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Army Sniper Finds Lesson in Injury, Recovery

NEW YORK, Dec. 3, 2008 Army Sgt. Joel Dulashanti is, in his own words, "pretty much fully recovered" now, but the road to recovery was neither short nor easy. It did, however, provide him with a life lesson. "There is no reason to waste time in life being sad, or depressed, or angry," the 22-year-old soldier said. "Life's too short, and you learn that through those experiences. You've got to €¦ decide to be happy." [caption id="attachment_3137" align="alignleft" width="217"]fod_army_sniper_01_12_09 Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, the Army's vice chief of staff, presents a flag flown over Ground Zero in New York City to Army Sgt. Joel Dulashanti after a brief ceremony at the site for a group of wounded veterans. The ceremony was part of a United Service Organizations-Microsoft "Salute to Our Troops" weekend, Nov. 8, 2008. DoD photo by Samantha L. Quigley[/caption] Dulashanti, a Cincinnati native, could have had a very different outlook on his situation. Then a corporal, Dulashanti was deployed to Afghanistan as a sniper with the 82nd Airborne Division in May 2007. His platoon was near the Pakistan border when he and his partner were ambushed.Dulashanti, a Cincinnati native, could have had a very different outlook on his situation. "We were dismounted, chasing down two guys, and they just happened to ambush us before we could ambush them," he said. "I was shot three times; through my left knee, through my right knee €“ which resulted in an above-knee amputation -- and once in my abdomen." The latter injury caused the loss of abdominal muscle as well as the loss of part of his stomach and intestines. Between the attack and Dulashanti's arrival at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, there were stops at Orgun-E and Bagram in Afghanistan. The whole process took a day. After a four-day stay at Landstuhl, he arrived at Washington's Walter Reed Army Medical Center on May 8, 2007, where his family met him. He was still an inpatient when President George W. Bush presented him with his Purple Heart medal on July 3, 2007; something he remembers as "pretty cool." "It does mean a little bit to me," Dulashanti said. "I gave something to get that, but a lot of other people have them [too]. It's actually one of the few things that is actually given to you that you've €¦ earned, but didn't put any work into it," he added flashing a million-dollar smile. The former distance runner and weightlifter spent part of his recovery learning how to walk on his new prosthetic leg, but it wasn't long before he wanted to take up another of his favorite activities again. "I used to rollerblade a lot, [and] I continue to rollerblade a lot," he said. "It was weird, because there aren't any above-knee amputees that rollerblade, so I was the first. "It was kind of difficult coming up with a prosthetic to use," he continued, "but I worked with my prosthetics and [one was developed through] trial and error." Dulashanti estimated the whole process took about a month. Running is still difficult, he said, but he's determined to get back to it soon. He'd also like to get back to active duty, as well. "I just started my medical board," he said. "Hopefully, cross my fingers, it won't be another six months. So, we'll see where that takes me. I'll get my feet wet again, and we'll go from there, but I would like to get back into the field and operate again as a sniper." For now, though, it's a waiting game, and to fill the time he's taking classes in general education. Article Redistributed by Support Our Troops Distributed by

