View Full Version : War takes boy to manhood

04-18-03, 01:45 PM
April 17, 2003

War takes boy to manhood

By Kristy Gray
Associated Press

GILLETTE, Wyo. — He signed up for the Marines right out of high school and his journey has since taken him through a war, sterile hospital rooms and countless connecting flights to bring him back home.
Somewhere along the way, he became a man.

“I don’t think anybody could go through what I went through, what my whole unit went through, and not be changed. We all changed that night,” Scott Carey said.

Carey, 20, was shot March 26 in Nasiriyah, Iraq, in a cross fire with Iraqi soldiers. The bullet ricocheted off his gas mask that hung at his side and came out his stomach. Shrapnel ripped through his elbow.

He began a road to recovery almost immediately, both physically as he was shipped from hospital to hospital, and mentally as faced the possibility that he might have died on that field.

But his journey began long before that.

Carey signed up for the Marines right after graduating from Campbell County High School in 2001 because he wasn’t ready for college. He wanted the challenge.

He started his first day of boot camp on Sept. 11, 2001, in San Diego, Calif. At first, he thought the terrorist attacks were a story, a make-believe ploy drill sergeants used to scare the young recruits — part of the “tear-’em-down, build-’em-up” routine.

Then they learned it really happened.

Carey still has never seen the television footage of the World Trade Center collapsing, though he’s seen pictures. Recruits were allowed to buy newspapers on Sundays.

Even then, war was intangible. It never occurred to him to be scared as his unit left for Kuwait on Jan. 11.

The desert was hot and dry with sand everywhere. It reminded him of training at Twentynine Palms, Calif., without the water.

“It’s just like being on the beach,” he said.

Temperatures reached the 100-degree mark by the time he would leave.

As long as he stayed hydrated, his sweat could keep him cool.

But when they crossed the line into Iraq, he had to wear his “heavy and thick” chemical suit.

They worked from 4:30 a.m. to about 9 or 10 p.m. He remembers a couple of periods of “down time” and he and his buddies talked of families, home and plans after the Marine Corps.

He considers all the men in his platoon his friends.

As he marched through Iraq, he saw civilians but they had been instructed not to talk with them. His platoon didn’t see the enemy. Their worked seemed like just that, jobs they had been trained to execute.

But then war found Carey and his platoon.

The bullet that hit him on March 26 entered through his back and exited through his stomach, miraculously missing all his major organs. He lay in the field for 30 minutes listening to the bullets flying overhead.

When his fellow Marines pulled him out, a medical corpsman stabilized him in the field and prepared him to be shipped to an Army MASH unit.

Carey was supposed to be talking so that doctors knew he was alive and aware. But Carey didn’t want to. He wanted time to regroup, to think, to grasp what had happened. He laid with his eyes shut.

“We have another fatality here,” he heard someone say.

His eyes flew open. He refuted the claim, not so politely.

Carey doesn’t know what happened after that because he was on morphine. He knows he flew to Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany with nothing on but his dog tags. His clothes had been cut off in the field so that doctors could check for injuries.

He later flew to San Antonio, Texas, and then to Bethesda, Md., hours later. There, he met President Bush, who gave him the Purple Heart and asked him where he was from.

“Gillette, Wyo.,” Carey answered.

The president said he’d have to tell Dick Cheney that he met a fellow Wyoming boy in the hospital.

Carey watched Bush swear in two Marines in a naturalization ceremony. It officially made the men American citizens.

“Two guys that weren’t citizens when they joined the Marine Corps went to fight. For them to come home and get their citizenship from the president was pretty cool to see,” Carey said.

Carey finally came home Monday.

He feels different: After coming close to dying on that field, he take s the time now to appreciate his life.

“When you have people shooting at you to kill you, it’s like you’re a deer in headlights. That’s basically what it was for me. I’ll know what to expect next time,” he said.

Field doctors are called “slicers” because they don’t have time to make their incisions look pretty. They sliced a 4-inch line down Carey’s stomach to look for injured organs and moved him to the next stop.

Carey and his family will dress his wounds each day while he’s home.

They’ll heal, but the slice down his stomach will certainly leave a scar. That’s OK, he says. It marks the instance when a boy became a man.

“I wouldn’t give it up for the world. Who can say that at 20 years old, they went to war and got a Purple Heart,” he said.

“God was looking out for me that night. He meant for me to be a survivor.”

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press.



04-18-03, 01:54 PM
Injured Marines Get Wish: Citizenship President, First Lady Witness 'Amazing Moment' of Oath-Taking

Master Gunnery Sgt. Guadalupe Denogean, his wife, Jeri, by his side in the hospital, is a U.S. citizen. "It's a great honor," he says. (Michael Williamson -- The Washington Post)
By Sylvia Moreno
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 12, 2003; Page A21

Twenty-five years a Marine, two wars under his belt and recuperating from life-threatening injuries, Master Gunnery Sgt. Guadalupe Denogean decided this week he was ready. And so he asked.

