View Full Version : Wounded Marines describe action

04-17-03, 06:46 AM
April 16, 2003

Wounded Marines describe action

By William Holmes
Associated Press

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — Cpl. Eric McCue had proudly pinned his Purple Heart medal on his T-shirt. His new pal, Sgt. John Dale, was hesitant to put his on.
First off, Dale had only one free hand to work with. Secondly, he was distressed by the idea of displaying his medal on “a dress” — his hospital gown.

He relented when McCue volunteered to pin it on a sling supporting the shattered bone of Dale’s upper arm — a sign of the kinship among wounded Marines returning from Iraq.

Three of those wounded, including McCue and Dale, are recovering at Camp Lejeune Naval Hospital where, on Wednesday, they recalled the events that led to their injuries as their mothers watched quietly from the back of the room.

McCue, 21, of South Portland, Maine, was among the Camp Lejeune infantrymen who marched into Nasiriyah through blinding sandstorms. His unit occupied a schoolyard and put out word March 31 that they would be accepting prisoners of war.

About 12:30 p.m. on April 1, McCue was taking his turn handling those who chose to surrender. As he and another Marine headed back toward the building where his unit was holed up, there was an explosion.

McCue’s legs were knocked out from beneath him. Stunned but conscious, he immediately checked on his companion. That man, uninjured, noticed McCue’s feet — bloody from the apparent land mine explosion.

“At first, I didn’t know it was me,” McCue recalled as he sat in a wheelchair, his legs encased in casts nearly up to his knees.

His left big toe was gone and the one next to it dangled from his foot. Fearful of other land mines, fellow Marines were keeping their distance until they figured out how to probe the area.

“They didn’t want to get close to me,” McCue said. “I pretty much started crawling to them.”

He suffered shrapnel injuries to both feet from the ankles down and lost the two toes on his left foot. He had six operations before arriving Saturday at Lejeune’s hospital, where a seventh was scheduled for Thursday.

Dale, 27, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., arrived at Lejeune the same day as McCue.

Dale was an active duty member of the military from 1993-97 who returned to the reserves in 2002. He was called active duty in January, leaving behind his job as a computer repairman.

His unit had been attached to Lejeune’s 2nd Tank Battalion.

Dale normally handles a missile system capable of destroying tanks, but on April 2 he was manning a machine gun on a Humvee rolling north on the outskirts of Baghdad.

The Marines had encountered little resistance until about the time they crossed the Tigris River, Dale said. Iraqi soldiers camped by the roadside began to fire rocket-propelled grenades at them and lit fires in trenches that had been filled with oil.

After passing by the ditches, “That’s when they started popping up,” Dale said.

The battalion had run into the toughest firefight of their short time in Iraq, Dale said. He took a bullet in his left arm.

“To me, it felt like someone hit me in the arm with a baseball bat,” Dale said. “My arm just hung down by my side.”

The bullet crushed his humerus bone before tearing through his shoulder and going out his back.

Dale ducked back into the truck and called for help. Another truck got him to a helicopter that took him to a hospital.

At least four men in his reserve unit were injured in the fighting that day, Dale said.

“All of them are doing good,” he said.

McCue longs to rejoin to his fellow Marines in Iraq. But he has six to 12 months of rehabilitation ahead.

“Obviously, with my injuries, it’s good to be home,” he said. “But I’d rather be with the guys.”

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press.



04-17-03, 06:48 AM
April 16, 2003

All that glittered was not gold, wounded Marines say

By Panos Kakaviatos
Associated Press

LANDSTUHL, Germany — All was not as it appeared in Iraq, Marines recovering from combat injuries said Wednesday, describing snipers and suicide bombers in cheering crowds — and the surprising discovery that some of the gold in Saddam Hussein’s palace was actually plastic.
For each of the wounded, there was a moment when the price of the Iraq war crystalized.

“It wasn’t until the night that we crossed the line of departure that I knew I was going to war,” said Marine Pfc. Michael Wayne Meyer, 18, of Austin, Texas. “It’s no World War II. It’s no Vietnam. But still people have died for their country, and people have been injured.”

Meyer, of the 1st Marine Division based at Camp Pendleton in San Diego, Calif., is one of 223 wounded troops to be treated at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in southwestern Germany, the U.S. military’s largest hospital abroad.

Reserve platoons like his usually showed up after the Iraqis had given up, so they rarely saw fire — until a sniper started shooting as they unloaded equipment one day.

Meyer was shot eight times — but two bullets were stopped by the breastplate in his flak jacket. Meyer never made it to Baghdad, but he says he has no regrets.

“Coming home alive,” was his main goal, he said.

Marine Capt. Shawn Basco of Cleveland was wounded on the lawn of one of Saddam’s palaces in Baghdad on April 10, his 33rd birthday.

Marines took the palace within 20 minutes, he said, but it took seven hours more before they secured the surrounding area. A forward air controller, Basco had taken the lawn next to Saddam’s pool as a landing pad for CH-46 helicopters.

He was wounded by shrapnel from a volley of rocket-propelled grenades after the second helicopter landed.

The more seriously wounded were evacuated first, and Basco had three hours to get a good look at the palace. He envisioned gold fixtures and state-of-the art technology.

Instead, Saddam’s bathroom had gold plastic fixtures. The telephone had a rotary dial. And the television in Saddam’s bedroom was a black-and-white RCA, with wood-laminated stickers decorating the VCR.

“He had pink sheets, cheap pink sheets,” Basco said.

Basco and other wounded troops recalled being welcomed by Iraqis into Baghdad — but that did little to dispel their uneasiness. Worries remained that Iraqi soldiers who had discarded their uniforms were hiding among civilians. But ordinary Iraqis at times provided vital warnings to U.S. forces.

“They were quick to show us their enemy positions that were posed to hit us,” Basco said.

Even in the tense days when U.S. forces were gaining control of Baghdad, Marine Cpl. David McCallen recalled civilians helped warn Marine guards at a checkpoint that a suicide bomber was approaching.

McCallen, 23, of Columbus, Ohio, suffered shrapnel wounds in the April 10 attack at a U.S. checkpoint in Baghdad. He was one of four Marines wounded in the attack, but he says it could have been worse.

“The civilians noticed one man running up on us... strapped with explosives. He got within just a few feet of us and detonated himself,” McCallen said. “The civilians, they helped us out. They saved a number of people from getting hurt.”

McCallen said the crowds of civilians welcoming U.S. troops also created an uneasy environment — providing a distraction and cover for Iraqi fighters.

“Our fight is not with the Iraqi people. Our fight is with Saddam’s regime,” he said.

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press.