Cpl. Mike Anderson was deeply entangled in one of the largest battle’s in Iraq when he died six years ago today.
A 21-year-old squad leader with 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., he was shot to death while raiding houses in Fallujah. He kicked open a door with eight insurgents behind it, and immediately faced a hail of gunfire. He died in the doorway, and a 35-minute firefight ensued, said his father, Mike Anderson Sr. One of Mike Jr.’s last letters home later lived on after it was published in Newsweek.
All of this comes up today for a related reason: Four years after beginning a push to have California develop a Gold Star license plate for the closest family members of those lost in combat, Anderson Sr. received the first Gold Star license plate in California history last week. The plate was awarded at a ceremony in Sacramento attended by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state Sen. Jeff Denham, who will soon become one of California’s newest congressmen.
Despite its strong military concentration, California became just the 45th state to have its own Gold Star license plate. One of the hangups was money — the state faces a severe budget crisis, so it passed a law in 2008 allowing for the creation of the plates on the condition that the necessary $300,000 was raised through private donations.
Battle Rattle caught up with Anderson Sr. by telephone today while he met with seven of his son’s closest buddies in 3/5 at Pendleton. They flew across the country to meet him there — an annual tradition.
“I’m deeply honored to be included in their circle,” Anderson Sr. said. “They were some of Mike’s closest friends, and we’re like a band of brothers.”
Anderson said it was frustrating that it took two years to raise the money after the bill’s passage, but he’s proud of how military families and charities combined to make it happen.
“It’s an acknowledgement of sacrifice,” he said, adding that he thinks his son would be proud of him. “I think he’d probably be looking at me and be saying, ‘Dad, I can’t believe you did that.'”