View Full Version : U.S. Soldiers bring wheels to Iraqi man without legs

12-12-05, 07:09 PM
U.S. Soldiers bring wheels to Iraqi man without legs
By Spc. Dan Balda
December 12, 2005

BAGHDAD (Army News Service, Dec. 12, 2005) – U.S. troops frequently bring humanitarian aid to residents of small villages around Baghdad. The projects often take the form of food, soccer equipment, and medical aid. But Soldiers of 1st Battalion, 184th Infantry Regiment recently delivered something a bit out of the ordinary to one small farming village: an “arm-cycle” for an Iraqi man who lost his legs as a teenager.

The 1/184th Soldiers have frequently visited the village — little more than a small collection of thatched homes in the middle of a farming area — and informally named it “Estradaville” in honor of one of their fellow Soldiers who died while on leave in California.

The battalion’s Command Sgt. Maj. Edgardo Coronado first struck up a friendship with the people of Estradaville during a patrol when the Iraqis offered his Soldiers hints on how to navigate the rough terrain in the area.

Leader without legs

Mohammed, the head of the clan, struck Coronado as different, not because he has lived without legs since he lost them in a car accident when he was 13, but because of how hard he worked without the aid of his legs.

“This guy has specially rigged a tractor so he can still plow his fields, and he is going out every day looking to do some kind of work,” Coronado said. “I’ve got Soldiers who complain about working too hard here. I tell them to come out here and see how productive Mohammed is.”

Mohammed had not been able to be as productive as before since his wheelchair broke and he was forced to rely on his nephew or his own hands to get from his house to his tractor.

Extra duty for extra spirit

Coronado decided to do something about it. He went to his motor pool in search of a mechanic willing to build something adapted for Mohammed’s needs. He found a group of people who were not only willing and able, but who didn’t mind putting in extra hours each day on top of the normal work day at Forward Operating Base Falcon.

One Soldier was especially qualified to help Coronado with his vision. Sgt. Edward Dominguez, a mechanic assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, is a mechanical designer back home in Irvine, Calif. He assured Coronado that he and his Soldiers could do the job; they just needed the parts.

“We had no parts, no materials, so I searched the whole FOB every day looking through trash cans,” Dominguez said. “We found a lot of scrap lying around the motor pool.”

Once they had the beginnings of the arm-cycle, Dominguez modeled the concept on his computer in three days. Then it was time to start cutting steel and hand-shaping every part of the bike except the nuts and bolts.

Scavenger search prevails

The Post Exchange store donated broken bicycles and one of Coronado’s Soldiers picked through the junkyard to find every conceivable part that could be used on the project.

The arm-cycle was completed in three months, including many nights where Dominguez stayed up until midnight or later.

Soldiers don’t collect overtime pay, but Dominguez said he was repaid more than he could have hoped when he accompanied the Soldiers who presented Mohammed with his new mode of transportation.

“This is the best feeling I’ve had in a long time,” Dominguez said. “It’s like a little kid on Christmas. It’s hard to live in this country as it is … He does what he can for his family, his clan. That’s why I wanted to do the project for him.”

For Dominguez, it was a tangible example of all the hard work the military has put into rebuilding Iraq.

“I’m just glad that we could help this guy and to see that we are really doing something here,” Dominguez said. “This makes all the hard hours worthwhile.”

(Editor’s note: Spc. Dan Balda serves with 4th Brigade Combat Team PAO.)


Mohammed thanks Sgt. Edward Dominguez, the main designer of the "armcycle," for his gift. Mohammed told the 1/184th Infantry's mechanic, "You are now my brother."
Spc. Dan Balda