"I'd like to be an American citizen," Denogean recalled writing in a questionnaire given to him at National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda. "Why not?" he said yesterday. "All they can do is say no."

Not only did the federal government say yes, but President Bush and first lady Laura Bush stood by yesterday as Denogean and Marine Lance Cpl. Oj J. Santamaria were sworn in as U.S. citizens by Eduardo Aguirre Jr., director of the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Santamaria, 20, of Daly City, Calif., is a native of the Philippines and is with the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines Regiment, based at Camp Lejeune, N.C. Denogean, 42, who immigrated with his family to Arizona from Mexico when he was 6, is with the 1st Tank Battalion out of Twentynine Palms, Calif.

Both were wounded in Iraq; Denogean on March 23 somewhere around Basra, and Santamaria on March 24. No other details were immediately available about Santamaria.

Bush called the moment the two were sworn in as U.S. citizens "profound," the highlight of his visits yesterday to see wounded servicemen and women at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in the District and at the Bethesda medical center. The naturalization ceremony took place in the fifth-floor foyer of the medical center.

"You know, we've got an amazing country, where . . . people would be willing to risk their own life and become a citizen after being wounded," Bush said at the end of his visits. "It's an amazing moment. I'm really proud of them."

Denogean, taciturn and wearing his "cammies," as the Marines call their camouflage uniforms, called the event "pretty special." His wife, Jeri, who rubbed his head and the back of his neck during the interview, cried all the way through the ceremony.

"It's a great honor for us," Denogean said, flanked by his wife and his sister, Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Yolanda Coulter.

Bush visited about 34 soldiers at Walter Reed and 64 in Bethesda. He awarded nine Purple Hearts, the military award for wounded military personnel, and stood by for the moving naturalization ceremony. Santamaria, hooked up and receiving a blood transfusion and in obvious pain, managed to stand up from his chair and halfway through taking his oath of allegiance, broke down sobbing from the emotion of the moment.

"My fellow American. You're a good man. I'm proud of you," Bush said to him.

Bush also hugged Denogean and called him, "my fellow American." He directed a few words of Spanish to him, his wife and his sister: "Gracias a ustedes," he said. "Mucho gusto."

Denogean's family, from Cananea, Sonora, arrived in Tucson in 1966. Every summer, the parents and seven children piled into his father's old pickup and traveled the farms of California and Washington state, migrants working the fields. They picked strawberries, cherries, green beans, plums, cucumbers. "If it grew and it was in season, it was picked," he said yesterday. He and his siblings used their pay to buy school clothes and for a bit of spending money.

In January 1978, barely 17 and after he dropped out of high school in his sophomore year, Denogean joined the Marine Corps.

"They needed warm bodies," Denogean said. "A lot of people didn't want to go into the service because of the Vietnam War."

To him, it was the opportunity to do something more with his life. "I looked at my parents, in their fifties, still picking, and this life was a lot easier then working in the fields all the time."

So he enlisted. "I went in, and it was a chance. But it was all we ever had," he said of the military. "Give us a chance, and we'll do the job."

For 25 years, that is what he has done, serving twice in Okinawa; serving eight months in Saudi Arabia during Desert Storm and most recently in Kuwait and Iraq. On March 23, the M88 tank recovery vehicle he was commanding took five to eight rocket-propelled grenades somewhere around Basra.

He is sketchy about the details because, as he said in his understated way: "They rung our bell pretty good, so I can't remember nothing."

Apparently, one of the grenades penetrated the M88. Denogean lost part of the top of his skull and part of his right thumb and forefinger and was hit by shrapnel in his head, upper back and legs. His eardrums were burst, and doctors have told him four or five surgeries might restore his hearing loss.

Denogean was taken to a hospital in Kuwait and then to a British hospital ship called the Argus, where he was on a ventilator for five days. His prognosis was touch-and-go, he said. He arrived at Bethesda April 4, after a stay at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, where he was walking on his own, the top of his head stitched together with wire.

One day at Bethesda, someone passed around a questionnaire, he said. "They asked if we have any requests, and I said, yes, two: I want my corporal to be promoted meritoriously because he and my sergeant pulled me out of my burning vehicle, despite their injuries.

"And, while we're at it, I'd like to be an American citizen."

He had never gotten around to it, he said, because of the paperwork and the hassle. Now he figured with all the "brass running around, somebody ought to be able to do something." Among the top officials who have visited Bethesda this week have been Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and several congressmen and generals.

Denogean was right. And, after all, he said, it was time. About his newly acquired citizenship, he said:

"It's kinda like borrowing a car and driving it all the time and all of a sudden you get the title."

And he has no loan to pay back either, he pointed out: "I've already paid that."