5:18 | He had a lot of military in his family. High school student Larry Draughn was thinking about a possible military future but after the 9/11 attacks, the likelihood increased. Sure enough, he enlisted in the Marines after he graduated.
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Larry Draughn embraced the trials and tribulations of Marine boot camp. He had a lot of respect for the DI's, who were recent combat vets. Between boot camp and the School of Infantry, he had a solemn task to deal with, the death of his father.
When Larry Draughn made his picks for possible duty stations, he put Hawaii first. Fat chance, right? But he got it and with his fiance he went to the Pacific. He was a replacement in a fabled Marine outfit and there was a senior Marine there to help the new guys get settled.
Larry Draughn loved being a Marine and he looked forward to deploying to Iraq. He did have one problem, though. His upcoming marriage was going to cause him some trouble with the Corps. His advice? Get it in writing or, better yet, get married before you join.
Larry Draughn deployed to Iraq in early 2008. The majority of the work was winning hearts and minds in the local populace. He recalls the time a local landowner mistook a night patrol for insurgents. He nearly got a rude surprise. (Caution: strong language.)
The two main concerns were IED's and the occasional sniper. Marine Larry Draughn was on patrol when he noticed that he was right in the middle of something he'd seen on TV. He had a bit of trust in the locals, but that all changed after a fateful conference with a local sheikh.
He returned from his Iraq deployment a little early to care for his wife. This allowed Larry Draughn to take on a role he relished. He got to welcome new Marines to the battalion and show them the ropes before the rest of the unit returned.
Larry Draughn got to his base in Afghanistan in the middle of the night. He knew it was gong to be a rough time, but when the sun came up, it was absolutely beautiful, a stunning countryside. Then the dirty business of patrolling began.
He had only been in country for a month. Larry Draughn was supposed to be training with a drone, but when he heard that his unit was going out, he insisted on going with them. They found twenty IED's before he found the wrong one. (Caution: strong language.)
Only days after an IED blast nearly killed him in Afghanistan, Larry Draughn was awake and flattering nurses in a hospital in Germany. A man in a suit came in and he had the president on the phone. What happened next caused a bit of consternation. (Caution: strong language.)
His determination to recover from his severe wounds surprised his doctors. Larry Draughn quickly got free of the IV's and took his son to a baseball game. In less than a month, he was discharged. No one had ever recovered that quickly. Then he determined that he would meet the airplane when his unit returned form Afghanistan.
Fishing tournaments and training for hand cycle marathons have kept Larry Draughn busy since he was grievously wounded in Afghanistan. He relishes the time with his family and enthusiastically supports the growing movement for veteran reunions. (Caution: strong language.)
After final training in some questionable facilities, Kyle Wise deployed to Kuwait with a Military Intelligence component of the Georgia National Guard. His unit was responsible for all security screening of individuals and for any investigations that became necessary.
Interpreter Ali Alzubaidi was amazed at how warmly he was welcomed into his first American unit. Some of his family had just passed away but now he had a family of 150. He began to feel unsafe when he wasn't with them, however, especially after he got a threatening phone message.
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.
Kyle Wise has one piece of advice for all veterans. Seek out other veterans and talk to them. Use the organizations that are out there, like the VFW, Disabled American Veterans, the American Legion and the like, to connect with your peers and contemporaries.
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.
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.
Former Marine Kyle Wise was looking to get back into the military, but it seemed no one would let him keep his one stripe from the Corps. The Army National Guard was the one option that let him retain the rank so he joined and became a counterintelligence specialist. The attacks on 9/11 accelerated the training for everyone.
As soon as American forces entered Iraq, Ali Alzubaidi wanted to work with them. He had long dreamed of a free Iraq and he had studied English, so he set out to become an interpreter. The troops loved him because they had no connection to and little understanding of Iraqi culture. It was difficult for many Iraqis to accept them because of American policy toward Israel.
As part of a Military Intelligence unit, Kyle Wise wore civilian clothes, was always armed and was part of the only outfit allowed off base in Kuwait. Sometimes his missions took him into Iraq. Sometimes he was acting on bogus information provided by a civilian, who was after either money or prestige.
Ali Alzubaidi knew that the Iraqi Army had terrible morale and would collapse quickly when the Americans invaded. He was disgusted when he saw his fellow countrymen looting everything in sight. He pleaded with a US Marine to stop them, but the Marine could not.
While he was training up for his second big deployment, Kyle Wise began having some trouble on the gun range with blurred vision. This was just the beginning of some strange health problems that would cause his unit to leave without him.
Ali Alzubaidi grew up near Sadr City in Iraq. He heard stories about the war with Iran initiated by Saddam Hussein, who was insulated from the populace with multiple layers of security. During that war, people were still doing fine economically, so there was not yet resistance to the brutality of Saddam.
His first night at FOB Warhorse, counterintelligence agent Kyle Wise was looking for where he was supposed to bunk. He had his laptop bag and his M-16 slung over his shoulder and was walking along, minding his own business, when he heard the challenge word. What? Why here in the middle of the base? Then he heard a .50 cal charged.
Ali Alzubaidi was a pre-teen when Operation Desert Storm began and the sky was filled with American weaponry. People were terrified until they realized the accuracy of the weapons systems was sparing them. Afterward, the economy got very bad and, as he began college, it was hard times.
After his second tour was done, so was he. Kyle Wise was pretty torn up. He had a traumatic brain injury, bad migraines and significant problems with his legs that required surgery. He has gotten some relief with acupuncture that has reduced his need for some of the many medications he has to take each day.
It was on a modest black and white television that Ali Alzubaidi saw footage of the 9/11 attacks. What did it mean? Who was behind it? As American forces began to deploy around the world, including the Persian Gulf, he began to be optimistic that Saddam Hussein's time would come to an end.
When he finally joined his intelligence unit in Iraq, the teams had been reworked and sent to the units they were supporting. Kyle Wise was then sent to a brand new team where, although he was only the assistant NCOIC, he was clearly the most experienced agent.
Of the three religious groups in Iraq, only the Sunnis were favored by Saddam Hussein. The Shia and the Kurds were second class or worse. Ali Alzubaidi explains that there were many who were not afraid to resist, but the threat of harm to their family members made them hesitant.
It was during a firefight in Afghanistan that his head had a chance meeting with the grill of his truck. Kyle Wise was knocked out for a minute but he gathered himself and returned to the business at hand. When he was being retired, he found out that the injury was Purple Heart eligible.
The training was accelerated. The counterintelligence school was getting National Guard elements ready for whatever would come after the 9/11 attacks. Kyle Wise was getting good at the trade craft, thanks to instruction from a legendary figure in the intelligence community.
It was called Logistical Support Area Anaconda and it was huge. Kyle Wise couldn't believe it. On his previous tour in Iraq, he had been stationed in small facilities. This place had neighborhoods. One thing was the same, the heat. But this time around, there was at least a little more air conditioning.
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.
Kyle Wise had already been to Iraq and Afghanistan with his National Guard Military Intelligence unit. When another deployment was imminent, he went to Fort Dix for more training where he noticed something odd. Hardly any of the instructors had any patches that indicated combat experience.
From 2003 until 2008, Ali Alzubaidi served as an Iraqi interpreter for American troops. Then he heard about the possibility of emigrating to the United States and that was it. He settled in Colorado with his wife and even enlisted in the Army, where he served for eight years.