Matthew Craw is a combat veteran marine of Operation Iraqi Freedom. While surfing off the coast of New Jersey on September 11th 2001, he witnessed a black cloud of smoke pouring down the skyline. The smoke was from the terrorist attacks on The World Trade Center. This tragic event lit a fire inside of Matthew. Missed opportunities and complacency had taken over a mediocre life that was once very promising. Shortly after witnessing the horrors of September 11th, he enlisted in the delayed entry program of the United States Marine Corps.

After finishing a semester at Brookdale Community College he headed off to Parris Island in the spring of 2002 to try and obtain the honor of becoming a United States Marine. After the physically and mentally demanding trials of Marine Recruit Training and nearly dying from heat stroke during Military Combat Training in North Carolina, he graduated with a meritorious promotion before heading to Fort Sill Oklahoma for Marine Artillery Training. Afterwards he was sent to join the Fleet Marine Force in Camp Pendleton California. He had found his calling.

Just after his first year mark in active service he and his unit- Alpha Battery First Battalion Eleventh Marines, were sent to Iraq from February to July of 2003. His unit received a Presidential Unit Citation Award and a Combat Action Ribbon for their excellence in combat operations. Craw and Alpha Battery were an integral part of the main surge of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Alpha Battery was involved in countless fire missions and combat operations. When his unit was ambushed by the Republican Guard, they direct fired their M198 Howitzer Cannons on the enemy. Alpha Battery managed to suppress and destroy the enemy contingent. After two months of artillery missions they became a Provisional Rifle Company and conducted searches, patrols, and movement on urban terrain missions. Their impact on the war was impressive and although Craw returned home physically unscathed, he would never mentally be the same. Three months after returning from Iraq, he was in the back of a seven ton gun truck that drove off a short cliff during training. As a result of the accident, Craw received a traumatic brain injury. Living through the effects of combat operations and the symptoms of his traumatic brain injury have provided some serious obstacles. However, he still considers himself extremely “lucky.”

He returned home from active duty in 2006 and attended college during his inactive reserve status which completed in 2009. During his first class he met Creative Writing Professor Marc Bonagura. The Professor helped Craw ease his transition from soldier to student by telling him to “write what you know.” Craw took the professor’s advice and ran with it. That class helped develop the preface to his book. Over the next few years he graduated from Brookdale Community College and transferred to Rider University, where he recently graduated Summa Cum Laude with a degree in English:Concentration in Professional Writing. His story turned into the manuscript “The Song Each Bullet Sings: The Story of Operation Iraqi Freedom Through the Eyes of One Marine.” In January of 2012 he teamed up with a literary agent and on July 1st, 2013 his book peaked at the #6 spot on Amazon.com’s Veteran’s History Books.

Since writing the book he has participated in several panels and symposiums on war and its consequences. He has also done live readings of his book and continues to spread the word of trying to move forward positively after Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and a Traumatic Brain Injury. Craw believes that his book will help America realize exactly what their sons and daughters returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are dealing with. He is quick to thank the veterans who have come before him and the ones that will come after him. They are “America’s Heroes.”
Photo by Tanya Breen


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