARINES
“By the end of high school, I decided to do something where no one would doubt that I was a man, so I joined America's answer to the French Foreign Legion—the Marine Corps.”
Iraq / Nasiriyah