First Sergeant Cites Difference U.S. Soldiers Make

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Brent Hunt American Forces Press Service CAMP TAJI, Iraq, Dec. 2, 2008 For one senior enlisted soldier serving in Multinational Division Baghdad, the American soldier often represents the only goodness a lot of people around the world will ever know. [caption id="attachment_2993" align="alignleft" width="229"]fod081125 Army 1st Sgt. Albert Rodriguez, first sergeant for the 4th Infantry Division's Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4th Battalion, 4th Aviation Regiment, Combat Aviation Brigade, said he is proud of what he and his soldiers personify around the world.[/caption] "For a lot of people in the world, American soldiers are the only goodness a lot of people will ever know; the only bible a lot of people will never read; and the only example of America and freedom a lot of people will ever see," said the Oxnard, Calif., native who is on his second deployment to Iraq. "I am proud to serve, because as a member of the U.S. Army, I am part of a long line of soldiers who have fought and died for our freedom," he said. "In particular, I have had two uncles who gave their lives during World War II and the Vietnam conflict."For a lot of people in the world, American soldiers are the only goodness a lot of people will ever know; the only bible a lot of people will never read; and the only example of America and freedom a lot of people will ever see," said the Oxnard, Calif., native who is on his second deployment to Iraq. "When I reflect on what their experiences must have been like," he continued, "I immediately appreciate all that is good in my life. I believe all soldiers should be proud of who they are and what they are doing, regardless of their job. They have all sacrificed so much for our country and our freedom." Many of the soldiers in the first sergeant's company are directly involved in the planning, operation and execution of the Apache helicopter battalion's mission around the greater Baghdad region. His job is to coach, mentor and take care of soldiers as they conduct their daily tasks in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. His company, deployed here just north of the Iraqi capital, uses the attack helicopters to directly affect the fight by protecting soldiers on the ground with aerial support. Although the job could seem overwhelming, many of Rodriguez's young soldiers are performing like seasoned veterans, he said. Army Cpl. Jack Condon, 24, an aviation operations specialist from Catoosa, Okla., who works in the battalion's tactical operations center, said he relies on the advice he receives from senior noncommissioned officers to shape how he moves forward. "Every 15 minutes, I get a [situation report] so I can inform the commander on the mission," he said. "I am at the center of the information flow. I ask for guidance from senior NCOs about what to do with a soldier or a situation, because every soldier and situation is different. That's how my NCOs are here, and I want to be the same." As Condon and other soldiers in the company try to emulate their first sergeant, Rodriguez instills in them that taking care of soldiers is an NCO's top priority. How soldiers live while deployed reflects directly on their morale, the mission and esprit de corps, he said. "Clearly, one of the most positive changes I have seen since my last deployment is the quality of life for our soldiers, who definitely deserve it," Rodriguez said, comparing today's conditions to those that were in place when he served during the initial invasion in March 2003. "The standard of living has been raised so high that we can never go back to the way it used to be. €¦ Trying to describe to a young soldier what it is like to live on a cot for six months is like trying to describe the days without the Internet: unimaginable." (Army Sgt. 1st Class Brent Hunt serves in the 4th Infantry Division's Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs Office.)

Meet Your Military: Soldier Provides "Eyes in Sky" for Ground Forces

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Brent Hunt American Forces Press Service December 1, 2008 CAMP TAJI, Iraq, Dec. 1, 2008 – Troops on the ground in Iraq have an “eye in the sky,” thanks to soldiers like Army Spc. Rodolfo Delatorre in the 4th Infantry Division’s Combat Aviation Brigade, who launches, recovers and maintains the Shadow unmanned aerial system. Delatorre, who serves with Company G, 2nd Battalion, 4th Aviation Regiment, hails from Fresno, Calif. “I refuel, add oil, change spark plugs and change filters,” he said. “I perform services on the Shadow to ensure it stays in the air.” [caption id="attachment_3584" align="alignleft" width="250"]foddelatome-9999h-001 Army Spc. Rodolfo Delatorre, unmanned aerial system maintainer, 4th Infantry Division’s Company G, 2nd Battalion, 4th Aviation Regiment, Combat Aviation Brigade, Multinational Division Baghdad, wires the propeller of a Shadow unmanned aerial system before launching the surveillance aircraft. Delatorre is responsible for launching, recovering and maintaining the high-tech Shadow at Camp Taji, Iraq. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brent Hunt[/caption] Delatorre is attached from the 4th Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team as a member of the “Iron Eagle” company, which launches and recovers the Shadow surveillance vehicles day and night. Shadow maintainers perform takeoff and landing procedures from their facility, using a pneumatic launcher for takeoffs. The soldiers recover the vehicles by using an arresting hook and cable system similar to the ones used on aircraft carriers.Delatorre is attached from the 4th Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team as a member of the “Iron Eagle” company, which launches and recovers the Shadow surveillance vehicles day and night. To keep the fleet of surveillance aircraft in the air, maintenance, quality control and production control are of high priority. Double- and triple-checking all maintenance procedures is commonplace. “Once one is launched, there is another one coming down. Once it has landed, we do maintenance on it,” Delatorre said. “I like this job because it is a lot of hands-on. I like to work with my hands. It gives me a lot of satisfaction when everything is launching well and there are no problems with the UAS.” The Shadow provides commanders on the ground the ability to see the entire battlefield with its high-tech cameras and communications equipment. Since the inception of unmanned surveillance aircraft more than 10 years ago, the “eyes in the sky” have become an integral part of the modern battlefield. Commanders have come to depend on the Shadow’s ability to give them surveillance footage from the sky; maintainers here ensure the “overhead edge” continues on the battlefield for Multinational Division Baghdad troops. “His job is extremely important to the overall mission,” said Army Staff Sgt. Daniel Lovell, Delatorre’s supervisor at the UAS company. “We have a high [operational tempo], and if it wasn’t for guys like Delatorre, we couldn’t support the overhead mission for MND-B. “He is a stellar soldier,” he continued, “and I tell other soldiers to emulate him. He is one of those soldiers who make my job a lot easier.”

