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Thread: A marine fights back
12-15-05, 08:46 AM #1
A marine fights back
A marine fights back
Former Twin Falls athlete loses both legs in Iraq
By Sandy Miller
TWIN FALLS -- On the high school track, his powerful legs carried him over hurdles in record time.
Today, the 24-year-old Marine's legs are gone and he's facing the biggest hurdle of his life.
His enemies might have taken his legs, but they couldn't touch his fighting spirit.
Marine Cpl. Travis Greene, a 1999 Twin Falls High School graduate and a star on the Bruin track and field team, woke up early Wednesday morning in the intensive care unit on the fifth floor of the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., and demanded they take "that damn thing out." He was referring to his ventilator.
"We had good news this morning when we walked in and saw him," said his mother, Sue Greene, in a phone interview from the hospital on Wednesday. "He was off the respirator and the swelling has gone down."
It was the first time Sue and her husband, Terry, had heard their son's voice since before Dec. 7, the night they got the phone call every parent of a child in the military dreads. On the other end was a gunnery sergeant from the Marine base at Twentynine Palms, Calif. The gunnery sergeant got straight to the point.
"He said, 'Your son has been severely wounded and he's lost both legs.' I immediately fell apart," the Marine's mother said.
"I was just sick. He is so athletic. I thought, 'How is he going to handle this?'"
Greene was on his third tour of Iraq, stationed in Ar Ramadi, an insurgent hot spot west of Baghdad. He and a few of his fellow Marines with the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment were on a Quick Response Unit mission, helping to load some Marines who'd been injured in an explosion into the back of a 7-ton truck. Suddenly, there was a second explosion, which blew off both of Greene's legs above the knees. Three other Marines and one Navy corpsman also lost one or both of their legs, and two of them were badly burned. They were treated at a battlefield hospital and then taken to Germany and on to Bethesda. By the time Greene arrived back in the United States, he'd already been given 79 units of blood.
His parents arrived at his bedside last Sunday night. They've spent just about every waking hour there since.
"We stay by his side," his mother said. "He sleeps for awhile and comes back. We have lots of support from the other families."
His fellow Marines and the Navy corpsman are recovering in the same hospital and the families have found strength in each other, his parents said. The Marines have provided the families with a place to stay near the hospital.
Terry Greene said his son is as "feisty" as ever, even though he's quite medicated. When the head of the trauma team came into his room and asked, "On a scale of 1 to 10, how is your pain?," the Marine responded by saying, "What kind of dumb-ass question is that?" The Marine finally admitted his pain was about a 4, but nothing like it was when it happened.
A gracious competitor
Jerry Kleinkopf has coached at Twin Falls High School for more than half a century. Now retired, he coaches part-time. He heard about what happened to his former athlete in an e-mail from the school's secretary.
"I was pretty distressed," Kleinkopf said. "I still am."
Greene first hit the track in the spring of his ninth-grade year at Vera C. O'Leary Junior High School. It was obvious from the start he had natural talent.
"He was the first ninth-grader to go to state in a number of years," his mother said.
He brought that talent with him to Twin Falls High School, where he competed in high hurdles, intermediate hurdles, four-by-two relay and long jump.
"He was the first person I ever had who qualified for the state meet in hurdles as a freshman," Kleinkopf said. "Then he qualified all four years. He broke the school record in the intermediate hurdles."
But being a good competitor is about more than winning. At the 1999 state championship, Greene seemed a sure bet for the gold in the 300-meter hurdles, but he ended up with the silver.
"Two weeks before the state meet, he wanted to help the team, score a few points here and a few points there," Kleinkopf said. "He wanted to long jump and it threw him off his routine. The long jump just took too much out of his legs."
But Greene was jOK with his silver medal. He knew he'd given it his all.
"He didn't like to lose, but he was gracious when it happened," Kleinkopf said. "He was a jewel to work with. He'd do anything you asked him to do. He studied the hurdles, the technique. He'd look at film clips. He was always a leader. He had the respect of everyone on the team because he had a good personality and he was popular. He was definitely a leader."
Greene's talent, hard work and determination earned him a track scholarship to Boise State University.
From student to Marine
Greene was in his junior year at BSU studying criminal justice when he upped and joined the Marines. His mother was not thrilled.
"I cried," she said. "It was just before we went to war. I said, 'Do you realize we're going to war?' and he said, 'Yep.' I said, 'Do you realize you're going to get shot at?' and he said, 'Yep.'"
There was nothing she could do about it. Her baby was grown up.
Greene began his third tour of Iraq in September. He is a proud Marine.
"When you said to him, 'We sure appreciate what you're doing over there,' he'd just say 'I'm doing my job,'" his father said.
Now, Greene is embarking on a new journey -- that of getting well. His parents said he'll probably spend at least another month in Bethesda and will then head off to rehab at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., or another rehabilitation center in Texas. Then he'll begin the painstaking business of physical therapy and learning to walk again on prostheses.
"They tell us the prosthetics these days are phenomenal," his mother said. "If he wants to learn to ski, they'll teach him how to ski."
And then he might just follow in Kleinkopf's footsteps.
"I know that his goal is to come back home and be a teacher and be a coach," his father said. "That's what he indicated he wanted to do when he got out of the Corps. That's a very doable goal."
Kleinkopf thinks it's a great idea.
"I'd be delighted to have him come back here and help us," he said.
Greene's father said the same thing that spirited his son over all those hurdles years ago will surely get him over this one.
"It's his winning spirit that's going to help him come through it," Terry Greene said. "He exceeds at every challenge that's put before him."
Times-News writer Sandy Miller can be reached at 735-3264 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
IN LOVING MEMORY OF MY LATE HUSBAND, SSgt Roger A. Alfano, USMC
ONE PROUD MARINE
Once a Marine...Always a Marine
12-15-05, 10:48 AM #2
all i can say is that he is what MARINES are made of. I hope he suceeds in everything he does. and i would like to say Thank You MARINE. a job well done I hope your new legs take you to wonderful places. GOD BLESS YOU.
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