View Full Version : PART I: Marine amputee rejoins battalion, returns to combat after near death experien

12-12-08, 06:13 AM
PART I: Marine amputee rejoins battalion, returns to combat after near death experience

Written by Sgt. Ray Lewis 1st Marine Division

There was blood in the water. It was a grim addition to the Iraqi sewage canal usually littered with dead sheep and festering fish.
That’s where the Marines of Company E, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division found their comrade after the attack.
Just seconds before, Cpl. Garrett S. Jones was patrolling the streets of Iraq with his team when he was suddenly hurled 15 feet into the air by an enemy booby trap.
“It was just a big dust cloud,” said Cpl. Robert C. Pofahl, who stood 10 feet in front of Jones when the bomb detonated. “I ran toward him, and I fell in the canal. The mud was almost up to my knees. It was probably the worst smell you could smell. That’s when I saw the blood in the water.”
When Pofahl saw Jones lying there, he feared his friend’s life was cut short. Barely alive, Jones’ life was about to be changed forever.
Pofahl remembers an explosion, tumbling forward, turning back around and hearing Jones yell at the top of his lungs. He then raced to put a tourniquet on Jones’ mangled left leg.
“It sounded like I was whispering and because of the explosion, I couldn’t catch my breath,” Jones said.
When Pofahl arrived at Jones’ position, he realized he couldn’t lift him out of the canal. The muddy water almost made it impossible for Pofahl to grab a hold of Jones. So, he called two other Marines to help pull Jones out.
“We got him up on the side of the road,” Pofahl said. “That’s when Navy Hospitalman Matthew Beceda took over. He cranked the tourniquet one more time, but it snapped. So he had to put another tourniquet on Jones.”
Jones was stable, but the Marines couldn’t call for help because the radio that Jones was wearing was ruined from the blast. They sent three other Marines from the squad to run 1,200 meters back to their combat outpost for help. A group of Marines stayed with Jones and his squad leader who was also injured by the blast.
The next thing Jones knew, he was on board a helicopter headed for the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.
He was strapped into a gurney with a military chaplain hovering over him.
“The chaplain asked me if I wanted to pray,” said Jones, a Newberg, Ore., native. “We prayed. Then the doctor told me my left leg would be amputated above the knee.”
Shortly after, Jones was in surgery. He awoke a couple of days later, but said he doesn’t recall much after the operation but a phone conversation with his relatives.
“I just remember talking to my family,” he said. “I remember saying, ‘I hear they make really good prosthetics.’”
Upon leaving the hospital in Germany, Jones was once again strapped into a gurney and flown to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.
“It seemed like forever,” Jones said. “I had a bunch of tubes stuck in me. I was so drugged up I didn’t feel much of anything. I don’t remember much, but I do remember that one of my buddies who was shot by a sniper was also on the same flight. I didn’t know what happened to him, I just saw that he had a bunch of tubes stuck in his chest.”
Military medical officials then transferred Jones to Naval Medical Center San Diego for further treatment. As a result of being restricted to a hospital bed, Jones wound up losing a lot of weight.
“I went from about 160 to 120 pounds,” Jones said. “I was in the bed almost all the time. The only time I got up was to do stretching and go to the bathroom. If I wasn’t in my bed, I was in a wheelchair.”
During his recovery, Jones had a total of 17 surgeries to clean the infected area in his left leg. He was treated for third-degree burns and shrapnel that peppered his left shoulder and both legs.
On Aug. 20, 2007, Jones was released from NMCSD, just in time to see his fellow Marines of Company E return home from Iraq.
“I was at their homecoming in a wheelchair, completely drugged up,” Jones said. “Seeing my guys was emotional for me because we were all so close, and I knew I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them.”