U.S. Marine Cpl. Garrett Jones was re-deployed just a year after losing his left leg to a roadside bomb while serving in Iraq as an infantry fighter. In previous wars, Jones would have received a medical discharge and returned to civilian life. But the Pentagon has made it possible for Marines who’d like to return to the front lines, to return.
Joseph Kinney | July 24, 2008:
Thirty-nine years ago I was shot in an ambush while a Marine on a night
patrol in Vietnam. I had potentially fatal wounds to my chest and a
serious wound to my right leg. To put matters bluntly, I had never been
more terrified in my life. Would I die? And if I died, would I go to
heaven? I also thought about the buddies I was leaving behind. Somehow, I
wanted to believe that they would be better off without me to slow them
The next morning I woke up at a hospital in Da Nang. The doctors told me
that my days as a fighting Marine were over. Somehow, I felt that I had
more to give but wouldn’t get the chance.
My history is relevant only because there are huge differences between
then and now when it comes to our Wounded Warriors. For the past couple of
years I have had the privilege of knowing Col. Jack Cox (USA, ret.) who is
a stalwart in the Wounded Warrior Program at Fort Bragg. He has been a
great friend and mentor, and has taken the time to introduce me to some of
this generation’s wounded.
There are at least two important differences between my generation and the
young men I have seen at Fort Bragg’s Womack Hospital which is near where
For openers, the Army acts as if the wounded person is going to remain
forever a soldier. That is their basic operating assumption moving
Second, the attitude of these kids is amazing. These brave warriors, no
matter how badly wounded they are, believe that they will soon be back
with their units fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Today, there are 17 Marines who are amputees fighting in Iraq. I am
certain that there are as many soldiers doing the same for the Army.
U.S. Marine Cpl. Garrett Jones says he couldn’t bear the thought of not deploying with close friends in his unit after he learned last fall that they would be sent to Afghanistan. He also wanted to pave a path for other amputees.
Recently, I received a widely distributed email from Col (Dr.) Brett
Wyrick. He was a trauma surgeon at Balad Air Base in Iraq.
He wrote: “If I ever hear (anyone) griping and complaining, I jump into
them pretty quickly, now. Most people over here have nothing to gripe
about compared to Marines. Marines are different. They have a different
outlook on life . .
“One Marine Private was here for several days because he was a lower
priority evacuation patient. He insisted on coming to attention and
displaying proper military courtesy every morning when I came through on
rounds. He was in a great deal of pain, and it was a stressful to watch
him work his way off the bed and onto his crutches. I told him he was
excused and did not have to come to attention while he was a patient, and
he informed me he was a good Marine and would address ‘. . . Air Force
colonels standing on my feet, sir.’ I had to turn away so he would not see
the tear in my eye. He did not have ‘feet’ because we amputated his right
leg below the knee on the first night he came in.
“I asked a Marine Lance Corporal if there was anything I could get him as
I was making rounds one morning. He was an above the knee amputation after
an IED blast, and he surprised me when he asked for a trigonometry book.
‘You enjoy math do you?’ He replied, ‘Not particularly, sir. I was never
good at it, but I need to get good at it, now.’ ‘Are you planning on going
back to school?’ I asked. ‘No sir, I am planning on shooting artillery. I
will slow an infantry platoon down with just one good leg, but I am going
to get good at math and learn how to shoot artillery.’ I hope he does.
“I had the sad duty of standing over a young Marine sergeant when he
recovered from anesthesia. Despite our best efforts there was just no way
to save his left arm, and it had to come off just below the elbow. ‘Can I
have my arm back, sir?’ he asked. ‘No, we had to cut it off, we cannot
re-attach it,’ I said. ‘But can I have my arm?’ he asked again. ‘You see,
we had to cut it off.’ He interrupted, ‘I know you had to cut it off, but
I want it back. It must be in a bag or something, sir.’ ‘Why do you want it?’
I asked. ‘I am going to have it stuffed and use it as a club when I get
back to my unit.’ I must have looked shocked because he tried to comfort
me, ‘Don’t you worry now, colonel. You did a fine job, and I hardly hurt
at all; besides I write with my other hand anyway.’
Now, please tell me that these young guys aren’t the Greatest Generation
that has ever lived.