Theodore's World: Marine Wounded But Still Fighting

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February 28, 2007

Marine Wounded But Still Fighting

Wounded but still fighting

BETHESDA, Md. - The first round blew through Maj. K.C. Schuring's helmet, creased the top of his head and popped out through his goggles.

The second round felt as if Tigers slugger Magglio Ordonez were teeing off on the center of his back.

But it wasn't until rounds three and four blasted through each thigh that the big Marine went down, a pool of his blood spreading in the street in Ramadi, Iraq. While two dozen of his Iraqi Army trainees and two U.S. military advisers took cover, Schuring took stock.

OK, he thought. I'm still breathing.
"I remember thinking to myself, with that shot to my head, I shouldn't be alive right now - and I was," he said.

Staying that way would be another matter.

In that instant, Schuring joined more than 10,000 American troops wounded so severely in Iraq that they were sent home

Among all branches, more than 550 troops have lost legs, arms, hands or feet - mostly to roadside bombs - in Iraq and Afghanistan. That compares with 24,000 Americans wounded overall and more than 3,000 killed since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

Lying in the street on that sunny morning of Nov. 14, Schuring was determined not to add to the total of dead. The man who had just tried to kill him - a bearded man in a gray dishdasha, a traditional long garment - was running toward him with an AK 47.

"The only thing I could think about was, ` I'm the next captive,' or ` They're going to drag my body through the streets of Ramadi,'" he said. "And I couldn't let that happen to my wife and my family. ... I didn't want her to see me on Al-Jazeera" television.

Additionally - and unfortunately for the insurgents - Schuring was really ticked.

"I was mad, because, well, I don't get shot," said Schuring, 37, who has an MBA. In the civilian world, he works as a quality assurance manager. "I never get shot. And now I got shot. It infuriated me."

He also realized he couldn't get to cover.

"So I rolled to my right side and I brought up my M 16," Schuring said. "I aimed in on him and shot him in the head."

A moment later, a second armed insurgent rounded the same corner, looked down at the dead man and looked up just in time to catch three fatal rounds from Schuring's rifle.

Schuring's first steps on the road to recovery - killing two of the six insurgents who tried to kill him - came when he was unable to take any steps at all. And with those steps, Schuring, like other wounded warriors, began a painful journey to recovery.

Cpl. John Lockwood, a Washtenaw County, Mich., sheriff's deputy, was manning a machine gun atop a Humvee during a Nov. 19 mission to root out insurgents in Fallujah, Iraq. The 26-year-old helped stake out a position, then stayed with Lance Cpl. Jeremy Shock, the driver, to guard their vehicle as their comrades searched nearby buildings.

That's when a bomb, hidden 5 inches below the road surface, blew up.

The explosion killed Shock of Tiffin, Ohio. Lockwood suffered a litany of injuries: two broken feet. Two broken legs. Broken bones in both hands. A nose more crushed than merely broken. Legs peppered with shrapnel wounds. A left eye lost to more shrapnel.

"I don't remember what happened," Lockwood said. "The guys that helped me told me about it."

They stabilized him in an alley near his burning Humvee, then rushed him to Fallujah Surgical, where Navy doctors tended his wounds. He woke briefly at some point, then spent the next two weeks in a medically induced coma while surgeons opened his wounds every 48 hours to clean them. The frequent surgeries help fight infection.

Four months later, Lockwood is still healing.

"I've got a long road ahead of me, " he said, "but I'll make it."

While Lockwood was busy with surgeries and rehab, family, friends and at least a few hundred people he doesn't even know were busy in Washtenaw County. His supporters came together last month at the Farm Council Grounds for what was modestly termed a fundraising spaghetti dinner and auction.

By the end of the day, about 2,000 people had plunked down at least $10 each for the right to eat spaghetti and bid on items ranging from autographed Red Wings jerseys to a ball thrown in the World Series last fall by Tigers pitcher Nate Robertson.

