When you are shot at a few times a week, it's easy to be superstitious.
Most of Charlie Company's Marines practice their personal traditions and carry their tokens and charms. Any object can become magical when it reaches a war zone.
Some of the magic is on loan, and a few of the charms have seen more combat than their Marines.
Lance Cpl. Shawn Kennedy isn't Catholic, but he carries rosary beads on every patrol. They belong to a retired Marine whom Kennedy met at a Memorial Day service.
Just before Charlie Company left Plainville for training in California, the Marine showed up with the rosary beads for Kennedy. The older Marine stood before the younger and handed them over, demanding that Kennedy stand in front of him again after returning home from Iraq.
``He stressed the part about standing,'' Kennedy said.
The 20-year-old from Thomaston jokes now that the beads work too well: ``It's kept me out of everything.''
Sgt. Jason Hermenau, 28, carries a couple of religious items that have seen more recent action. Dave Rosati, a fellow Winsted cop, loaned Hermenau a Celtic cross and a St. Michael medal that Rosati had worn during a tough year in Baghdad with the Connecticut National Guard's 143rd Military Police Company.
Hermenau said the thing about getting such a loan from someone like Rosati is ``they know what you're going to be walking into.'' And because they can't physically be there to help, this is the best they can do, to give you a symbol that meant something to them.
Returning it is part of the deal. ``Hopefully, I'll be able to fulfill that end of the bargain,'' Hermenau said.
Cpl. Marshall Collins carries a medal of St. Jude, the patron of lost causes.
It came from a family friend who served in Vietnam. ``He said, `From one Marine to another, I want you to have this,''' Collins recalled.
But that friend needs the medal's luck, too; he's in a grim battle with pancreatic cancer. Collins hopes that when Charlie Company makes its long trip home in several months, he'll be able to give it back to his friend.
From one Marine to another.
Reporter Jesse Hamilton and photographer Tom Brown are embedded with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 25th Marines, in Fallujah.