Afghanistan combat veteran Charles Legido knows more about the realities of war than most 20-year-olds.
A Miami Springs native and 2011 MSSH graduate, Legido has been involved in about 70 firefights, was ambushed several times and felt the concussions from three explosive devices. He survived all, but one member of his squad didn’t. Another was wounded.
Legido has been back home for a week before flying to Camp Pendleton in California and being sent to his next assignment in Yemen.
“I always wanted to join the Marines, but I didn’t have the courage to tell my parents until my senior year in high school,” Legido said.
Although not a traditional military family, both of Legido’s grandfathers served in the military during World War II. His maternal grandfather served in the Air Force and his paternal grandfather served in the Army.
Charles chose the U.S. Marines and after boot camp in Paris Island, S.C., he went to the School of Infantry and became part of the First Battalion, First Marine Division. He was then assigned to Afghanistan where he served from June to December 2012.
“I like the way people look up to us as Marines,” Legido said. “That enforces the way we carry ourselves. I like being a warrior. Very few people can do it and I’m proud to be one who can.”
In Afghanistan, Legido was based at Camp Leatherneck in the Helmand Province. As part of FOB Pennsylvania, the camp had 200 Marines, tanks, engineers and other support personnel.
Legido was a member of a squad of 20 that also consisted of snipers and K-9 teams to sniff out explosives. They were sent to Shaban in the Kajaki district, one of the last supply refuges of the Taliban. The area was also a major blocking route for the entire company. The squad’s assignment was to keep the Taliban from crossing the river and attacking the main base, and patrolling the village to keep civilians safe.
“Most people don’t understand how we had to live,” Legido said. “We had daily routines, depending on your assignment; I might be on post (lookout) to make sure no one attacks. We read books and played board games, but there was no running water or electricity. We improvised a bathroom with a shower using cold well water from a bucket. It wasn’t drinkable, though.”
Legido’s squad often exchanged gunfire with the Taliban and sometimes the Marines had to fight their way back to base camp.
“There was a marketplace about 300-meters away and the people were fairly peaceful,” Legido said. “But just past the village was an imaginary line and beyond that was the Taliban. If you went there, you would be shot at or encounter explosive devices.”
The squad didn’t always sit back and wait to be shot at. Sometimes they went looking for action. Near a hot zone called St. Mary’s hill, the Taliban would start shooting at Marines with AK-47s and machine guns.
“It was mostly harassing,” Legido said. “They didn’t hit anything. We’d attack or call in air support.”