Jeff Edwards (L) with Marine buddies in Iraq in 2003

Jeff Edwards (L) with Marine buddies in Iraq in 2003

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Jeff Edwards

A wannabe jihadi?

That's how Jeff Edwards, one of scores of veterans who wrote or texted us after the attack that killed four US Marines in Chattanooga, characterized the gunman. The suspect, who was slain by police, has been identified as Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez. The FBI says it’s premature to speculate about motive, but they are investigating the possibility of terrorism.

Other vets suggested tolerance, and one said the best response would be to go out and befriend a Muslim.

“At first (I felt) a lot of anger and frustration,” says Edwards, a former Marine and a blogger from Memphis. “The attack happened here on our soil, and it happened against Marines, who were likely just doing routine jobs here stateside. But the more I thought about it, and the more the anger kind of settled, I realized that these fallen Marines were warriors.”

“Marines aren’t afraid of a fight,” he adds. “Basically, when Marines are born — when they’re made — they’re made for the fight… In the end this is the fight we’re in, and we can’t be afraid of it.”

“Whoever perpetrated this attack may feel like they’ve accomplished something, you know really the only thing they’ve done is encourage other young men to become Marines.”

The Army’s top general, Ray Odierno, has said that security at military recruiting and reserve centers will be reviewed.

“There’s not a sense of fear among the military or the veteran community,” says Edwards. “I think, for us, it should heighten our vigilance. It should heighten our willingness to fight when needed. Rather than be afraid any time you put on the uniform, or any time you identify yourself as a veteran you’re going to be attacked, I think rather the call is to be ready for anything.”

Edwards says personally he won’t be changing any of his personal habits or removing bumper stickers as some have suggested. “Obviously everybody is free to do as they please and operate with whatever operational security they feel like they need to. But I think heightened vigilance is probably the answer.”

“To not be able to wear the uniform you’re proud of in your own country, there’s just something that doesn’t really sit right with me about that.”

The World got a lot of texts from our community of veterans when we asked about the Chattanooga attack and how it affects their sense of security. Many agree with Edwards that service personnel need to increase their vigilance.

One who grew up with terrorism in Europe in the 1980s urged everyone to be more aware of their surroundings. And several complained about restrictions on their ability to carry weapons for self-defense.

A few were dismissive of the threat altogether, saying they were more worried about bad meat from China, or even the NSA.

There was one vet who wanted to throw all Muslims out of the country. But another said the best response would be to go out today and befriend a Muslim, and reminded us of the national motto: "E Pluribus Unum."

If you'd like to join our online veterans community, just text RETURN to 698-66.

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