View Full Version : Portrait of a Warrior

11-07-05, 07:25 AM
Borrowed from hubby Mark aka the Fontman

Portrait of a Warrior

Written by Shannon Wiese
The Warrior Dot Org
Tuesday, 01 November 2005

Dressed in camouflage fatigues and with dog tags slung around his neck, Dave Warnacut boards the plane that will take him to Iraq. A cargo plane, there are neither windows nor seats for the fifty Marines on the aircraft. Instead, they sit in long nets attached to the side of the plane. Parachutes clutter the space and the desert air burns their throats, even though the sky is dark. Dave sleeps while he can, storing energy for the rough days ahead. The 20-year-old carries with him pictures of his family and a camcorder to record his angle on history. A Saint Christopher's medallion hangs alongside his silver dog tags.

The area Dave will protect for the next six months is known as the Triangle of Death because Marines are in constant danger driving through the bomb-littered roads. He will be stationed in Yusufiyah, a city less than an hour south of Baghdad and known for its ominous nickname. Called the Throat of Baghdad, it poses a severe threat to the capital city. It is in Yusufiyah that terrorists draw up their plans of attack and assemble car bombs. Transporting these to Baghdad, they lash out at coalition forces and Iraqi citizens. As a result of his platoon's presence in Yusufiyah, attacks in Baghdad will drop by 30 percent.

After the planes, the buses, and a humvee traveling across the broken country, Dave arrives with his platoon in the terrorist-infested city of Yusufiyah. The usually crowded streets of a city home to 50,000 are bare. The civilians abandoned the city to the terrorists and foreign fighters. Dave's platoon will be one of the first to challenge extremists' control of the city. "Our first day in Yusufiyah we had forty-eight mortar attacks, a car bomb and we were takingsmall arms fire from pretty much everywhere. Everyone in the city was firing at us."

In Western Iraq the fight for Fallujah intensifies. Media outlets provide intense coverage, relaying their videos of violence and the chilling sounds of sporadic gunfire. While many insurgents hold out in small groups all over Baghdad, some of them leave the area. Five out of the ten most wanted extremists flee back to their base of operations - in Yusufiyah.

Dave's first exposure to urban warfare was especially brutal, when on November 12th, 120 terrorists descended upon the newly-arrived platoon. "We were supposed to leave for some sort of mission at 0800. I don't remember what. Probably just looking for buried weapons. We were getting ready to go when there was a huge explosion and the ground shook. We later learned it was a car bomb exploding at one of our checkpoints down the road." Canceling the mission, the Marines are ordered to wait in Wyatt hall, a building named for Daniel Wyatt, the first Marine in the company to be killed in action. Second Lieutenant Wlodarski enters the building, calling for a team to take ammunition out to the 3rd Platoon, which was taking heavy fire. The squad leader, known as "Mad Dog," chooses Joel Correra, Dan McMahon, Thomas Dang and Brant Foltman to tackle the assignment. A few minutes later the officer returns, asking for a second team to evacuate two wounded Marines and a soldier killed in action. The squad leader shoulders the mission himself and chooses Jeff Hauf, Ian Jenson and Dave to accompany him.

As Jeff takes the wheel of the humvee, his squad leader claims the passenger seat. Dave and Ian climb into the back. The platoon's medic, known as Doc Kocher, hops in as well, knowing his skills could prove vital. The convoy sets out, escorted by a few Mobile Security Team vehicles equipped with .50 caliber machine guns and MK19s (automatic grenade launchers). Driving down the dusty road, they pass a squad of Marines sweeping the tall grass and storming houses held by insurgents. "Then as we passed some reeds near a canal, we took fire and it sounded like it was right next to us, so Jeff started shooting out the driver's window…I shot into the reeds and my spent cartridges were raining on Jeff's head." The shots subside and the humvee rolls on.

Moving closer to their destination, the Marines find themselves under continuous fire. "The entire time, there was gunfire everywhere and bullets were whizzing by and bouncing off of our humvee and RPGs (Rocket Propelled Grenades) were whizzing by and blowing up around us." Pulling up to the building the Iraqi National Guard troops occupy, Dave sees Iraqi soldiers attempting to reach their vehicle. Amidst explosions and gunfire, Dave and his group yell at them to stay behind the building where they can take cover.

"An RPG blew up right in front of our humvee, then a few seconds later I saw Doc fall backwards into the corner of the humvee and he was yelling, 'I'm hit! I'm hit! I'm wounded!'"

