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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.