Medic Earns Three Purple Hearts During One Deployment to Iraq

By Samantha L. Quigley American Forces Press Service WASHINGTON, Dec. 1, 2008 If Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Sims was a cat, he'd have only six lives left after his yearlong deployment to Iraq with the 1st Armored Division's Company B, 270th Armor Battalion, out of Fort Riley, Kan. [caption id="attachment_2997" align="alignleft" width="250"]fod081201 Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Sims, a medic who was wounded three times during his last deployment to Iraq, is preparing to deploy again. Courtesy photo[/caption] "I was wounded three times in Iraq the last time I was there," Sims said of the deployment that began in January 2005. Sims, a medic, was riding in a tracked ambulance between two M1-A1 Abrams tanks when a roadside bomb detonated. Shrapnel pierced the vehicle and penetrated his flak vest, puncturing his left lung."I was wounded three times in Iraq the last time I was there," Sims said of the deployment that began in January 2005. He was evacuated to the hospital in Balad. He spent about three weeks recovering before returning to his unit, but it was only the first of three stays at the hospital. "They know me there," he said with a chuckle. Three months after he'd returned to duty, his unit was on a foot patrol when it started taking enemy mortar fire. One mortar landed near Sims. "Shrapnel hit near my lower left leg, penetrating through the front lower part and coming out the back," he said. "[I] almost, almost lost that limb in that incident, but everything's fine now." Again, Sims was transported to Balad, where he spent another four weeks recovering from his injuries before rejoining his unit to finish his tour. Unfortunately, he would endure one more interruption before rotating back home. It was about 4 a.m., and Company B was patrolling Main Supply Route Tampa, one of the main roads in Iraq, when Sims, who was riding in an Abrams tank, started seeing flashes in the distance. He doesn't remember anything after calling in the attack, however. "I took a sniper bullet €“ 7.62 mm €“ to the front of the helmet -- straight in front, almost right between the eyes," Sims said. The bullet fractured his neck and skull and knocked him unconscious. "I fell into the turret of the tank," he said, "and when €¦ [it] turned to fire at the enemy, it broke my right femur." That earned him a two-month stay in the Balad hospital. He said the care he received there was excellent, and he gave the men in his unit kudos for their part in his survival and recovery. "I attribute a lot of my speedy recovery €¦ [to] the care that I received actually on site at the point of injury -- quick response from all the people that were there," he said, referring to the soldiers he'd trained in the new Combat Life Saver program. "The people that were actually treating me were people that I had trained. By the time I got to Balad, I was pretty much good to go. They just had to kind of patch me up." Sims' last tour in Iraq may have resulted in three Purple Hearts, but he said he's not hesitant about returning. "No, not at all," he said. "I think that it's a lot safer than when I was there. I think the time that I was there, it was right around the national election time, [and] it was really the peak of all the main [bomb] attacks. fod081201-002"I think now, it's almost 100 percent turnaround," he added. It's good he's not timid about returning. His current unit, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 15th Engineer Battalion based out of Schweinfurt, Germany, is certain to deploy at some time. "We're trying to get all the equipment in and get this unit stood up, because it's the only construction battalion in Europe right now," Sims said. "So, we don't know exactly where we're going yet, but we know we're going to go somewhere." Sims, who has served 10 years since enlisting right out of high school, recently re-enlisted indefinitely. He hopes to become a doctor or a physician assistant, he said, but he has his sights on one of the Army's top spots if he remains in the Army as an enlisted soldier. He said he'd like to be the first medic to serve as sergeant major of the Army. "As a medic, you get a broad spectrum of everything that's in the Army," he added. "You can go to any type of unit, so you're more well-rounded, I think." Sims and his wife call St. Charles, Mo., home.  

