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thedrifter
04-12-06, 07:44 AM
04/12/2006
Husband came home a hero
BY CHRIS BIRK STAFF WRITER

Richard Jadick saved 30 lives during the fiercest siege of the Iraq war.

Ghosts followed him home.

Snipers stalking the bloody streets of Fallujah. The stench of cordite. Young Marines mutilated by grenades and gunfire.

His wife never pressed for details. After five years of marriage, Dr. Melissa Jadick knew not to ask.

“The details, the full story, he never told anyone,” said Melissa Jadick, a Peckville native and daughter of Ted and the late Marlene Repecki Hemlock. “If he wanted to talk about it, he would.”

She came to understand her husband’s heroics — and his ghosts — a year after his return, unfolding on the newsstand.

In January, the Marines awarded Richard Jadick a Bronze Star with a Combat “V” for valor, the only one given to a Navy doctor in the Iraq war. Last month, Newsweek magazine chronicled his ordeal in a 10-page cover story.

‘I just did my job’

“At times, it didn’t even seem real, it didn’t seem I was reading about my husband,” said Melissa Jadick, a pediatrician. “To hear all this kind of come out, it didn’t seem like it really happened. But, unfortunately, it did.”

The 40-year-old combat doctor gave wounded Marines and sailors a better shot at survival, pushing aid stations into the heart of the battleground.

He patched up hundreds over six brutal weeks in the fall of 2004.

Only one died, reaching a military hospital.

But more than 50 never made the trip.

“They’re not good memories. Why would I put that on her?” said Richard Jadick, now a third-year urology resident at the Medical College of Georgia. “It’s nice that she knows, but some of me thinks that maybe she didn’t need to know, my kids don’t need to know.

“There’s like a million heroes out there. I just did my job.”

The Marines’ 1st Battalion, 8th Regiment set foot in Iraq in late June 2004.

Expecting a short stay, Dr. Jadick volunteered to go because of a doctor shortage. At the time, he had less than a year to serve at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Plans change

New combat physicians typically roll out in July. The idea was to train young medics and prepare the path for his replacements before returning home for his last year of residency.

The most hostile spot on the planet derailed his plans.

Violence had raged in Fallujah since the spring, when the bodies of four American contractors were burned and strung from a city bridge. Iraqis trained by the U.S. military failed to quell the lingering fighting. By the fall, American intervention was certain.

The city in the heart of the Sunni Triangle had become the epicenter of the Iraqi insurgency.

The assault on Fallujah came in November 2004. The 1/8, as it is known, would help lead the charge.

The night before full-scale fighting began, Dr. Jadick joined a patrol scouting the urban battlefield. He was confronted by a logistical nightmare.

Helicopters couldn’t safely air lift casualties from the city’s innards, leaving a 45-minute drive to the closest hospital.

Marines with severe injuries could bleed to death in minutes. Treacherous roads still threatened those who had more time.

By noon the next day, caked in blood and sand, Dr. Jadick and his corpsmen had stabilized seven wounded Marines, stacking them in the back of an ambulance. An eighth never made the trip.

“That’s when it became very real,” he said.

So did the compulsion to drive deeper into the city.

Haunted by memories

In the middle of the night, Dr. Jadick and six young medics loaded two armored ambulances and headed into the city center.

The crew settled in the prayer room of an abandoned government building.

They tossed sandbags in the blown-out windows and laid stretchers across cinder blocks. Amid chaos and miscommunication, daybreak revealed that the medics stood on the battle’s front lines.

The Marine company quickly moved a platoon in ahead of the medical team.

Wounded Marines streamed through the 15-foot by 15-foot room over the next two weeks. A new strain of prayer emanated from the cold concrete floors.

“It’s not really an E.R.,” he said. “We plugged their holes. That’s what we did. Nothing fancy.”

Twenty-four died in the street or on the table during that span. He refused to recall the injuries.

“I don’t like to go through it again,” he said. “The mutilation that war can do to somebody.”

Hot spots later shifted, and the medics set up triage in an abandoned factory. After a brief return to camp, Dr. Jadick relieved another doctor on Thanksgiving Day.

He treated six Marines in his first hour. Four survived.

He lost two more each of the next two days.

Fighting in Fallujah crested by mid-December, claiming 53 Marines and Navy SEALs and more than 1,000 insurgents.

Months later than anticipated, Dr. Jadick returned home in mid-January 2005. He started rounds at his Georgia hospital two weeks later.

‘We all have ghosts’

He returned to a demanding job and a new responsibility — a daughter born five days before he deployed.

A year later, when the Marine Corps called with word of his decoration, Dr. Jadick asked them to drop it in the mail.

The Bronze Star was sent by mistake to his hospital, where an administrator caught wind of the honor. The former military man insisted Dr. Jadick attend a formal ceremony.

He reluctantly — and humbly — made the trip to Camp Lejeune, and was later promoted to commander.

“I just accepted an award for this team,” he said. “It doesn’t make me any better or any worse than I was before. I didn’t do any of this by myself.”

After keeping much to himself, he finally decided to share his story with a Newsweek reporter. The piece ran in the March 20 edition.

He found recounting the nightmare cathartic. Close to 20 percent of those serving in Iraq are at risk for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Witnessing the suffering of others only increases the chance.

“We all have ghosts,” said Dr. Jadick. “You don’t go through something like that without ghosts. I’m currently OK, and I expect to be OK.”

Melissa Jadick expects nothing less. Sometimes, she admits, it’s easier to talk to strangers.

“I think he is better for telling it,” she said. “For me, overall, I was just happy that it had a happy ending.”

Contact the writer: cbirk@timesshamrock.com

Ellie