View Full Version : Wounded return to Pendleton, recount ‘craziness’ of battle

04-24-03, 06:28 AM
Wounded return to Pendleton, recount ‘craziness’ of battle

By Chelsea J. Carter
Associated Press

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — Navy Hospital Corpsman Ted Bittle spent much of the war in Iraq working to save wounded Marines and Iraqi soldiers and civilians.
Then he was faced with having to survive his own wounds when a suicide bomber attacked him and five Marines in Baghdad.

“Who’s dead? Who else is injured? That’s what went through my head,” said Bittle, 31.

Bittle and eight others, wounded during various moments in the war, returned to Camp Pendleton this week. On Wednesday, they recounted their stories of war and survival at a press conference.

Bittle of Jersey City, N.J., was working with the Marines to dismantle an Iraqi bunker on April 10 when they were wounded.

Bittle and the Marines, attached to the 1st Marine Division, were having trouble communicating with Iraqis who were trying to help them. Then suddenly, he said, there was an explosion.

“At first, we thought it was a booby trap or something,” he said.

Later, he and the others would learn it was a suicide bomber and the Iraqis around them had tried to warn them.

“The Iraqis were trying to warn us this guy was on top of us. We didn’t understand them,” Bittle said.

None of the Camp Pendleton wounded had ever been in combat.

“It wasn’t nothing like I expected. It wasn’t like the movies at all,” said Cpl. Alexander Coates, 21, of Springfield, Va. “It was nothing like I expected.”

Coates, a member of the 1st Marine Division, was injured outside Kut on April 3 as the Marines advanced toward Baghdad.

It was chaotic, enemy soldiers running and firing from the hip. There appeared to be little, if any, organized resistance. Close by, Marines had discovered what they believed was a terrorist training camp, he said.

Coates’ unit was clearing buildings of Iraqi soldiers when he was hit by a blast caused by what he believes was an enemy grenade. Shrapnel lodged in his back, inches from his spinal cord, he said.

“I was angry. I felt helpless. But my only option was to get up and get back to my squad,” he said. “Now that I think about it, I guess I’m lucky to be alive.”

After he and his unit fought their way clear of the Iraqi soldiers, he was flown to a Kuwait hospital.

“The biggest lesson I learned? Don’t take anything for granted, especially being alive,” he said.

Lance Cpl. Jorge Lopez, 21, had just gotten through a six-hour firefight outside one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces in Baghdad when the war came to an abrupt end for him.

Lopez was hit in the leg by shrapnel from an explosion.

“I felt this numbness in my leg, and somebody said ‘Jorge, you’re bleeding. Lopez, you’re hit.’ Then they got me out of there,” he said.

Lopez said before the war, he believed he would face soldiers like himself — armed men in uniform.

“It wasn’t like that at all. The enemy did not have the courage, I guess,” he said.

Instead, he encountered soldiers in civilian clothing and non-Iraqi Arabs fighting a guerrilla war.

Lopez said the worst part of the wound was having to leave the men in his unit.

“I helped train some of those guys,” he said. “It feels strange to be back here and they are still there.”

Cpl. Kavir Dawani, 24, of Grove, Okla., was wounded April 10 in Baghdad by a rocket-propelled grenade that ricocheted off his hand ands face, bounced off the Marine standing next to him and exploded.

“It felt like Mike Tyson knocked me out. He (the other Marine) looked worse than I did,” he said. “All he would talk about is when he got home how he wanted to see his daughter. All I was thinking about was him and his daughter, and would he get to see her.”

Dawani said in the moments after the explosion were chaotic.

“We got up and were running for cover behind (vehicles) and I thought, ‘Man, this is like a movie, all the craziness,” he said.

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press



04-24-03, 10:23 AM
sounds like we will have many stories to read about from this war.

04-24-03, 10:50 AM
Some of those stories are posted here! Lots of news reports and articles from the war , too! We all watched it pretty close. Everything we heard made us proud to be Marines!

Waitin' for word back from a couple of the members here who are over in Iraq right now! Ross is about due to check in, btw. He was emailin' some of us when he had time and access.