While the squad leader looks to the medic's wound, another Marine is hit.

"I looked behind me and it was like slow motion. Jenson was falling backwards."

Trying to get a better look at his friend's injury, Doc Kocher tells them to take Ian's flak jacket off. After shouting for a return to the base, the medic passes out.

"Doc was lying there unconscious with his eyes still open, staring at me with a blank look. Then I looked down and Ian was laying there moaning with blood all over his neck."

Turning around in his seat, the squad leader covers Ian's bleeding neck with his hands. Mad Dog's face is red with his own blood, having been hit with shrapnel from the RPG. A burn on his helmet testifies to the near miss of an enemy bullet.

"I realized that Jeff and I were the only ones who were still able to do our jobs, and I was the only one left in the back of the humvee. That moment was the most terrifying moment of my life."

Turning the vehicle around, Jeff sets out to bring the group back to safety. The captain of the Mobile Security Team begins to direct them in between two buildings. Dave and Jeff quickly yell that they have casualties and need to evacuate. With a shocked expression, the captain orders them to wait while the wounded Marines are brought out. A couple of Marines carry their wounded comrades to the humvee and Dave opens the back to pull them in. Once the back is secured Jeff hits the gas. Seeing that his friend is fading, Dave clasps Ian's hand while still shooting at the enemy. Despite three flat tires and no communication with the Control Point, they make it back with one Mobile Security Team escort. Finally close enough for their radio to work, they call the platoon sergeant for admittance into the gate without the threat of friendly-fire.

Unaware of the casualties, Gunnery Sergeant Norman meets them at the gate and tries to wave the group to Motor Pool. Hearing that there are wounded men, the Gunnery pueant runs ahead, leading the battered humvee to Casualty Collection Point. As the vehicle pulls up to the hospital, Ian stops breathing. Marines swarm the humvee, helping the injured Marines out of the vehicle.

"Jeff and I put Ian's limp body on a stretcher. His face was grey and his lips were purple, and they carried him away."

The two unscathed Marines clear the vehicle, picking up Doc Kocher and Ian Jenson's weapons.

"Mad Dog and Gunny were crying and hugging each other. Jeff and I were in shock."

The medical team cannot detect a pulse in the young man, but soon are able to revive him. Dave is ordered to watch the field phone, and waits as the helicopter flies in. While everyone else ducks under the wall of sandbags, Jeff stands still under the helicopter's powerful force.

"The Lieutenant went up and gave him a hug, then asked me if I was ok. I said I was."

Vowing that he will return and take revenge, Ian is lifted into the helicopter. While they will not meet again in Iraq, Dave and Ian will see one another as soon as Dave returns to the States.

One Marine dies during the firefight and seven others are wounded. Despite their advantage in numbers, the terrorists lose fifty three of their company, and another ten are captured. The majority of those who survived and retreated will eventually be found by US Forces.

Describing the challenges he faced in Iraq, Dave speaks of losing friends and the uncertain nature of war.

"After one of your friends gets hurt or killed it's really scary because you could be next. You just think your next step could be your last." A moment later he adds, "Another challenge was hearing news about people back home protesting the war. It just seems really unappreciative. I was risking my life every day and these people were trying to say it wasn't worth it."

While the Marines bravely took control of the war-torn city, thousands of protesters paraded through American streets. The group ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and Racism) sponsored a demonstration to denounce the war in Iraq on January 20 as our forces struggled oversees. Over 10,000 people filled the sidewalks lining the presidential inauguration parade route. Holding signs and banners they demanded that the United States troops should be brought home immediately.

The people of Yusufiyah did not agree. After much of the terrorist activity ebbed, the citizens returned to their homes. Living under the protection of US forces, they were grateful to be safe.

"The people were really thankful that we were there. People thanked us almost every day." A world away from home, the Marines were invited into Iraqi houses, served home-cooked meals and offered tea.

And they reclaimed ownership of their neighborhoods and streets, helping American troops as they could. "Anytime someone moved into the area that didn't belong there they'd let us know. If they saw someone burying a bomb in the road they'd come tell us where it was."

The world's media networks were flooded with images of joyful Iraqi citizens showing off their ink-blue thumbs and participating in the first democratic vote they had ever taken part in, that day of January 30, 2005.

It was an overwhelming turnout. A higher percentage of Iraqi citizens cast their ballots than Americans did in the last presidential election.

Cameras broadcast joyful images of the Iraqis celebrating their newfound freedom. Freedom Dave and his comrades protected.