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.
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.
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.
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.
He was raised by a Marine, so when Josh Lipe went off to boot camp himself, he knew exactly what to expect. He was amused instead of intimidated by the mind games but there was one problem. He injured his ankle and kept on going. That was a mistake.
The battalion commander had let it be known. We are going to deploy soon. We don't know when or where we are going but we will be going. Knowing how his CO thought, Joel Reinesch knew he would be right at the front, wherever it was.
Fallujah had been cordoned off and the supply lines for the Marines were stretched thin. Eddie Wright was in the lead vehicle of a convoy and he passed the word, it looked like they were going to get ambushed. Keep going, he was told. They should have listened to him. The fire started on the right side and then the whole world opened up. They were in a kill zone. Part 1 of 4. (Caution: strong language)
When the 9/11 attacks occurred, Josh Lipe was at Security Forces school in Chesapeake, VA. The base instantly went on war footing and students were put on guard with live ammo. Rumors were flying as the young Marines waited in suspense to find out if more attacks were coming.
After being pulled out of Fallujah, Joel Reinesch saw his fiercest action in the town of Karmah. As a forward observer, he lost count of the fire missions he directed that day. Eventually, he exhausted the battery's supply of rounds. (Caution: strong language)
Eddie Wright had just taken a hit from an RPG. His mind went through several states of semi-consciousness and, when the lights came back on, he began to feel pain. He looked at one arm and then the other and then at his leg. He didn't see anything good. He knew he needed to put tourniquets on but he had one major problem with that. Part 2 of 4. (Caution: strong language)
As part of the Marine Corps Security Forces, Josh Lipe's unit was assigned tasks such as guarding embassies and safeguarding nuclear fuel transfers. When the bombing range in Puerto Rico was reopened following the 9/11 attacks, they had to mix it up with some local protestors.
The Marines were living in converted shipping containers and stuck with bad chew and bad Iraqi cigarettes. The desert cammies were filthy so Josh Lipe had his squad change into greens so they could wash them. This led to some incoming from a stiff First Sergeant. (Caution:strong language)
His father was an Air Force medical officer and would take him out on morning runs. That's where Eddie Wright saw his first Marines. They were running in formation and he thought they were just the best. He would be a Marine. (Caution: strong language)
It finally caught up with him. Josh Lipe had gritted his teeth and kept going back in the School Of Infantry when he injured his ankle and foot. Now he had a bone spur that required surgery just as his unit prepared to deploy to Iraq. He was going to miss the deployment.
When he pushed into Iraq, Jason Wilebski was part of the Marine infantry attached to a tank unit. At first, he could only hear the sound of the building battle as he rode in a sealed up Amtrac. When he dismounted, he saw a couple of Cobras take out some Iraqi tanks. It was a dazzling display of firepower. (Caution: strong language)
The wait in Kuwait was long, hot and dusty. Marine mortarman Joel Reinesch was excited to get the invasion underway but, at first, it was just a boring drive. Until it wasn't. The unit would soon suffer their first KIA in combat.
Josh Lipe had a feeling they were headed into an ambush and he was right. He should have been OK. He was in the second truck and they usually tried to take out the first or the last, but in this IED attack, his truck was hit. The blast knocked him out and when he came to, he began to check on the rest of his guys. Their reactions when they saw him let him know how badly wounded he was. (Caution: strong language)
I should be saluting you. That's what the DI said to Joel Reinesch after looking over his records, implying that the recruit was officer material. He didn't go to OCS but he was made the Scribe and the Prac Recruit. Now he had responsibilities, which worked out fine. (Caution: strong language)
Before he rotated back to the States, Eddie Wright and some of his buddies met Gen Jim Mattis, who made a lasting impression. The young Marine saved his phone number and set out to pass the screening to become a Recon Marine. It had been his goal for a long time but it was going to be tough. (Caution: strong language)
He walked into the hospital at Al Asad under his own power but Josh Lipe was soon out cold for 36 hours. He'd been badly injured in an IED attack and was in a frenzy when he woke up. Take me back to my men! That was impossible and he was flown back to the US to recover. The transition was not easy. (Caution: strong language)
It was great to have a Spectre gunship overhead. Jason Wilebski really appreciated the cover from the air as he fought on the ground in the Iraqi town of Karmah. His unit was taking sniper fire from a mosque but there was a solution for that. (Caution: strong language)
The sky was full of munitions as Eddie Wright crossed into Iraq. He was moving fast and his outfit was out in front of any other Marine unit. Suddenly, there were three trucks full of Iraqis with questionable intent. Those were easily handled but then a full blown battle was under way and he got his baptism of fire. (Caution: strong language)
He was on patrol and running missions for a month in Fallujah and Josh Lipe was finally getting the benefit of all the training he had gone through. His squad was comprised of Marines that were straight out of central casting, some real characters.