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.
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.
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.
The rumor was that Andrew Witzel's company had been disbanded because the Marines in it were degenerates, but then there are a lot of rumors among PFC's. At any rate it was reconstituted in the run up to his battalion's deployment to Iraq. They stopped briefly in Kuwait, which he remembers as the hottest place on Earth.
He was only in middle school at the time, but the 9/11 attacks sparked an anger in Colin Walsh that never really went away. When he got to college, he was in Air Force ROTC but he felt like he wasn't contributing. The officer path wasn't for him. (Caution: strong language.)
During the Battle of Fallujah, Andrew Witzel's unit was tasked with securing the two bridges where a mob had lynched American contractors. Then, they set up a blocking position on the Fallujah peninsula. His light armored vehicle had already taken an IED blast before they got there and, before they would leave, it would take an even bigger one that nearly knocked it out of the war. (Caution: strong language.)
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.
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.
The men of C Company got a belated Marine Cops birthday celebration while refitting at Camp Ramadi. Even then, it was kind of an insult considering what happened with the awards handed out that day. Their new mission was overwatch on one of the big Iraqi highways, where there was a blind spot between two outposts. That was trouble. (Caution: strong language.)
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.
Joining the Marines was his way out of the small Arizona town where he grew up. Andrew Witzel had a single father and three brothers so the Marine Corps may have been a little quieter. He was still in high school when the 9/11 attacks hardened his desire to become a Marine.
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.
After his Iraq deployment, Andrew Witzel did what Marines like to do. He had a few drinks. Then he had a few more. Eventually, this would lead to him not drinking any more. At the time, though, he was lucky to get an assignment to Okinawa and then with a Marine Expeditionary Unit that would see him on a year long voyage around the Pacific. (Caution: strong language.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
His family fled the persecution of the Hmong after the fall of South Vietnam and wound up in California. Charlie Moua has a hard time believing how the youth of today could mouth support for communism as a system of government.
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.
There was a lot of military service in his family, but Adam Walton resisted the calling. Somehow he enlisted in the Navy when he was badgered by a recruiter to join the Marines. He loved his first assignment aboard a sub tender based in Guam. It was a perfect spot for a young man.
It was shortly after he saw the 9/11 attacks unfold on television that Charlie Moua decided to enlist. He chose the Marines, figuring they would put some guts in him. Because of high test scores, they put him in supply and logistics, which was not entirely to his liking.
When the Navy restarted the Riverine squadrons for use in Iraq, Adam Walton volunteered. First he had to become a Marine for all intents and purposes and he did that at Camp Lejeune. The boats and crews were small but the armament was potent.