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A Time for Thanksgiving

Posted By Blackfive

Randy sends this email, a must read if ever there was one, that he received from Captain James Eadie today:

A Time for Thanksgiving
As Thanksgiving quickly approaches, I eagerly anticipate the plates of turkey and stuffing, the moments of camaraderie around the TV watching football and the sharing of stories amongst friends, but it is the soldiers’ stories of bravery and courage that should be shared on this day of Thanksgiving.

I had the rare chance to talk in depth with one of my CCATT patients on our last flight, a young 24 year old Marine from Camp Pendleton, California. It is Javier’s story hangs with me this day. Javier gave me permission to share his story with you, a true story of heroism, and sacrifice that deserves to be told on Thanksgiving.

On the morning of 16 November 2005, the Marines of 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment were taking part in operations along the Iraq-Syrian board to clear the towns of insurgents.   

Javier, a strong and sturdy looking square jawed Marine Corporal was on his third deployment to Iraq. He had seen heavy combat in his previous two deployments, and had been injured once before earning him a Purple Heart. On this day he was in command of a Squad of fourteen men. I knew just by talking to him that his men were fortunate to have him leading them into battle. He spoke with clarity and confidence of a man twice his age. In the truest essence, he was a Marine.

On this morning Javier’s Squad was providing tank security (I still don’t fully understand how infantry provides security to tanks, but that’s why I am in medicine).

The morning of the 16th started like many – early. The operation was going well. The Marines were taking some fire, but were successfully clearing the town they had been assigned. Urban warfare is extremely dangerous. Each house must be searched before it can be “cleared.” US and Iraqi Security Forces have taken heavy losses in past urban offenses such as Fallujah. Javier had no intention of letting that happen to his men today. 

As the tanks were rolling down the street they began taking heavier fire. The Squad broke into a brisk jog to keep up with the tanks as they pushed forward into the fire fight. Ahead was a house that seemed to be the focus of the fight. Lying in the doorway to the house was a downed Marine. He laid motionless spread across the sill. Further in there lay another Marine.

The Platoon Sergeant grabbed Javier and told him to send his half of his Squad to the house to pull out the downed Marines. Normally, the Squad leader would stay back to coordinate the assault, but Javier told me ‘I could not send my men into harms way without me.”

Taking point, Javier led his five man team towards the house. Shots rang out around them as they advanced. They could see the downed Marines ahead. A young Lieutenant lay face down outside the house. Javier did not know if he was still alive. They would have to act quickly if they were to save him and the others.

As they approached the house the enemy fire intensified and Javier felt a sudden sting and burning in his right leg. He looked down at his leg. Damn, he thought, “I’ve been shot.” He indeed had taken two bullets to his thigh, but he pushed on.

Undeterred, Javier continued to lead his men towards the house. With increasing fire, they took up a defensive posture against the house wall. Slightly protected there, he began tending his wounds with direct pressure as the others returned fire. He could see several downed Marines only arm lengths away, but they could not be reached safely.  Gun fire continued to rain down on them. Another member of the squad was hit. They were in a bad position.

What happened next was recalled to me by the Medic that they called Doc. During the barrage of fire, with their backs literally up against a wall an enemy grenade was thrown out of a window landing in the middle of the five men. Doc told me “It was amazing. I was applying pressure to one of the injured soldiers when someone yelled out GRENADE. Javier just dove at the grenade.  I have never seen anything like it.” 

Javier grabbed the grenade with his right hand. He told me “I knew I only had three to five seconds before it would go off.” With his body shielding his men from the grenade, he made a valiant effort to heave the grenade away. As the grenade left his hand it exploded.

Javier’s right hand was immediately amputated at the wrist. Shrapnel from the grenade penetrated his left thigh. Others in his group took shrapnel to their arms and legs, but no one lost their life.

Doc told me on the plane that he was convinced that they all would have died if it were not for Javier’s heroic actions.

The fighting continued. As more Marines approached the house to provide covering fire, Javier now with two gun shot wounds to his right leg, shrapnel to his left leg and an amputated right hand worked to get his injured men clear. With the aid of his Platoon Sergeant, Javier and his men walked out of the kill zone to the casualty collection point away from the fighting.

