Friday, August 31, 2007

Two Purple Hearts after surviving two attacks in Iraq within two months

Travis is the Marine friend I requested prayer for starting back at the end of July.

He is here at home for now and recovering, while undergoing to therapy for the injuries he received

On his right leg, just below his knee, he has a four inch wound with about 20 stitches. That leg doesn't work too well right now, so Travis is using a cane to hobble around. His back is another problem area as two vertebrae in his back are sitting at an angle.

Just a few days ago the Marine Corps’ second-in-command came all the way to Anderson to visit and award Sgt. Tollison two Purple Hearts for his service in Iraq.

Travis said, " To have him — the Marines’ assistant commandant — come down, that shocked me. We got guys getting really messed over there I am just thankful to be alive and to have all my limbs.”

Most of us here safely at home stateside can't even come close to understanding what it is like over there in Iraq. A great number of those serving are involved in hostile action. To survive being hit in an attack is one thing. But to survive being hit twice is amazing.

Travis survived an attack a few weeks earlier when he was hit by a round fired by Iraqi insurgents from a high-powered rifle. But it was the second time that is the reason he is home right now. The second time it was a roadside bomb.

Why would someone volunteer to go there?

For Travis that is an easy question to answer.

He has been a Marine for about 12 years. Rising to the rank of Sgt. But most of that service has been spent teaching and training and has never been put to the test. “For eight or nine years, I trained other Marines. “Its like practicing for the team but never getting a chance to get in the game. I was excited to go over there. But at the same time, I was apprehensive.”

On April 10, His unit the U.S. Marine Corps’ 13th Marine Expeditionary shipped out to Al-Anbar Province Iraq

The first few months were routine but that changed in late June

On June 27th, Travis and his squad of Marines were patrolling some streets on foot when they heard gunfire. Before they could figure out where it was coming from, he felt a thud to his back.

“It felt like somebody kicked me. For about two seconds I was really scared. I could feel liquid running down my back.”

His first thought was blood, but the liquid turned out to be water from the camelbak canteen strapped to his back under his Kevlar vest. That vest stopped the high-powered round from piercing his back. He walked away with a serious bruise, but still alive.

The second attack was different.

A little more than a month later on July 30th and during a patrol, a unit of Marines found a building stashed with weapons. Weapons for the insurgents. Travis was sent with Marines assigned to link-up and destroy the weapons.

They never go there.

Before the meeting could happen, the truck filled with him and 13 other Marines was hit by a roadside bomb.

“The last thing I remember… I went to pick up the radio. And then it was lights out,”

When he came to, he couldn’t feel his legs, he could hear people yelling. The rest of the squad had escaped the blast and were screaming for him to get out burning wreckage.

He climbed out of a hatch and flung his body over the side of the truck,

Injured and bleeding he was flown to another station in Iraq, then onward to Germany.

By Aug. 2, he was back to American soil at the Naval Hospital Bethesda Md.

Travis was released on medical leave and has been allowed to spend it in Anderson with his family but is going for treatments to AnMed.

He'll be home for a few more weeks. Staying with his family while he continues to heal. But he is in some ways ready to get back.

“My unit is supposed to be coming back in late November. I want to be there when they come back.”

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