They raised almost $40,000 to help Lockwood and his wife, Lisa, defray some of his costs while recovering. The military takes care of his hospital bills. But Lisa Lockwood left her job and her college studies to be with her husband during his stay at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. And he'll still need her help when his hospital stay ends - which friends say may be as soon as three weeks from now.

"His spirits are spectacular," said Saline Police Sgt. Jay Basso, who visited Lockwood at Bethesda recently. "If I was half as strong as that guy, emotionally and physically ... he's a squared-away young man at 26. I'm in awe."

Lockwood said he's in awe, too.

"It's just amazing all the support back home, " he said. "I'm so humbled by it. All I can do is get better and give back as much as I can."
Marines wounded by what the military calls improvised explosive devices often have a hard time telling a coherent story about their injuries. They remember driving away from a dusty combat outpost in Fallujah or Baghdad, then recall waking up in a hospital bed in Maryland or California or Texas.

That was the case for Lance Cpls. Josh Bleill and Eric Frazier, who last month sat beneath a scarlet Marine Corps flag at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and described their injuries.

But Cpl. Chad Watson, who sat with them, is an exception. He remembers exactly what happened about 9 a.m. Nov. 29 as he led a team of Marines in the streets of Fallujah. The team from the 1st Battalion of the 24th Marines had just searched the car and were starting to roll again.

"We didn't get more than 100 meters, and it was like I got punched in the face like 10,000 times," Watson said.

What pummeled Watson was a bomb, not a fist. The moment he looked down, he knew his life had changed forever.

"I looked at my right leg, and it was gone - completely gone," said Watson, 24, a college student from Mt. Zion, Ill. "There was a big hole under the driver's side; that's where it hit."

Watson's training took over. Despite his missing leg, the smashed bones in his left heel and ankle, a fractured vertebra, burns and shrapnel wounds to his face, arm and eye, he grabbed his weapon and struggled to get out of the Humvee to defend himself and his comrades. But he couldn't free his twisted left leg from what remained of the Humvee's floor. Marines from other vehicles came running to help.

"I remember them yelling, `Is anybody still alive?'" said Watson.

Finally, after his fellow Marines dragged him into a nearby courtyard, a Navy corpsman tied off his bleeding right leg with a tourniquet. The corpsman gently informed Watson that most of his right leg was gone.

"I was kind of like, `Yeah, no kidding, I saw that.'"

Through it all Watson - still the team leader, despite his grievous wounds - was shouting orders.

"I was actually yelling at the guys to get out of the courtyard ... because there were too many of them," and a large group was liable to draw the insurgents' fire, said Watson. "I was glad how I reacted. I acted good under pressure, and I was happy to hear that they told my parents that."

All Bleill really remembers about the moments before the explosion that took both his legs and killed two comrades is gazing out his Humvee window in Fallujah.

"You're always looking outside," explained Bleill, 29, whose civilian job is running a call center in Indianapolis. "You're looking for anything suspicious."

Bleill woke up in Germany with his jaw wired shut days after he was injured Oct. 15. Medical staff explained his injuries to him while he was groggy: the loss of both legs above the knee, a broken jaw, a pelvis shattered so badly it required 32 pins to piece together.

Frazier's story is similar. The 20-year-old from McMinnville, Tenn., was heading out to count Iraqis for a local census when a bomb destroyed his Humvee on Oct. 23.

"It blew up right underneath the driver and killed him instantly," said Frazier, a factory worker. A second Marine also died.

The blast took both of Frazier's legs - one above the knee - lacerated his liver and a kidney, fractured his pelvis in three places, and broke a vertebra , one arm, a wrist, his jaw and several fingers.

"I guess it wasn't my time to go," said Frazier. "I died out there in the streets of Fallujah, and no one can explain how they brought me back."

Now the soft-spoken man from the mountains works every day to regain the physical strength he'll need to again do the things he loves. For Frazier, that means using his computerized prosthetic legs to roam the hills and hollows with a fishing pole or a hunting rifle in his hands.

