View Full Version : ‘It’s nothing but a scratch’

08-24-05, 05:35 AM
‘It’s nothing but a scratch’
Cassie Tarpley
Star Staff Writer

POLKVILLE — The 24th of June.

The Associated Press report from Iraq that day: “A suicide car bomber and gunmen ambushed a convoy carrying female U.S. Marines in Fallujah, killing two Marines and leaving another four American troops presumed dead. At least one woman was killed and 11 of 13 wounded were female.”

One of the two wounded men was Travis Williams of Polkville, and the news story tells much more than Williams has told his parents, said his dad, Bill Williams.

“I tell you, we were worried when the Marines called,” his father said in a mid-July interview.

The message: Lance Cpl. Travis Williams, serving in the Fallujah area of Iraq, had been involved in a bombing. He was thrown out of the vehicle and knocked unconscious.

Travis told his mom and dad he has no memory of the bombing or its aftermath, telling them only that he was treated for a level 3 concussion and for shrapnel in his left hand.

“He told his mama, ‘It’s nothing but a scratch,’” his father said, “but we worry about him all the time. But I know he could get killed in this country — go down the road and have a wreck.

“I’d been pretty strong until the Marines called me. He’s such a lucky boy to be alive. I just miss him. He not perfect, but he’s a good kid.”

Diane Williams said her son, recently moved up to missions leader, had been on hundreds of missions, “But he said something didn’t feel right that day. He said he’d been out every day, but this day, he said he felt funny.”

Since his parents talked with The Star in July, when they already had hints their son would be out of Iraq soon, Travis’ 8th Marines, 3rd Battalion, Kilo Co. has returned to the States, landing at Cherry Point Air Station on Aug. 14.

Bill and Diane will be driving to Camp Lejeune today to bring Travis home for leave.

“We haven’t seen him in over eight months and we’re ready,” Bill said Thursday.

The monkey’s gone

“I do know that it’s been very stressful, especially when you hear the news about young boys and young women dying,” Bill said. “Me and my wife, we said we had a monkey on our back and now it’s off. This is very stressful on the parents. I’m sure it was rougher on him, but…

“On the news when they honor the fallen heroes, that just gives me goosebumps.”

“You hear of them getting killed,” Diane said, “and you say, ‘Thank God it’s not mine,’ but my heart goes out to those parents and families.”

The convoy bombing was only one of scores of attacks on Travis’ unit. Buddies at the rear of another mission experienced a similar bombing. Several Marines went down, one lying in a pool of blood, he related to his parents.

“Travis and his buddies worried he would die, but he will live,” his dad said. “The bad news is that he’ll be blind in one eye the rest of his life.”

While protecting the now infamous Abu Ghraib prison, Bill said he knows his son killed people.

“He told me he was the fifth one out the door when they attacked,” Bill said. “Bullets started coming over his head, his adrenaline got him pumped, and all the training he had just came out.”

Travis, carrying a machine gun, kicked a door in and shot more than 400 rounds.

Boys to men

Growing up, Travis played Little League football, basketball and baseball, and in high school he excelled in the brickmason class, Bill said.

“He’s the type, when he does a job, he gives it 100 percent.”

When he was little, Travis’ favorite toys were Army men and policemen, Bill said. “He always liked toys with uniforms.”

He joined the Marines in October 2003 and the next year was deployed to Haiti during the civil uprising there, when Marines were sent to help keep the peace.

The Marine Corps has been good for Travis, his dad said.

“He’s gotten over the shyness. At Parris Island, his DI said he was ‘a little bit timid when he first got there.’ We always worried about him when he was little. He was normal, but he always kept to himself. Or if some of his friends were going out partying, he’d find somebody and go fishing.”

That reflects a simple country upbringing.

Bill works for Parker-Hannafin in Forest City building hydraulic valves. Diane’s been a knitter at Shelby Elastic for 10 years, after working at Doran Mills.

“We’re just homefolks,” he said.

“Travis said he wants to come where I work and where his mother works and thank the people that prayed for him. And I didn’t tell him to do that. I can tell he’s really relieved and I can tell he’s grown up a lot. He’s so mature sounding now.”

Bill said he hears criticism of the war, “But it’s a whole lot different when you have somebody in the military. I don’t think you could be in a worse place on the planet right now than in the military in the Middle East.

“People of this country, we take a lot for granted, we sleep at night. We’ve got Cleveland County boys over there defending this country and they need to be recognized.

“Look at Joe Shytle, sent to the hospital in Georgia recently to recuperate. I wonder how many from Cleveland County are over there?”

18102 - 8/23/2005