8:45 | When the vehicle hit an IED, Emmanuel Melendez-Diaz was in the doorway and took most of the blast. All he could think of as he looked down at his shattered body was how long it would take before he could get back to his buddies, but he was beginning a long road to recovery. (Caution: strong language.) Part 1 of 2.
Keywords : Emmanuel Melendez-Diaz Iraq Purple Heart Improvised Explosive Device (IED) shrapnel medic Veterans Administration (VA)
Hailing from the island of Puerto Rico, Emmanuel Melendez-Diaz wanted to join the military from a very early age. Numerous relatives had served and he wanted to do the same. He was asked during processing if he wanted to attend English language school before basic training. It sounded like a good idea.
His first duty station was in Vilseck, Germany with the 1st Infantry Division. Emmanuel Melendez-Diaz connected with other Puerto Rican soldiers and was out on the town with them when he spotted a familiar face at the bar.
Emmanuel Melendez-Diaz wanted to deploy to Iraq and he got his wish. The spartan conditions were bearable, but he had a sergeant who badgered him about his English and relegated him to KP duty. Fortunately, he was able to move to another company, where he was wanted, with the help of some breakfast cereal.
While in Iraq, Emmanuel Melendez-Diaz got the idea he wanted to go to Ranger school. He began hard physical training with Rangers in his unit and one of them had an unorthodox idea. Why not provoke his platoon sergeant? (Caution: strong language.)
It was his first big firefight. When Emmanuel Melendez-Diaz stepped from his vehicle during a siege at an Iraqi police station, the battle was raging around him. This was what he signed up for. While clearing an alley, he took out some insurgents on a roof, but the remaining ones were angered and sent an RPG his way. (Caution: strong language.)
Hand to hand combat was a popular pastime in his platoon. Emmanuel Melendez-Diaz was considered the number two and a guy who outweighed him by a hundred pounds and was a foot taller was number one. That ranking changed.
Emmanuel Melendez-Diaz remembers two things from Iraq that were unrelated to combat, an Iraqi youth he was fond of and a dinner with a General.
Emmanuel Melendez-Diaz describes the long road back to health after being hit with an IED blast in Iraq. Complicated surgeries and slow bureaucracies were what he faced for years, but he did find some allies in the non-profit organizations dedicated to helping wounded veterans. Part 2 of 2.
No regrets. That's how Emmanuel Melendez-Diaz feels about his service, even though he was severely injured. The bond with the others in his unit is as strong as ever and the future looks to him to be full of opportunity.
Bart Cole had a Humvee blown out from under him. The squad leader wasn't seriously injured, but one of his Marines took a round and was evacuated. He wrote the man's family to offer support, something he learned from one of his mentoring sergeants.
When the vehicle hit an IED, Emmanuel Melendez-Diaz was in the doorway and took most of the blast. All he could think of as he looked down at his shattered body was how long it would take before he could get back to his buddies, but he was beginning a long road to recovery. (Caution: strong language.) Part 1 of 2.
The Iraqi insurgents would often set a new device in an existing crater on the road and pave it over to look like a road repair. Dale Beatty was in a Humvee escorting a fuel convoy and he was aware of this tactic. When he spotted one of these patches in the road, he instructed the driver to go around, but this turned out to be the wrong move.
What just happened to us? Bart Cole, along with many others, asked himself that question when he returned from Iraq. It was difficult to just absorb back into society. He stayed in the Marine Reserve and, eventually, his service was again needed overseas.
At first, the wounds were simple. A lot of frag wounds and Corpsman Joseph Poquiz was thankful. One day when he was on radio watch inside an abandoned house, an insurgent threw a hand grenade into the room. There were two Marines in there with him. He was the lucky one. He only had a concussion.
The insurgents used several vehicles as they were attacking the perimeter of the Abu Ghraib complex. The last was driven by a suicide bomber, but he was blown up before he could get anywhere. Bart Cole had to go collect what was left of the driver. A young Marine said he wanted to look inside the body bag. No, kid, you don't.
He was at sea when the 9/11 attacks occurred, then he was locked down at Camp Pendleton. Finally, Marine Bart Cole was given leave at home. Everybody knew there would be some action soon, and a deployment to Afghanistan was scheduled and then cancelled. Disenchanted, he left the Corps and went to college, but he felt left out.
It was miserable in the desert in Kuwait. Chris Tucker gave an earful to a visiting general when he innocently asked, "How's it going?" His superiors got nervous, but he actually had a good conversation with the officer, who answered his probing questions.
When he shipped out in 2001 with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Bart Cole got to visit some interesting places. Thailand was the hands down favorite. Back in Hawaii, a special cruise with family members was loaded up and got under way and it was during this excursion that Sep.11 dawned at sea.
Tanker Chris Tucker had a Hi-8 video camera with him on the push through Baghdad known as the Thunder Run. He sat it on top of the tank as he engaged targets while on the move, capturing the only footage of the battle. He'd been told that once the objective of Baghdad had been achieved, that would be his ticket home. It didn't work out that way.
Squad leader Bart Cole had been there before, but many of the Marines with him in Iraq were on their first deployment. They were in Fallujah, which was supposed to be quiet, but wasn't. Vehicles were getting blown up at the rate of one a week, so they switched to foot patrols.
Marine Reservist Bart Cole was called up and deployed to Iraq. After an uncomfortable stay in the deep desert, his unit was tasked with security around the Abu Ghraib prison complex. He found out why Marines were sent there, because they weren't Army. The Army ran the prison and was dealing with the abuse scandal, which caused a torrent of outrage.
He liked the idea of being a fighter pilot, but Chris Tucker did not have the academic background. An Army recruiter showed him a video of armored maneuvers and he was hooked. He wouldn't be flying, but he would have some awesome firepower.
They had trained for tank warfare in the open, but they were engaging small groups of attackers who were popping up everywhere. Chris Tucker describes the mad dash for Baghdad and how his unit tried to distinguish between enemy forces and innocent civilians. It was during this time that an NCO he idolized was killed.
The Marines were a security force for the exterior around the Abu Ghraib prison complex. Bart Cole was a squad leader who was experiencing the hate and discontent the abuse scandal had sparked in the populace. After a rocket and mortar attack killed some of the Iraqi prisoners, he was given a particularly morbid task.
Chris Tucker had a rough upbringing but, in middle school, he straightened his path with the help of some fine role models. The horrific attacks on Sep. 11, 2001 inspired him to enlist in the Army, so he could be part of the response.
Everybody loves Doc. The Corpsmen were universally popular and respected and Bart Cole had a couple of good ones in Iraq. He also grew to respect the rural Iraqis, who were only trying to scratch out a living like he had done, growing up on a farm.
Before his 2005 deployment to Iraq, Chris Tucker went to a meeting and met a charming lady who would become his fiance. They were both deployed to Iraq and it was during this tour that he had to be evacuated with a serious injury.
Bart Cole felt he was lucky to be doing his Marine basic training on the West Coast. He thought it compared favorably to wrestling, football and farm work and it didn't faze him a bit. He was impressed by the kind words for his family from the DI and that became a foundation for him. (Caution: coarse language.)