Generally, Marines like to organize things by threes. Three Marines make a fire team, three fire teams make a squad, three squads make a company, and three line companies make a battalion.

So Watson, Frazier and Bleill have formed their own sort of rehabilitative fire team during their stay at Walter Reed. "We joke with each other, or say, `Hey, we gotta catch up with him,'" Watson said. "It makes us work that much harder."

When they're working painfully to build their upper body strength, they push each other to work even harder. When one is working on his balance on the parallel bars, the others are watching.

Marines have always taken a perverse pride in their grueling daily doses of group PT, or physical training. It binds them together. And the equation hasn't changed much just because they're wounded. Now, the initials "PT" stand for "physical therapy."

"It's the same thing, just a different setting," Watson said. "It's just a different group of guys you're with now."

Even for Marines like Schuring, who is getting rehabilitation through Beaumont Hospital near his home in Farmington Hills, Mich., thoughts of his fellow Marines in Iraq are never far away while he's sweating and groaning through painful physical therapy. Teamwork is something the former center on the Hope College football team in west Michigan has understood for a long time.

The ceramic plate in his body armor saved him from the shot to his back. His Kevlar helmet helped dissipate the shot to his head, which didn't penetrate his skull. And the bullet that hit his right thigh missed the bone.

But the one that hit his left thigh almost cost him his leg, shattering his thighbone in three up near his hip. An infection nearly did the rest until it was brought under control by antibiotics.

His doctors expect he'll make a full recovery - thanks to physical therapy sessions it would take a Marine to love.

None of the wounded men is willing to let his injuries define him. None expressed bitterness. All said they would rejoin their units tomorrow, if they could.

Schuring, whose mission was training Iraqi soldiers, was especially emphatic.

"We were doing good things there in Ramadi - I mean phenomenal things," Schuring said. "The Iraqi army, the soldiers, they're the Iraqi heroes. They're not the best soldiers in the world, but they're trying."

The wounded men have had time while convalescing to process their experiences. They've met cabinet members and generals and members of Congress. Some have gone to the Super Bowl, and Watson was personally introduced to his baseball heroes, the St. Louis Cardinals, by the president of the United States.

But that's all gravy. It's everyday life that's a gift to these survivors.

"This puts everything into perspective," Lockwood said. "You get blown up, and all of a sudden the type of rims you have on your car, that doesn't mean anything. Your family, your friends, that's the stuff that's important. That's what keeps you going."

Wild Thing's comment......

To know as we all do that this is just one of the many stories of our brave troops. I just sit here with tears in my eyes and such pride in my heart of how truly awesome our soldiers are. God bless them all and keep them safe. I pray too that they know every day how very much they are appreciated!

Posted by Wild Thing at February 28, 2007 12:55 AM


Job well done. Get well soon my Marine brothers. I am proud of proud to be your "brother" and except for a few "sh_t-for brains", all of America is proud of you.

Semper Fi

Posted by: SSgt Steve, USMC at February 28, 2007 09:17 AM

Hey all you folks who post here Help is needed
for the kids on the page and on the post from

Spiritual Warfare Needed - Marine Corporal David Emery Jr.
Posted By Blackfive
A lot of you ask what you can do. In some cases, you can do a lot like adopt a soldier or donate to help wounded soldiers (ie. Valour-IT) at Soldiers' Angels.

In other cases, prayers are simply the most and the best that you can do.

Marine Corporal David Emery Jr. of the Battalion Landing Team of the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit was serving in Iraq. David, aka "DJ", graduated high school in 2003. He is married to the beautiful lass in the above photo, Leslie, and she is pregnant. DJ's unit was extended past their rotation date of January 1st and he was hoping to make it home in time for his child's birth.

On February 7th, 2007, DJ was at a checkpoint near a crowded place when a terrorist walked up to the Marines. DJ's Battalion Sergeant Major, Joseph Ellis (a recon Marine of 23 years), suspected that a bomber was approaching and put himself between the bomber and his Marines.