Soldier Comes Full-Circle With Latest Deployment

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Brent Williams Special to American Forces Press Service FORWARD OPERATING BASE FALCON, Iraq, Nov. 14, 2008 The senior noncommissioned officer of the fire effects and coordination cell for the 4th Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team in Multinational Division Baghdad began his mission almost immediately upon arriving at this base in southern Baghdad's Rashid district in March. Currently serving as a special projects manager specializing in force protection for the brigade, Army Master Sgt. Craig Wagner, a forward observer assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, has come full circle with a career that has spanned operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm to three deployments in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. [caption id="attachment_3073" align="alignleft" width="169"]fod_comes_full_circle_01_26_09 Army Master Sgt. Craig Wagner, a forward observer assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Multinational Division Baghdad, is a veteran of operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and is serving his third combat deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brent Williams[/caption] When Wagner joined the Army in 1988 as a cannon crewmember, Saddam Hussein had the third-largest army in the world. Stationed with the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, part of the 7th Corps Cavalry Regiment, Wagner's duties as a driver and loader -- the No. 1 cannoneer of an M109 Howitzer -- earned him a deployment to Saudi Arabia for the initial push to liberate Kuwait from Iraq's incursion. Wagner said he remembers arriving to his unit in Bamberg, Germany, where every sock was rolled tight and arranged perfectly in his locker's drawer. The floor was like glass, and the room was neat. Soldiers wore their uniforms fresh and starched. Boots were spit-shined to perfection, and haircuts were tight. Everything was squared away.When Wagner joined the Army in 1988 as a cannon crewmember, Saddam Hussein had the third-largest army in the world. Stationed with the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, part of the 7th Corps Cavalry Regiment, Wagner's duties as a driver and loader -- the No. 1 cannoneer of an M109 Howitzer -- earned him a deployment to Saudi Arabia for the initial push to liberate Kuwait from Iraq's incursion. At the turn of the Cold War, the soldiers of the 7th Corps' Cavalry Regiment served as the eyes and ears of the corps commander, Wagner said, providing surveillance and security on Germany's border with what was then Czechoslovakia. The mission kept the soldiers in a constant state of combat readiness, he said, and when alerted, the units reported, loaded their gear and went out the gate to take up defensive positions. "We were always ready to go to fight the Russians on the East German border, but we never even thought about packing up and going somewhere else," said Wagner, who grew up in Santa Rosa, Calif., and still calls it home. Within days, the soldiers deployed to Saudi Arabia, where for the next several months, the unit trained and prepared its equipment, awaiting orders in the middle of the desert to drive the Iraqi army from Kuwait. "We flew into Saudi Arabia, waited for ships to arrive with gear and vehicles, loaded up and moved out," Wagner said. The unit was in the port for only a week or so when it assumed positions in the desert along the Saudi-Kuwaiti border. Accustomed to facing off against East Germany and Russian forces across the Czech border, Wagner recalled, U.S. soldiers were curious as to the capabilities of the Iraqi's Soviet equipment that they had learned to respect as the enemy. "We were staring across the border at them staring at us," Wagner said. "All the stuff that they had, we were worried that if we got into a fight, the Soviets would scuff us up really bad. We knew that we were going up against forces a lot bigger than ours. I knew our equipment was good, but I didn't know that it was going to be that overwhelming of a difference, because the Iraqi forces were using all Soviet equipment." The size of the regiment, with its attached elements, was roughly the size of a modern brigade combat team, Wagner said. The unit deployed with three maneuver squadrons, each composed of three cavalry troops made up of scouts, tankers and mortar platoons. Each squadron also had a tank company and an artillery battery, and a forward support squadron and air command squadron completed the regimental force of about 5,000 soldiers. "Our training was really good; it was top-notch," Wagner said. "When we finally got the word to go, the superiority of our weapons systems and training, compared to theirs, they didn't have a chance." Removing the guard towers and breaching the 25-foot berm that lined Iraq's border, the reconnaissance element assumed a wedge formation and tore north to cut off retreating Iraqi forces before they could return to their bases. The regiment earned the opportunity to test its mettle in the Battle of the 73rd Easting, the biggest battle of the Gulf War and the biggest tank battle since World War II, Wagner said. "Our