Soldiers' Stories Statement
Former Sergeant Jeff Gramlich, U.S. Marine Corps Infantry, 3/6 Lima Company, veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, with parents, Eileen and Larry, and sister, Jackie;
Buffalo, NY,
June 2011
48”x 48” Chromogenic Color Print

In August 2005, I deployed to Husaybah, Iraq on the border with Syria. I always think about this one night on post. Our position was on a rooftop fortified with sandbags. We were near the city watching kids playing and people running around. We’d heard they take pot shots at you so we were always looking at all the windows out there and on alert. We used to have Humvee glass that protected us but they were restructuring the base, and that day they took the glass down. That’s what shows me that the enemy is watching. I was chilling, talking to my friend, and a gunshot hit the sandbag literally right in front of me. The sandbag absorbed the whole impact of the bullet and saved my life.

I remember my friend and I both took cover and then we ended up shooting back at whatever. If we got shot at, we made sure they knew not to do it again so I shot at every window I thought the sniper could be in. We had been mortared and rocketed but this was the most personal. I thought, “Wow, there’s someone out there in a window trying to take my life.”

When I got home I used to check out the window all the time, but I would try not to be seen in the window. I’m always conscious of where I’m exposed, so walking by windows I feel vulnerable. I trust the neighbors but at night, especially at my parents’ house, I don’t know who’s looking in from across the street. Because that’s all we ever thought about in Iraq—what’s going on in that window? Sometimes a streetlight outside my bedroom window would go out or the power went out and I would think, “Oh, crap, that’s planned. Who knows if they’re coming at us right now.”

I’m thankful to be here. I don’t take life for granted. That’s the thing you get really frustrated with when you come back. Most people don’t grasp that-especially younger kids, I call them kids but they’re only a couple years younger than me. They are all concerned about who’s on MTV and who’s got the coolest thing going on. They don’t really grasp life and death stuff.

I started school soon after I got back. As soon as I left school, I would go get drunk because I couldn’t really relate to anyone in school. I was getting badly out of shape and not doing anything positive besides school. My parents worried about me because I would just cage myself into my room and sit there and maybe watch YouTube videos about the Marines, call old friends or rent a movie. I didn’t want to have anything to do with anyone. I would just go home and lock myself away.

My parents were my backbone when I came home—a lot of kids don’t have that. They kind of were scared for me sometimes, but they never disowned me. They wouldn’t stop me from drinking beer at 11 a.m. on a Sunday but they would say, “Um, don’t you think you should do something with yourself, maybe help coach hockey?”

Jeff Gramlich is pursuing a master’s degree in organizational leadership at Medaille College, where he works for the Office of Veterans and Military Affairs. He coaches youth hockey and is captain of Medaille’s hockey team.

This text was transcribed and edited from interviews conducted by Jennifer Karady in April and May 2011.

© Jennifer Karady 2022, all rights reserved.