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Article: CoffeOrDie | How Chesty Puller Helped Save Afghan Family

CoffeOrDie | How Chesty Puller Helped Save Afghan Family


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Marine Lt. Gen. Lewis “Chesty” Puller died in 1971 after a career in the Marine Corps that spanned 37 years and three wars. To this day, “Chesty” is the Corps’ most decorated Marine and a giant every jarhead knows by name. At boot camp, recruits often shout, “Goodnight Chesty! Wherever you are!” in homage to the legendary leatherneck. Fifty years after his death, Chesty Puller is still serving the Marine Corps, most recently by lending his name to the evacuation efforts in Kabul. 

When the situation at Hamid Karzai International Airport deteriorated into crowds of desperate Afghans vying for limited seats on departing flights, the difference between success and failure sometimes came down to creativity. Through the coordination of veterans in the United States, Marines on the ground in Kabul, and a former Afghan interpreter, a clever plan was devised to help one man stand out amid the unruly crowds.

Gus Biggio — a Marine veteran who served in Afghanistan — told his former interpreter (who has remained anonymous because of safety concerns) to make signs that read “CHESTY PULLER” in block letters. Another US veteran, Ben Owen, then coordinated with the interpreter to get him to the right location at the airport. Marines controlling access into the airport were informed to be on the lookout for the unique signal.

Biggio’s interpreter served alongside the Marines in the volatile Nawa district of Helmand province, leaving him and his family vulnerable to Taliban retaliation. 

The former interpreter’s “Chesty” signs also included the Corps’ birthday and the words “Teufel Hunden,” German for “Hell Hound” or “Devil Dog.” Marine Corps lore claims the Germans nicknamed the Marines “Devil Dogs” after fighting against them in the Battle of Belleau Wood during World War I.

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