I picked up Greg Matos’ Shattered Glass—The Story of a Marine Embassy Guard with a narrow purpose. I wanted to read about the December 2004 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. I wanted to know what it felt like to be the Marine standing Post when five heavily armed terrorists stormed our compound, killing and wounding colleagues in the course of an hours-long siege. I wanted to know how it felt to be responsible for protecting scores of U.S. and foreign diplomatic personnel serving the United States at a time when anti-American sentiment had reached new heights, thanks to the invasion of Iraq and protracted insurgency that followed.
What I found, in the end, was a heartfelt, deeply personal narrative that delivers those intense insights, and so much more.
His account of the attack goes beyond our shattered front door, our scorched Stars and Stripes, our bombed and smoldering Marine house. It goes beyond the heroism of three Marines crossing open ground under threat of fire to reach their weapons in the chancery. It goes beyond the young Sri Lankan guard who took out the lead attacker before he himself was shot dead. Matos’ account puts the attack in broader context, tying it to the insurgency in Iraq and the resulting Second Battle of Fallujah. That battle, which raged from November through the end of December 2004, resulted in the death of an estimated 2,000 insurgents and civilians, and more than a hundred Coalition forces. The battle likely inspired members of an insurgent group called the Fallujah Brigade to storm our compound and get their revenge by killing U.S. Marines stationed there. “My place in this big picture,” Matos writes, “came in early December when five men, who had been fighting my fellow Marines in Iraq, came knocking at my door in Jeddah…”
I read and re-read about the attack with a mix of horror and comfort. Horror, for the obvious reason of mortality. Comfort, for the reminder that as I hunkered beneath the visa counter, tallying the doors between myself and the murderous rampage taking place outside, it wasn’t the number of doors that mattered (by one count there were four; by another, only one). But at the time my dread stopped with the Marine I knew to be standing post, trained for this crisis to keep us safe. I survived thanks to Matos’ courage, and it was personal and important to me to understand his story. By some measures, it can be summed up by his Bronze Star citation, which reads: For heroic achievement while engaged in military action against al-Qaeda terrorists as a marine Embassy Guard…
Shattered Glass—The Story of a Marine Embassy Guard
By Greg Matos
Two Harbors Press, July 2011