jobs were to €¦ make contact with the enemy; so we did," he said. "Meanwhile, 1st Infantry and 1st Armored divisions were supposed to come up and relieve us, and 12 hours later, they did a relief-in-place with us. They did a forward passage of lines while we were still engaging with the enemy. They did it without any fratricide, and that was impressive." By the time reinforcements linked up with the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, Wagner said, he had shot 100 missions, each consisting of loading one to six 155 mm artillery rounds onto load trays, sliding the round into the cannon, applying powder and prime and waiting for the section sergeant's signal to fire. "So the enemy was retreating, trying to get through us to get back to Iraq," he recalled. "We were blocking their return route." The reconnaissance unit was never supposed to go toe-to-toe with the brigade-sized Iraqi element, but the troops were ready to fight, Wagner said. "We had to disengage after running out of ammunition," he added. Operation Desert Storm culminated with four days of fighting for U.S. forces after six months of living on tracked vehicles in the middle of the Saudi desert, Wagner said. "The fight will always be with me," he said. "We were pretty well-prepared and well-trained. We were experts at our weapons systems." In the years that followed, Wagner became a forward observer and eventually reported for duty with the 4th Infantry Division's 4th Battalion, 42nd Field Artillery, 1st Brigade, at Fort Carson, Colo. Throughout his career, he worked in a variety of positions, from leader to trainer, eventually returning to the Raider Brigade, which was part of Task Force 21, the mission to modernize the Army's command and control systems used on today's battlefield. Despite the many changes he's seen in the Army during the past two decades, "soldiering" remains the one consistent force, Wagner said. "By definition, a veteran is somebody who has been to a combat zone and served their country in a time of war," said Army Sgt. Gary Bixler, a forward observer here. "By definition, Master Sergeant Wagner is a veteran - on his third deployment, plus all the deployments he is not getting credit for. That is a notable thing, to be in for 20 years and still going. Bixler, a 22-year old native of Hannibal, N.Y., said his goal is to lead soldiers, and that he's seen the best and worst of the Army during two combat tours to Iraq. He credits Wagner with showing him what it means to be an NCO from the first day that he arrived to the unit and went under the senior NCO's wing in 2005. "When I came in the Army, I had never seen the real world, and without his influence, I wouldn't be who I am today," Bixler said. Bixler added that Wagner's pride, professionalism and proficiency in getting the job done -- while still being old-fashioned in some ways -- helped prepare him for his area-denial and counter-fire missions, in which he peppers known points of origin to eliminate the enemy's indirect fire. "How could we expect to come over here and not learn anything from people who have been there and done that?" Bixler asked. "It gives me something to look up to; he's seen a lot in his time, and I have learned a lot from him." Wagner said he believes the Raider Brigade saw significant success in securing its area of operations because the brigade took the offensive early from the combat outposts and joint security stations in the Rashid district. "We went on the offensive when we first got here, and we shot a lot of the anti-Iraqi forces down," he explained. "We took away their leadership and cut off their supply channels." The security in southern Baghdad continues to improve as the Raider Brigade maintains its presence in the communities and neighborhoods, working tirelessly with the Iraqi security forces and the general populace to build trust and keep terrorists and militias out of Rashid, he said. "I think that a lot of our success has had to do with our relationship with the general public here in Iraq," Wagner said. "They know us and they trust us, and they know that we're really going to give them a fair deal. They like to have some safety and security in their neighborhoods, and they know if they let the [criminals and terrorists] set up shop, that will go away." He said he expects challenges as units leave without being replaced. It is part of the overall plan, he said, as the brigade will disengage from its direct combat role and move into tactical over-watch, with the Iraqi security forces in the forward position. Without changing his current role in the Raider Brigade, Wagner said, he wants to see his soldiers maintain their readiness and ability to provide counter-fire in a timely manner if the need should arise again. "Without getting into the politics of what I think, I knew we would prevail in battle against Saddam's army €“ that wasn't really much of a worry for me," he said. "I knew we had a far superior force and would go in and win; and I also knew the hard part was going to be after." (Army Sgt. 1st Class Brent Williams serves in Multinational Division Baghdad with the 4th Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office.) Article Redistributed by Support Our Troops Distributed by  

