Marine from Valdosta wounded in Iraq
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    Cool Marine from Valdosta wounded in Iraq

    Fourteen days ago Cody Finniessee endured a sleepless night. He strapped on gear and headed out on a routine patrol in Fallujah, Iraq.

    Like most nights, Finniessee, a Valdosta native and corporal with the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines, was alert and focused on the mission at hand.

    Minutes after the clock struck 10 p.m. Finniessee’s view on the reality of war changed.

    He was team leader in a convoy of six — four men in the back seat with a driver and passenger in the front. The vehicle was en route to Fallujah and had just passed a mosque when a loud explosion rocked the convoy and thrust Finniessee toward the front.

    “I was forced to the front and tried to get up when I realized my face had blood on it,” Finniessee said. “I told the team I was hit.”

    His team members panicked, but Finniessee remained calm and told them to find his field dressing. He put a bandage on the wound and applied pressure.

    “I would stay calm and give orders,” he said.

    The convoy proceeded to a medical center in Fallujah where Finniessee was taken by helicopter to a larger hospital.

    Surgeons cleaned out shrapnel and packed the wound, which stretched across the left side of his face. His jaw was fractured.

    Shrapnel from the explosion, caused by an improvised explosive device, hit Finniessee’s helmet and shattered the microphone on the side of his face. A small scar above his eye marks where his eyewear hit and nearly missed his eye.

    His cousin and mentor, DeRon Johnson, a staff sergeant with the Army of 13 years, understands Finniessee’s view on “understanding” war.

    “This now makes the reality of war come closer to home,” Johnson said. “When we are over there, you do your job but don’t think you’ll get wounded. You just do your job, day to day.”

    Overcoming past trials

    Nearly two years ago, Finniessee made a public turning point in his life when he shared his story with The Valdosta Daily Times. In 2002, Finniessee, then a student at Valdosta High School, was arrested forallegedly cursing at a teacher and charged with disorderly conduct. He was sent to the Lowndes County Jail and released after a few hours of confinement.

    A judge banned him from returning to the high school until the year 2005. For Finniessee, who dreamed at age 7 of becoming a U.S. Marine, the sentence meant more than his youth. That same year, he became a father. His son, Zephan, is now 4 years old.

    On Sept. 30, 2002, he entered the night program at the Valdosta City School System’s Transition Center and made positive steps toward turning his life around. He separated from friends and habits that led to his old behavior and focused on academics. On Dec. 18, 2003, he emerged successful, having worked 12 hours a day to achieve the credits necessary for a high school diploma.

    He headed to boot camp on Parris Island in South Carolina in mid January to fulfill his dream — to become a U.S. Marine.

    Looking back to look ahead

    On the night of March 21, 2006, Finniessee looks back and remembers seeing two Iraqi men walking alongside the road minutes before the explosion.

    “They didn’t have any weapons, so we let them pass,” he said.

    Finniessee had a standard routine. Sleep was precious and available only in spurts.

    He would wake around 10 a.m. and work until 3 to 4 a.m. Foot patrols, observation posts, home searches, raids … a variety of methods to look for Iraqi insurgents and maintain security.

    He’s seen friends die in combat. He’s seen others seriously wounded. Yet each day, he would rise, a U.S. Marine, and embark on his duty … his calling in life.

    “I want my son to appreciate the ability to walk down the street and not worry about freedom,” he said. “You need to be able to express yourself without consequences.”

    Zephon thinks he sees his daddy on television, and it comforts Finniessee.

    “Every time he sees a Marine on TV he salutes and says ‘da-da,’” Finniessee said. “I know I have an influence on him.”

    Johnson was an influence on Finniessee, back when the-then teen was getting into trouble.

    “Several times I would talk to the teachers and principals … I stayed on him a lot,” Johnson said. “It was a great route he took, he got focused to do something with his life. The Marines made a great man out of him.”

    The cousins laugh, remembering when Johnson showed up at Finniessee’s graduation wearing an Army Class A uniform, the dress uniform.

    Johnson’s mother, Belinda Fair, said it’s hard to bid two loved ones farewell to the desert.

    “I pray a lot,” she said.

    Finniessee served for five months in Afghanistan in 2004 and seven months in Iraq until his injury.

    “We were so close yet so far away,” Johnson said of the two cousins who simultaneously served in Iraq. Finniessee’s injury was the first thing that brought them together in two years.

    Finniessee has 30 days of leave followed by an undetermined amount of medical recovery time. For now, he will enjoy spending time with family, playing golf, watching television and “putting his feet up.”


    Last edited by Shaffer; 04-04-06 at 08:20 AM.

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