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thedrifter
08-29-06, 09:46 AM
Of family and U.S. Marines
Tuesday, August 29, 2006

My brother's son is having his head put back together today.

He was seriously injured July 10 when a deer ran into his motorcycle.

The crash caused my nephew to lose his spleen, and some swelling in his brain required surgeons to remove a piece of his skull.

It sounded pretty critical, and it was, but he pulled through. The swelling in the brain went down. When he went to a rehab center a couple weeks after the crash, he went with a hockey helmet and a sense of humor.

He doesn't remember the accident. When my brother told him what had happened, my nephew asked about the deer. My brother told him the deer had run off.

"Darn," my nephew complained. "I never get a deer when I go hunting." Pretty funny kid.

While he has been healing, the hospital has kept on ice the piece of bone from his skull, waiting for today.

I talked to him yesterday. He mentioned the column I wrote after his accident. I had written about the strong connection between us because we both had sidestepped dates with death when we were infants.

I wasn't supposed to survive a bout with whooping cough.

He wasn't supposed to live to be three days old.

That was almost 22 years ago.

On the phone Monday, my nephew talked about cheating death twice and said he didn't think he'd take any unnecessary chances: He's planning to stay at home -- when he's about to turn 44 years old!

It's obvious my Closest Companion has been hanging around me too long.

She was at a little gathering last week for a co-worker who was celebrating a birthday. Among the people there was a relative of someone she works with, a woman whose son is a Marine. The son, maybe 21 or 22, was there, too.

He's been in Okinawa and is home now, getting ready to ship out for Iraq.

As he was leaving, my Closest Companion leaned over, gave him a peck on the cheek and wished him fair skies and following winds on his journey into the war. Then she whispered, "Oo-rah."

The young leatherneck did a classic Dick Van Dyke double take at hearing her whisper the Marine esprit de corps rallying cry, then grinned ear-to-ear in thanks.

Speaking of Marines, Franklin Township's Sgt. Mike Collins called me again the other day from Iraq. This is Mike's THIRD combat tour of the war and this one, in Ramadi, is a bit different. The last two times, he was a door-kicker, leading his squad in the often-successful hunt for insurgents on the "most wanted" list. Last time he was there, his outfit was responsible for the apprehension of 20 insurgents. This time, he's caught only two. The rest of the time "it's more in your face," Mike said. His Marines are still "being counter-productive" for the bad guys, he said. "We use the cover of darkness to creep up on them."

Mike's due home at the end of September.

Ellie