Marines reunite at Oktoberfest for first time since leaving Iraq

The Oktoberfest grounds were filled with thousands of people, some traveling thousands of miles to be there.

In the huge crowd of festers Friday, you could find four Marines who traveled a combined 5,000 miles to be in La Crosse this weekend.

The guys are part of a very small group of Marines that most people probably haven’t heard of before, but they play an important role both for the military and each other.

Jason Andrade, Curtis Hawkins, D’Andre Smith and Nick Radloff live in Denver, San Diego, Oakland and Onalaska. But this weekend, for the first time since leaving Iraq in 2003, all four of these Marines are in the same place, Oktoberfest.

“It means a lot because we’ve been through a lot, you know, we’ve been through a lot together,” Smith said.

These Marines are members of the Combat Camera unit. They were sent to Iraq when the war began. Embedded with other units, whether it be infantry, tanks or artillery, Combat Camera Marines have the import duty of capturing historical events and being a source of information for commanders with both their video and photographs.

“They use it for tactics, they use it for training,” Hawkins said. “When we get deployed, we have a camera and a rifle.”

In the months they were overseas together, the four say they become brothers.

“It was such a small unit that really that’s part of what made us tight, even though we are Marines, we were different than most Marines. It was kind of a different situation altogether,” Andrade said.

“When you’re in a situation like that, when you know it’s a live-or-die type situation, all you care about are your brother or your sister to the left or right of you, and that’s exactly what they became, they became the brothers that I never had,” Radloff said.

Oktoberfest 2015 finally gave them the opportunity to reunite with their brothers.

“It’s a brotherhood,” Radloff said.

“I love these guys. I would do anything at anytime for these guys here,” Smith said.

The guys said it took them this long to get together because everyone is so busy. They said they have gotten a few of them together a time or two, but never all four.