Sunday, April 03, 2005

Conversations With U.S. Soldiers Wounded in Iraq

C-SPAN Special: Conversations With U.S. Soldiers Wounded in Iraq - Full Show (03/28/2005). Unfortunately the link for this program on the CSPAN site isn't working. Don't know if that is a temporary problem?

I happened on this program last night. It was amazing, informative and so interesting. I never did catch the name of the woman who did the interviewing but I will say she did a wonderful job. She asked very direct, pointed questions but mostly she asked the same questions of all the soldiers she interviewed. It was 3 hours with in depth interviews.

The first soldier was Cpl. Michael Oreskovic and he was with the 2nd ID, Stryker Bridgade. He’s 23 yrs old and grew up in the state of Washington. He just cracked me up, a total right winger and from Washington. He lost his left arm almost up to his shoulder. Michael was on his last mission when they were hit. His grasp of history was so impressive. He read Black Hawk Down as soon as it came out so I guess he would’ve been around 12 years old. He saw the dragging of the bodies of the Army Rangers through the streets and then and there decided what he wanted to do. He was angry at President Clinton for pulling out of Somalia. Michael injected a lot of politics into his interview, he was so funny (talking about the liberals and leftist protesters). He comes from a family with a long military history but most were from the Navy. Such a positive, can do attitude with aspirations of continuing in service.

Major Tammy Duckworth is 36 yrs old and is a Black Hawk Pilot from the Illinois Army National Guard. Her father was in the foreign service of some sort and they lived in many countries (mostly Asian) around the world for her growing up years. She said that’s when she learned to appreciate being an American and the greatness of her country. Tammy joined ROTC after she had graduated from college and was working on a graduate degree. So she was a little older when she joined ROTC. Tammy’s injuries resulted from an RPG which struck what I think she called the chin bubble which severely injured her legs and right arm. Her left leg was amputated to her knee (I think?) and her right left was amputated to where she only has a small length of bone. With her right arm most of it was blown away around her elbow and Walter Reed grafted skin from her stomach, sewed the arm to her stomach for awhile and eventually removing the stitches so basically they rebuilt her arm. It was incredible. Her tendons and nerves were connected so she has full use of her wrist and hand. Just fascinating to see. Tammy’s attitude was uplifting and positive. She also wants to go back to flying helicopters if it’s possible. Tammy was working on her hand strength and coordination therapy with this Velcro board and she made a cute comment: “ I never thought of Velcro as a torture device until I got to Walter Reed”!

1LT Erasmo Valles of the USMC is 29 yrs old with an infantry platoon. He was on patrol in a hmmvvv and was hit by an IED. Everyone but Erasmo was thrown from the hmmvvv, he was pinned. They tried from March 31st of 2004 through January to keep his right leg. Finally, because of infections he decided to have his leg amputated above the ankle. His most telling comment was his interaction with a couple of Iraqi kids. They had secured a couple of ammo dumps and these 2 kids came up to them, at that time they started to detonate one of the dumps and the kids were terrified. He just kept telling them they were doing the exploding and it wasn’t the bad guys attacking. Since Erasmo was infantry he knows he won’t be going back to that job but he will return to the Marine Corps.

The final interview was with Sgt. Manuel Mendoza. His interview was a bit different since apparently Mendoza had already been interviewed since he became a citizen in a fairly publicized event. Manuel has lived in the US since he was 3 and had a legal Green Card. He’d tried to get his citizenship a couple times but just due to bureaucratic mumbo jumbo it kept getting messed up. He didn’t remember anything about the day of his attack. But Manuel lost both of his legs and was in an induced coma for 3 weeks. Other injuries also slowed things down for him, like a hole in his chest and a broken jaw. The shrapnel penetrated the armor plating. He was a chatty guy who was in a different way very interesting.

If you have a chance, I strongly recommend this program. I’m sure my memory hasn’t done the best job of recounting this 3 hour program. For any incorrect military references I apologize in advance, I'm sure there are a few.

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