BOILING SPRINGS, SC — In March of 2003 Marine Private First Class Nolen Ryan Hutchings was officially classified as missing. Hutchings was serving with First Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment as part of Task Force Tarawa in Nasiriyah, Iraq just after the invasion.
A massive air strike had just taken place where many Marines were killed — Hutchings hadn’t yet been found.
Several days later, Task Force Tawara moved north and a new unit took over guarding the bridge in Nasiriyah; Marines from 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines.
A local Iraqi approached the Marines with a tip saying that he’d buried a Marine. The Marines weren’t sure if they should believe him, or if the Iraqi was trying to draw them into an ambush. No matter the case, the Marines needed to investigate; they refused to leave a brother behind.
The details of how Nolen was found in Nasariyah is just one of the many stories in the new book, 15 Years of War, written by USMC Life’s founder Kristine Schellhaas.
The book is based on hundreds of hours of interviews with her Mustang spouse, Major Schellhaas and looks to explain how 15 Years of War has affected their family’s life from pre 9/11 until today — from both the perspective of a military spouse and active duty service member.
Finding Nolen and bringing him home was something that will stay with these Marines for a lifetime.
“We felt like we had made a difference; maybe not in winning the war, but in keeping one of our brothers from being left behind,” a passage reads in the upcoming book.
Hutchings was one of the first South Carolina casualties in Operation Iraqi Freedom and was buried in his hometown of Boiling Springs.
“If gave me a sense of peace that he is here… that he is here watching over us,” says high school friend and fellow Marine Jessica Solis.”
This Memorial Day, please take a moment to remember Marines, like Nolen, who paid the ultimate price for our freedom.