Doc stayed in the fight for a while despite being hit with shrapnel from the grenade. He tended to the downed Marines and at one point crawled into the house to pull out the Marine who lay inside. Unfortunately, most of the Marines they came to help had been fatally injured. There was little that could be done. Doc continued to care for the downed soldiers until others noted his wounds. Doc was finally escorted out of the fight to attend to his injuries.

In all told, Javier’s Squad took heavy injuries. We air lifted out 6 members who had sustained shrapnel injuries and one who lost his leg. Javier clearly took the brunt of the injuries, but miraculously no one lost their life. Javier’s selfless action had saved the lives of many men.

I spoke at length with Javier on the flight to Germany. Perhaps it was the awe that I felt talking with him that kept me coming back, or maybe the fact that his men admired him so much. In the end, I think I was drawn in by him because he was just like you and me. He was real. A soldier who had done everything asked of him by his country. He fought with honor and dignity, and led his men with courage. Above all, he put his men’s life above his and protected them from harm.

He didn’t ask for honors or special treatment. His biggest concern when we were loading him onto the plane was his fellow soldiers. He would not lie down until he had visualized and spoken with all of his troops on the plane.

When I arrived home from the mission, I opened the paper. There before me in simple bullet format read the names of the most recent US deaths in Iraq. I generally do not look at these lists. They are just names with no personal connection. But this day, halfway down there were five Marines listed including a young Second Lieutenant all from the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment from Pendleton, California who had died on 16 November, 2005. These were the men that Javier and his Squad gave everything to try to save.

I stared at the paper for many minutes, recalling the story Javier and his men had told me. I marveled at the sacrifices they made and felt a tremendous sense of loss for these men whose names now stood out from the paper as not mere records, but as living, breathing men who gave everything their country asked of them.

As I get ready to celebrate Thanksgiving here in Iraq, I have so much to be thankful for. My wife is amazing, we have been blessed with a child on the way, and I feel like I have the greatest family and friends that one could ever wish for, but there is more. I see around me everyday soldiers giving everything they have with the full belief that their actions do make a difference. That their sacrifices are for freedom and will one day improve the lives of ordinary Iraqis.

When I sit down on Thursday to my thanksgiving meal, I will be holding these soldiers and their families close. We as a country have so much to be thankful for.

For me, on this Thanksgiving Day, I will be thankful for Javier. He has given the gift of life to his men and their families. I often ask myself if I was in his position, what would I have done?  I don’t know, but I certainly hope that I could be like Javier.

My warmest wishes to you all for a wonderful Thanksgiving, we truly have a great deal to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving,

James S Eadie, Capt USAF MC

332 Expeditionary Air Evacuation Squadron

Balad, Iraq

Critical Care Air Transport Physician

The men who died that day were Lance Corporal Roger Deeds, Lance Corporal John Lucente, Corporal Jeffrey Rogers, Corporal Joshua Ware, and 2nd Lieutenant Donald McGlothin - all from the Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 1st Regiment, 13th MEU, 1st Marine Division.

Posted by Blackfive on November 24, 2005 • Permalink

Categories and Tags: Caring For The DefendersTechnorati Links • Technorati Tags:

Comment below written by: Agnieszka O.

Thank you for sharing this email with us. Very moving...
I went to Arlington today to pay my respect to many that I know their names, faces and stories. And many because you shared their stories with us. I don't want to forget their names.

Posted by: Agnieszka O. | Nov 24, 2005 8:57:11 PM

Comment below written by: JoeS

If only the media would report the heroes of our Country. We have many things to be thankful for, but these Marines make everything seem trivial.

Our prayers are with you.

God bless you and your families for what you are giving for us.

Joe and Jade Sackett

Posted by: JoeS | Nov 24, 2005 11:37:11 PM

Comment below written by: jordan

Thank you, Capt. Eadie. I hope all troops in Iraq are able to pull back from the media onslaught against the war, and see the criticisms for what they really are: a political attempt to bring down the administration under which you fight. Such is the crass business of journalism today.

