The Day I Died
It was a sweltering day unlike any other, the temperature was 115 degrees and the humidity was unbearable. We had just finished 25 days of on-and-off again combat and were now transitioning from a combat mode to a stabilization and rebuild mode. The place was a Republican Guard Military Base located on the outskirts of Al Kut Iraq; nothing spectacular about it stood out or would make you want to remember it. It was a place just like all the other towns and cities we had been through, old dilapidated houses and lots of desert.
Just two days prior on Sunday April 20, 2003 we celebrated Easter with a Sunrise service by Bn Chaplin Norton and the moral was high among the Marines because of the talk of heading home soon. Looking back, I realize how much that little voice inside my head was screaming at me that Tuesday afternoon but instead of listening I dismissed it as nothing and decided to follow the plan as it was laid out.
That Tuesday morning on April 22, 2003 I had talked to my wife over the phone and told her that the war was winding down and that I would be hopefully heading home soon. We both breathed a sigh of relief that it looked like I was going to come home alive and in one piece because of a repeated premonition I had before we received the Warning Order to embark on ships and while on the ship to Iraq, but the war wasn’t over yet, and I wasn’t aboard a ship returning home either. Time soon would tell the terrible fate that awaited me.
On that Tuesday afternoon while training with Special Forces in a joint exercise an RPG exploded seven feet from me. All I remember was seeing a bunch of sand and debris flying towards my face and for a brief moment I thought to myself “What is this…. is it back blast” and then it was lights out.
The Premonition / Dream
A few weeks before the Christmas holiday I starting having a reoccurring dream/ premonition every night about being blown up in Iraq that was so vivid and clear that I would wake up every time in a cold sweat unable to go back to sleep. Not wanting to scare my wife I kept these dreams to myself until finally over the Christmas holiday I got up enough nerve to tell her about it and that I thought I wasn’t coming home again the same or possibly at all. She had confirmed my fears with similar dreams herself and so we decided that I should call the family and say good bye just in case I didn’t return. On January 3rd 2003 my battalion received the Warning Order to prepare to deploy to a destination not yet know but we all knew where. That would really be the last time I would see my wife and two daughters because of the 24 hour days that was required of my platoon and I to pack up and prepare the Battalion Transportation to board ship for the 11th of January. On 11 January we boarded seven different vessels at Morehead City NC as a part of a Marine Expeditionary Brigade also known as a MEB.
That day I said goodbye to my lovely wife and two wonderful daughters who seemed to be oblivious to what was really happening would be the last day for some to ever see there loved ones again.
Since that day in Iraq my life has been nothing but one challenge after the next...
The next thing I remember is looking down on my body from above and the presence of some celestial being guiding me up towards the stratosphere that I would later learn was my Guardian Angel. Having an out of body experience was so surreal that it seemed as if time had stopped or that I was moving outside of time itself and I didn’t know if I was alive, dead, or in suspended animation.
Looking down on myself and everyone was like viewing life in slow motion. My Guardian Angel and I were in normal play mode while we went around looking at everyone moving in very slow motion. As I began to feel my spirit lifting from the earth I looked out over the horizon and could see the curvature of the earth.
That’s when it happened…!!!
I heard someone start screaming like nothing I had ever heard in my life before nor since. It that one agonizing scream I could hear and feel their emotions of sheer desperation, fear, terror, pain, and the need for HOPE… It shook me to the very core of my being that I stopped enjoying the extraordinary experience of this majestic journey and started forcefully requesting to the point of yelling and demanding of my Guardian Angel that,
“I Can’t Leave Him… I Have To Go Back”
… I kept repeating each time with more intensity and vigor till finally I was Yelling…” I CANT LEAVE HIM, I HAVE TO GO BACK“.
It was at the point I began to feel myself being lowered back down to earth into my body. When I was back in my body I couldn’t see anything until I rolled over unto my stomach and began to pull myself out from under the body of a fellow Marine.
When I turned back over that’s when I began to see again.
That one singular moment in my life would go on to become the defining moment of my existence to this day.
I started CFR not because I thought it was something I could do or that it was easy…
I started CFR because I believe with all of my being that I was given a new lease on life to be a Voice for the Voiceless.
Furthermore, it was no coincidence that of all the things I could have said to my Guardian Angel, that I chose to yell emphatically, “I CANT LEAVE HIM, I HAVE TO GO BACK”!
FAR TOO MANY Wounded Veterans find after leaving the Service that they are alone without the support, resources, and access to care they were promised.
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