Marine Corps Col. Stephen Wolf spent nearly two years away from his family while helping rebuild a country.
For his service in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Wolf, 46, was awarded the Bronze Star last month at Camp Lejeune, N.C. But the Evans man said he feels that many of his fellow Marines deserve the award more than he does.
"There are a lot of guys who did an awful lot of work who didn't get recognized," the Butler High School graduate said. "A lot of guys gave their lives, and a lot of those guys won't get their due."
The U.S. Army awards the Bronze Star for "heroic or meritorious achievement or service."
Wolf, who lives in Evans with his wife, Desiree, and children Elizabeth, 16, and Matthew, 15, attended Georgia Military College and the University of Georgia before joining the Marine Corps in 1979. He spent nearly 12 years on active duty as a tank officer, handling ground combat arms, and worked his way through operations officer.
In 1991, Wolf left active duty for the Marines Corps Reserves and moved back to Augusta near his mother, Helen Wolf of Martinez. He was activated in January 2002 and sent a year later to Iraq as an operations planner with the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, under the I Marine Expeditionary Force.
Wolf acted as a liaison between his brigade, known as Task Force Tarawa, and the unit operating adjacent to them, the 1st Marine Division, in the eastern part of Iraq near Al Kut. He helped the two units coordinate battle space, fires, logistics and any other issues that arise from two units operating next to each other.
"The planning process is continuous," Wolf said.
After the units reached Baghdad, the liaison teams were no longer needed. A general was named governor of two provinces and chose government support teams to help rebuild the vital functions within each province. Wolf lead the team in Wasit province in the eastern part of Iraq.
"We interfaced with the local community leaders, former government leadership and convened a governing council on the provincial level," Wolf said. "Our biggest mission was really to try to restore the functions of civil government - not reestablish the government, that really wasn't our job - but the functions of government."
In what Wolf described as an austere and difficult environment, his team began restoring basic functions such as water, sanitation, electrical and food distribution systems. Banks and payroll systems were reestablished so people could work again.
By the time Wolf's unit pulled out of Wasit, people were working, schools were repaired and open, weapons and ammunitions caches were collected and disposed of, and radio and television stations were broadcasting, Wolf said.
Wolf returned to Camp Lejeune in May 2003, and his Bronze Star recommendation began traveling up the chain of command in July.
While being in the field was not new to Wolf - he spent time in the Middle East during Desert Storm - he says he doesn't want to go back.
Wolf loves his position in the golf cart sales division at Club Car but said the Marine Corps is in his blood.
"(Marine life) is not for everybody," Wolf said. "I don't look back. I'm a real matter-of-fact guy. If the Marine Corps calls me up and says, 'We need you. You have to be here tomorrow.' I'd just pack my trash and go."
At the end of every day, Wolf said, he is a dedicated U.S. Marine who wants to broadly share his successes with his Corps brothers.
"I tell you the Marine Corps is amazing," Wolf said. "I have worked with some of the best guys, the level of professionalism, the level of knowledge, the mastery of tactics, the art of war.
"U.S. Marines - I'm telling you, those guys don't get scared. They just do what needs to get done."
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