View Full Version : Another turn of the shrapnel

06-26-08, 11:18 AM
T. Convery: Another turn of the shrapnel
By Tom Convery/When I Was A Kid
Wed Jun 25, 2008, 03:13 PM EDT

Medford -

James M. Flynn III was born on Oct. 20, 1983 to James II and Debra Flynn. He joined his sisters Kristen and Michele.

His formative education was at the St. Francis of Assisi School in Medford and he matriculated at Pope John in Everett for his secondary education. While at Pope John, he played hockey and football.

In his junior year in high school, he visited recruiting offices of all the military branches, but it was the Marine Corps who spoke the clearest to him. At 17 years of age, he became a Marine when his father signed his enlistment paper. He became a member of the First Marine Division and he remembered when his grandfather was a Marine at Guadalcanal in WWII and his trigger finger was shot off.
Basic training of 13 weeks took place at Paris Island.

He went to Jump School (paratroop training), where he earned his Gold Wings for high and low jumps, which were called HALOS.

At Fort Leonard Woods, he spent 94 days where he was a Marine specialist as a combat engineer. He made Private First Class during his schooling period.
He was next assigned to Camp Pendleton as his duty station.

In July 2003, he was sent with others to Egypt for counter terrorism duty and was limited in his discussion with anyone about their function.

In February 2004, he was sent to Fallujah in Iraq where the temperature was 100 degrees and on Memorial Day, the heat reached 132 degrees. The U.S. Navy brought in a shower unit, which was good for 60 seconds.

During July and August, when they came in after a day in the field, corpsmen gave them IV’s because they were dehydrated. When his uniform was taken off, you could see the salt from his body on the fabric. Each Marine was issued three uniforms, a bulletproof vest and a Kevlar helmet, which added another 75 pounds to his frame.

He was promoted to Corporal and he received additional training in a wide variety of machine guns, hand held weapons, grenade launches and utilization of night goggles.

MRE (Meals Ready to Eat) rations were consumed 90 percent of the time and once every two weeks he was given a hot meal.

In April 2004, four Americans working for a civilian company were hanged and burned. The Marines went to the area and found 75 insurgents who were taken prisoners. The area where the Americans were killed was divided into four sectors in remembrance to those killed at the Twin Towers in New York City.

Jim met a Father Devine, a Marine Chaplin in one of his strolls. During an intense battle, Father Devine was urged time and time again to move back to a safer area. He refused, got out of the Humvee, took off his vest and helmet and said, “When it is my time to go, a higher power will make that decision.”

While riding in a Humvee with members of his unit, Jim served as the machine gunner with the upper part of his body exposed. His Humvee hit an IED (roadside bomb) and Jim was half in and half out of the vehicle. One of his men pulled him inside and he learned that one of his comrades lost a foot and another could not see.

He was taken to a Cash Hospital (called M.A.S.H. in the Korean Conflict), where 220 pieces of shrapnel were taken from his body after numerous surgeries. When he woke up, after one of his episodes under the knife, he found his Kevlar helmet with a hole in one side sitting on his chest.

The surgeon told him that another turn of the shrapnel and he would not be alive.

After 14 days under the best medical care in the world, he was asked if he wanted to go home or go back to his unit. Jim said, “I came with my unit and I will go home with them.”

While thinking back, Jim spoke highly of his Commanding Marine Officer, Lt. General Mattis and reported that he was loved by the men. Lt General Mattis was single. When asked why he never married, he said, “If the Marines wanted me to be married, they would have issued me a wife.”

Men who suffered from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) were well hidden and their problems were resolved among themselves.

Three hundred Marines in Jim’s unit went to Iraq. Thirty nine of those Marines died from roadside bombs.

“I learned a lot about life and myself and what a great country we live in. I was lucky to have grown up in Medford,” he said. “The people in Medford helped to make the transition from the Marine Corps to civilian life easier. I now work in construction and I realize that family is everything and everything else is just details.”
Semper Fi.

— Medford resident Tom Convery is the author of “When I Was a Kid,” “I Remember When” and “That’s The Way It Was,” collections of past columns reminiscing about life Medford.