Veteran’s Documentary ‘For the 25’ Pays Tribute to Sangin Marines

November 27, 2021Mac Caltrider

US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Lukess Sos, primary shooter with Sniper Team 2, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 6, looks through the scope on his M40 sniper rifle during a reconnaissance patrol out of Patrol Base Hanjar Yak in Sangin, Helmand province, Afghanistan, June 7, 2012. The team was scouting a suitable location to set in for a 36-hour observation mission. US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Logan Pierce.

Just four hours into their first patrol, the scout snipers of 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment’s Surveillance and Target Acquisition Platoon were surrounded and taking effective fire from 180 degrees of enemy positions. The inaugural firefight was a harbinger for the intense combat they would experience over their entire seven-month deployment.

In For the 25, Marine scout sniper and Black Rifle Coffee Company vice president of branding Logan Stark recounts 3/5’s 2010 deployment to Afghanistan, which became the deadliest deployment of the entire war. The film pays tribute to the 25 Marines killed in action during the seven-month deployment. More than 200 other Americans were wounded during the deployment.

For the 25
Marine scout snipers who supported Kilo Company 3/5, in Sangin, Afghanistan. Photo courtesy of Thomas Schueman/Facebook.

Using unofficial, intimate footage shot by Marines in Sangin, Stark produced the film as a college student in 2013, providing an unfiltered look at American warfighters in the Afghanistan war’s deadliest deployment. He combines interviews with four Marines, including himself, to reveal what motivates scout sniper to pursue such a deadly job and why big-picture geopolitics are an afterthought to most of the people pulling triggers on the ground.

In October 2010, 3/5 arrived in the rural Afghan town of Sangin, where they took over operations from the British troops who had fought there since 2006. During those previous four years, the British suffered more than 100 casualties — roughly one-third of all UK casualties suffered in Afghanistan since 2001. The American Marines fared no better. Within a week of arriving, 3/5 suffered nine Marines killed in action. 

“Experiencing that off the bat, you had the feeling it could be like that the whole time, and there was a possibility there wouldn’t be very many people going home,” Stark says in the film.

But as the deployment wore on and the Marines made headway in their bid for control of Sangin at a heavy cost, their motivation remained undeterred. The battalion was engaging the enemy almost daily, and as their kill-count increased, so did their number of casualties. 

“We were so short on bodies, we were begging the Marine Corps to send us Marines,” scout sniper Jordan Laird recalls in the film. 

Of the 25 Marines killed during the deployment, the loss of Sgt. Matt Abbate left an unfillable void in the unit, and Stark’s film pays special tribute to the beloved scout sniper, whose peers regarded him as the heart and soul of 3/5’s sniper platoon. Tom Schueman, who served as a platoon commander with 3/5, told Coffee or Die Magazine that Abbate was “a modern Achilles”; Matt Smith, Abbate’s former teammate, describes him in For the 25 as “the perfect Marine.” 

Abbate earned the Navy Cross for his heroic actions after enemy fighters ambushed his patrol in Sangin. After two Marines and a Navy corpsman were struck by IEDs in rapid succession, Abbate charged through an unswept minefield to draw enemy fire and rally survivors. He then cleared a landing zone to evacuate the wounded and led a counterattack. Less than two months later, Abbate was killed in action.

pb abbate, For the 25
Sgt. Matt Abbate in Sangin. From Abbate’s gunfighting commandments: “Nothing matters more than thy brethren to thy left and right…thou shall protect no matter what.” Abbate’s Rules of War: “1. Young warriors die. 2. You cannot change Rule #1. 3. Someone must walk the point.” Photos courtesy of Thomas Schueman/Facebook.

“He was that man that women wanted to be with and men wanted to be. He was that guy that could change the outlook of anything,” Stark says in the film.

In For the 25, Laird recalls killing people, living without running water or electricity, narrowly escaping death, and a long list of seemingly miserable things — all with an abiding smile. But Laird’s smile quickly fades when Stark asks about losing Abbate, whom Laird describes as “the greatest man I’ve ever known.” 

Even a decade after Abbate’s death — an event Laird was present for and something he still grapples with — Laird still considers those seven months the best and worst of his life, a common sentiment that reflects the age-old paradox of war’s endless contradictions.  

“It seems like there’s a divide, and people don’t quite understand who veterans are,” Stark told Coffee or Die in August. “There’s almost a sense of fear or pity from people who don’t understand who we are. I think the film kind of communicates that, even though we went through war and were trained to kill, there’s still a place to connect with people who go through vastly different life experiences. Looking back at the film, that seems so much more important than just telling the story of a couple guys going through battle.”

Logan Stark coffee or die Afghanistan Marine Corps Scout Sniper
Logan Stark while serving as a Marine Corps scout sniper in Afghanistan. Photo courtesy of Logan Stark.

Stark’s outlook on the war is echoed by the other scout snipers, and For the 25 remains a definitive account of the fighting in Afghanistan.  

“I wouldn’t take anything back,” Stark said. “I wouldn’t do anything differently.”

Watch the entire film above.

This article first appeared in the Fall 2021 edition of Coffee or Die’s print magazine.

Read Next: What It Means To Be A Marine Scout Sniper, According to 5 Scout Snipers

Mac Caltrider
Mac Caltrider

Mac Caltrider is a senior staff writer for Coffee or Die Magazine. He served in the US Marine Corps and is a former police officer. Caltrider earned his bachelor’s degree in history and now reads anything he can get his hands on. He is also the creator of Pipes & Pages, a site intended to increase readership among enlisted troops. Caltrider spends most of his time reading, writing, and waging a one-man war against premature hair loss.

More from Coffee or Die Magazine
dear jack mandaville
Dear Jack: Which Historic Battle Would You Want To Witness?

Ever wonder how much Jack Mandaville would f*ck sh*t up if he went back in time? The American Revolution didn't even see him coming.

west point time capsule
West Point Time Capsule Yields Centuries-Old Coins

A nearly 200-year-old West Point time capsule that at first appeared to yield little more than dust contains hidden treasure, the US Military Academy said.

Ouija Board aircraft carrier
Low-Tech ‘Ouija Boards’ Have Helped Aircraft Carriers Operate for Decades

Since the 1920s, a low-tech tabletop replica of an aircraft carrier’s flight deck has been an essential tool in coordinating air operations.

Army vs. Navy mascot
The Navy Goat vs. the Army Mule: Mascot Origin Stories

For nearly as long as the Army-Navy football rivalry, the academies’ hoofed mascots have stared each other down from the sidelines. Here are their stories.

ukraine long-range weapon
Zelenskyy Says Ukraine Has Developed a Long-Range Weapon, a Day After Strike Deep Inside Russia

Zelenskyy said on his Telegram channel the weapon was produced by Ukraine’s Ministry of Strategic Industries but gave no other details.

7 of the Best Movie Ambush Scenes of All Time

Ambushes make for great action scenes. Here are seven of the best to ever grace the big screen.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, with his daughter, center right, reportedly named Ju Ae, review the honor guard during their visit to the navy headquarter in North Korea
North Korea Launches Missile Toward Sea After US Flies Bomber During Drills

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that the launch occurred Wednesday but gave no further details, such as how far the missile flew.

  • About Us
  • Privacy Policy
  • Careers
Contact Us
Contact Us
© 2023 Coffee or Die Magazine. All Rights Reserved