The bomber quickly detonated himself, instantly killing Sergeant Major Ellis. The Sergeant Major's sacrifice absorbed enough of the blast to barely keep DJ from being killed. DJ was hit hard in his abdomen - an artery was cut causing kidney failure - both legs and one arm were shattered, and, in fact, his wounds were so severe that doctors didn't think that he'd make it. They had him on a respirator, fighting infection, fever, kidney failure and other problems for a time before he stabilized enough (just barely) to make the flight to Germany where his parents and wife met him. While still unconscious, his family kept telling him to fight. Then, on the 18th, DJ was strong enough to make the trip from Germany to the US (Bethesda).

DJ had a tough surgery yesterday. His prognosis is hour to hour so prayers at anytime are needed.

To donate to a fund to help the family deal with the expenses of caring for DJ, make checks or money orders payable to the "Nittany Leathernecks Detachment" and mail to:

Nittany Leathernecks
Attention: Cpl. Emery Fund
P.O. Box 956
Lemont, PA 16851-0956

Cards and letters of support can be sent to:

CPL David Emery
c/o National Naval Medical Center
Intensive Care Unit
8901 Wisconsin Avenue
Bethesda, Md 20889

DJ and Leslie will have a little girl soon. I think I'll be able to get you Baby Shower information at a later time.

DJ's father, David, attended Sergeant Major Ellis' funeral at Arlington Cemetery on the 21st.

Sergeant Major Ellis' daughter Rachel said, "He just wanted to make a difference. Anytime he was asked to go somewhere, even times when he didn't have to, he would. He wanted to be there for his troops."

Sergeant Major Ellis was 'Always Faithful' to DJ.

Like Soldiers' Angel MaryAnn, we should be the same.
Take a second and say a word for for the ones
on this post and the ones still in the fight
its worth the time it takes

Posted by: Tincan Sailor at February 28, 2007 01:59 PM

To think that after all these troops have given in serving not only their country but the peoples of Iraq, that there are Americans who join the 'insurgents' in the wholesale slaughter of innocents and the death and maiming of our very own. It disgusts me the most that the likes of Reid, Pelosi and Murtha have undermined the effort these brave fighters have made to halt the terrorists. Like all veterans they will have the nightmarish physical and mental scars for a lifetime while those lizards they served and protected will sleep a blissful sleep without a twinge of guilt for what they have done. Thomas Paine once said "Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigues of supporting it." For more than 60 years half of this nation has sacrificed and protected the other half despite their sedition and treason, those are the "shit for brains", these men and all veterans have sacrificed for. Thank you Chrissie!!!

God Bless our Marines and all our troops.

Posted by: Jack at February 28, 2007 02:43 PM

Amen, Jack God Bless this 'New Corps', this new Breed of Heroes. It just amazes me where they all come from and why are stories like this never reported to let the people back home know what kind of decent, honorable men actually serve their country.

No the MSM wouldn't touch this story it might imply that they actually support this country.

They'd rather report anything that would put the United States in a bad light, like the gutless democrats who would rather cut and run than win.

Too bad for the press, though latest poll shows clearly the American People want a victory not a defeat and surely not to runaway.

Semper Fidelis, Saepe Exertus, Frater Infinitus

Posted by: Mark at February 28, 2007 02:59 PM

Golly, these troops are great. I sure hope the military medical facilities and the VA follow-up treatment are the best. The military is a true minority of Americans who deserve the best recognotion and rewards America can bestow.

Posted by: TomR at February 28, 2007 04:31 PM

Semper Fi, Devil Dogs!
Job well done!
We need to blast medal ceremonies on tv--and show everyone what a super job our kids are doing.
Love to each and every one of you--from a Devil Pup of a Devil Dog DI!
Keep up the great work!

Posted by: Lynn at February 28, 2007 07:51 PM

My gosh, look at what that man went through and we get the sniffles and cry we can't go to work.

Posted by: BobF at February 28, 2007 08:04 PM