Last Iraq Tour Was One Too Many for Combat-Tested Marine

By Samantha L. Quigley American Forces Press Service WASHINGTON, Nov. 14, 2008 Marine Chief Warrant Officer 4 Chris Hedgcorth served six combat tours and escaped injury each time. But his seventh tour wasn't so lucky for him. On Sept. 17, 2004, Hedgcorth was serving his second tour in Iraq with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit. The unit was stationed at Forward Operating Base Kalsu, about 20 miles south of Baghdad, when insurgents started firing rockets at the camp. Shrapnel from the first rocket severed Hedgcorth's patellar tendon, which holds the kneecap in place. [caption id="attachment_3068" align="alignleft" width="190"]fod_one_to_many_01_26_09 Marine Chief Warrant Officer 4 Chris Hedgcorth participates in the 33rd Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., Oct. 26, 2008. He completed the 26.2 miles on a hand cycle as part of a fundraising effort for other wounded servicemembers. Courtesy photo by Nicole Benitez[/caption] "There was a second rocket that kind of bounced me off of some of the €¦ barriers," he said. "The next thing I remember is hearing a third rocket and crawling on my arms back into the tent, because for some reason I thought I'd be safer inside the tent, and it was closer than the bunker." Once the rockets stopped, one of Hedgcorth's staff noncommissioned officers found him and asked about his injuries. He responded that he was "routine" and that she should find everyone else first."There was a second rocket that kind of bounced me off of some of the €¦ barriers," he said. "The next thing I remember is hearing a third rocket and crawling on my arms back into the tent, because for some reason I thought I'd be safer inside the tent, and it was closer than the bunker." He stuck to his story when they came checking on him a second time. "Turns out, I was the only one wounded," he said. That was a Friday night. By the next Thursday, Hedgcorth had been evacuated to Camp Lejeune, N.C., via Baghdad, Balad, and Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. "So, I moved faster than the mail," he chuckled. "I wasn't a model patient, so they let me go home before my next surgery on Friday. I'm an old guy, and I don't take well to instruction." More surgeries repaired the tendon, but the kneecap had been placed too low. "I'm not a doctor, but I do know how a hinge works," Hedgcorth said. "If that hinge pin's not in the right spot, [it won't open right.]" Another surgery in February re-centered his kneecap and moved it up as high as possible. Hedgcorth joined the Marine Corps 25 years ago because "it was the best," he said. "It seemed like an easy choice after the Beirut bombing," he said quietly. "I had three friends of mine on that wall." A terrorist bomb killed 241 Marines and Navy corpsmen in a barracks in the Lebanese capital on Oct, 23, 1983. Hedgcorth's knee injury marked the first time in his career that he'd been injured, and he freely admits that he'd pushed his luck until it happened. He served in Panama, Desert Storm, Somalia, two tours in the Balkans, and two tours in Iraq, and the Purple Heart he received for his injury came with some mixed feelings. "At first, it was the €˜Enemy Marksmanship Award,'" he said. "It's not something I walk around wearing on my sleeve, [but] it is something I can use to help others." That's what the chief warrant officer decided to do. He'd been working at the Marine Corps' logistics operations school at Camp Johnson, N.C., and decided that wasn't for him. Retirement seemed the next logical step until a colonel he'd worked with asked him to work with the Wounded Warrior Battalion he was standing up. That was about three years ago, and he's been there ever since. He serves as the battalion's operations officer, tracking more than 600 patients and overseeing patient-outreach teams, among other tasks. "By the time [the wounded] get to me here at the battalion proper, they're going to go one of two ways. They're going to get out and move on into civilian life, or they're going try to return €¦ to duty," he said. "We don't try to push them either way. We just try to make sure they're prepared [for] whichever way they're going to go." Hedgcorth still is on active duty, still is a patient, and is assigned to the Wounded Warrior Battalion himself. "I'm finishing my [medical] boards, and should be medically retired by the end of the year," he said. "Some pretty popular generals have asked me to come back [in retire/retain status], which means I'm €¦ not blocking promotions or anything." That would keep him in his job for another year or two, he added. Hedgcorth said the devotion he displays toward his Marines and others, as well as to his job, comes from someplace other than simple obligation. "It's more of a calling than anything else to work in this job," he said. Hedgcorth and a friend recently completed the 33rd Marine Corps Marathon as part of a fundraising effort in support of wounded servicemembers. Maneuvering hand cycles through the 26.2 miles, he said, they weren't out to win it, but rather just to support the "next wounded guy." Article Redistributed by Support Our Troops Distributed by

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