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thedrifter
11-27-05, 08:53 AM
A Glint of Silver at 23, Marine awarded Silver Star

By Jon W. Sparks
The Memphis Commercial Appeal
27 November 2005 | by Jon W. Sparks

Abraham McCarver is slightly uncomfortable with the fuss.

He understands discomfort.

He's had three tours in Iraq.

So the 23-year-old Marine lance corporal is putting up with the attention that comes with being awarded the Silver Star -- the third-highest combat decoration given by the military -- presented to him last month.

He came home Thanksgiving Day for a weekend of family and food. On Saturday, the White Station High School graduate was at his grandparents' home in the Sea Isle area, joking around with aunts, uncles and cousins.

But to tell his story to a reporter, he retreated to a quiet corner of the house with his girlfriend, Elise Wainwright.

There, his chronicle of gallantry in action on April 13, 2004, unfolded in amazing, heartbreaking detail. McCarver was already in his second tour and the Marines were making the first major push into Fallujah.

Sixteen members of the Second Squad of the 2nd Platoon, Company B, 1st Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment were packed into an amphibious assault vehicle ripping into the city.

They were cut off from friendly forces. The fighting was ferocious. McCarver saw the vehicle's gunner die when the Marine took a rocket-propelled grenade in the chest. The platoon leader, Lt. Christopher Ayers, was seriously wounded in the leg.

"When the vehicle started to vibrate and shake, we knew it wasn't going to last much longer," McCarver said quietly.

The Marines jumped out and took cover in a nearby house.

But there was still a dead Marine and the wounded platoon leader in the vehicle.

There was simply no question what had to be done.

"I went around front and gave covering fire. Then Gunny Sagredo climbed up trying to get Lt. Ayers down."

Gunnery Sgt. Ismael Sagredo and McCarver struggled to get Ayers out of the vehicle and into the house. The lieutenant was big and weighted down with gear that got caught on a bolt. Enemy fire was pinging off the vehicle as the snag finally gave way and the Marines got into the house.

Rescue came about an hour later, a long hour spent dodging grenades and killing any enemy that came in range. McCarver moved from room to room in the house, dragging Ayers along. The lieutenant, dosed up on painkillers, still had the presence of mind to keep ordering "save the ammo!"

It wasn't nearly over yet.

"We were there another three or four hours because we weren't leaving the vehicle there," McCarver said. "We had a dead Marine inside."

That meant going back to the hot zone.

"Me and a friend, Jeff Starr, went out and helped hook it up," McCarver said, describing how they jury-rigged it to be towed. "Then we took a Humvee in front of four tanks and two other armored vehicles and drove them out. That's with no armor on our Humvee, Jeff standing up with two guns and me driving."

In fact, this is not a story he relishes telling, except for taking pride in how the men in his unit did what they were trained to do. "Everyone knew exactly where to go and what to do. Everything we learned kicked in."

Eight Marines were wounded in the battle, in addition to the one killed. Nine grenade holes were in the vehicle. A hundred insurgents were estimated killed. McCarver, like most of the rest of his unit, had a couple of rounds left.

After that April's three-week siege of Fallujah, the Marines turned over security to the Iraqis. The effort failed and U.S. troops overran the city last November.

But McCarver has hope for Iraq. "In my three years, I've seen a lot of progress."

McCarver is stationed at Camp Pendleton, Calif., and will be getting out of the Marines in April. "I'm coming home and going to school," he says. "I want to do something that will get me into federal law enforcement, something like the DEA or ATF."

His family, many of whom have served in the military, backs him up. "My cousin Danny was in the Army and he went to Afghanistan," McCarver said. "My brother goes to West Point, my other cousin that's not here yet is an officer in Korea with the Army. My grandfather was in the Air Force."

And of course, one more question comes up. Yes, he's seen "Jarhead."

"It's a good movie," he grins. "It gets a little Hollywoodish with guys shooting guns in the air, but as far as the ..." he pauses to find the right word "... interesting things we do on a daily basis, it portrays it very well."

Ellie