We're reliving a "Giap moment", charging successfully for battle objectives while the media manipulates public opinion to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Actions like Javier's show this military is too capable, smart, committed and honor-bound to let that happen, and the MSM will have to relive it's '70's glory days some other time. Its attempt to bring the U.S. to defeat will backfire, and expose the lack of integrity among them. This effort, and the prosecution of the Plame affair involving shifty and lying media luminaries, will be several more nails in the MSM coffin. Ultimately, it'll be the legacy media that's brought down to size by all this, not the White House that they loathe.

Posted by: jordan | Nov 25, 2005 9:41:27 AM

Comment below written by: Bob C.

Thanks Matt for this post. I have a good friend with the 2/1 and another through friends. There has been a news blackout of these 3 weeks of action except for the causality list and a feeble attempt at news by the one of MSM. Stories like this should be on the front pages. With grateful hearts for the sacrifices made, we will never forget.

Matt thanks also for taking Howdy out for a brew after he got home - I appreciate it. Semper Fi.

Posted by: Bob C. | Nov 25, 2005 11:13:10 AM

Comment below written by: 74

I just discovered that another Marine who lived locally died on Nov. 19th.

LCPL Tyler Troyer of Tangent, OR., of the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; died Nov. 19 of wounds sustained from small-arms fire while he was conducting combat operations against enemy forces near Karmah, Iraq.

Another hero who won't be forgotten. Semper Fi.

Posted by: 74 | Nov 25, 2005 3:26:16 PM

Comment below written by: A Soldiers' Angel

Thanks for posting this. It's wonderful.

Posted by: A Soldiers' Angel | Nov 25, 2005 4:13:19 PM

Comment below written by: Rosemary

Thank you, Matt. The Soldiers, Marines, AF, CG, Reservists, and their families will be in my prayers.

Such bravery. No wonder the press doesn't wish to cover it. They have none.

Posted by: Rosemary | Nov 25, 2005 6:25:02 PM

Comment below written by: Subsunk

Even many in my family looked at me like I had three heads when I told them I was thankful for Men like these who have the backbone to defend me every day. They know I am furious about press characterization of our military and yet they treat it as the rantings of an old crank.

They are about to get some stories of Real Men in their email.

Eternal Rest grant unto them, Oh Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon them. Stand Easy Men. Your mission is over, and your personal Liberty is about to start. We are praying for all of you.


Thanks, Matt.

Posted by: Subsunk | Nov 26, 2005 9:22:12 AM

Comment below written by: night heron

The pilgrims were not vegetarians and neither am i

Posted by: night heron | Nov 26, 2005 7:17:29 PM

Comment below written by: Mrs. Naomi Lucente

My stepson, John Lucente, was one of the men killed on that day. I cannot begin to tell you how much my husband and I, and our family miss him. Javier is a hero. How he thought of his troops before thinking of himself, is truly amazing. How unselfish a man he is. I hope to talk with Javier one day, so that we can learn more details of our sons last moments on earth, and so that we can tell him how thankful we are to know that our son was with him at the time of his death. God bless you Javier, and the rest of our men and women fighting for our freedom day and night. May god watch over you, and bring you home, to the people you love. Semper Fi, and Thank you Javier!!

Posted by: Mrs. Naomi Lucente | Dec 1, 2005 10:39:09 PM

Comment below written by: Sara Parfitt

Lance Corporal John Lucente, J.T. was the half brother to our son Cristopher Parfitt. (my Stepson)He will be greatly missed by our son and our family. J.T. was like family to us here, as we always got the boys together during Holidays, Weekends, and Vacations. J.T. and Cris were more than just brothers, they were best friends. We appreciate you Heroism on that horrible day. I know Cris would love to talk to you someday when you are ready to learn the last moments of his Hero Brother's life. God Bless you and your family, and I continously pray for the Men and Woman, our brave soilders to come home soon. Many thanks to you and all of the soilders who are there to protect our freedom, we appreciate it. God Speed.... Sara Parfitt

Posted by: Sara Parfitt | Dec 2, 2005 1:10:20 PM

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