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Marines describe survival in the blast zone

24 May 2004 | Lance Cpl. Macario P. Mora Jr.

Lance Cpl. Christian A. Holloway knows what it's like to survive the blast of an improvised explosive device.

"The boom hits and everything becomes silent," said Holloway, an infantryman from Round Rock, Texas.  "Your body is in motion, but you can't hear a thing.  It's like that scene from 'Saving Private Ryan.'"

Holloway, assigned to Company L, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, along with 15 other Marines, was on a convoy several days ago when his vehicle was struck by an IED.  The roadside bomb was made of 155 mm artillery rounds buried in the dirt.  The blast tore through a seven-ton truck, wounding nine Marines. 

One wounded was evacuated to an Army hospital in Baghdad.  The other eight Marines were treated and released.  All received fragmentation wounds from the explosion, but eye protection saved the sight of eight of the nine Marines.

The explosion left the Marines dazed, bleeding and wondering how they survived to speak about it.

Lance Cpl. Joseph D. Brooks, an infantryman from Palm Bay, Fla., said the effects of the blast were sobering.  He's seen the effects of combat last year during the invasion of Iraq.  But that was the enemy.  This time, he was battling to keep his fellow Marines alive.

"He had a piece of shrapnel...," Brooks explained of seeing his wounded friend.  "During our first time here it was different seeing the bodies of our enemies.  But, when it's your friend, your buddy you're giving first aid to, it makes you sick."

The convoy quickly set up a perimeter in search of the enemy.  Nothing was there.  No movement could be seen.  There weren't any wires to trace the bomb.  It was triggered by a remote detonator.

"Everything was like second nature," said Pvt. Jesus Rivera, an infantryman from Phoenix.  "We weren't even thinking.  We just did what we were supposed to. 

Rivera added that even one of the worst wounded Marines was barking orders.

It wasn't until after the incident was over that any of them were able to grasp exactly what happened.

"While it was happening we were all just so angry," Holloway explained.  "We just wanted to get them back."

"At first I was just angry," added Lance Cpl. Joshua C. Pearce, an infantryman from Dallas.  "Then I started thinking about all the other Marines.  A lot of these guys have fiancés and wives."

Pearce said one Marine has a son yet to be born.

The Marines in the convoy weren't surprised by what had happened.  Rather, many expected it.  They trained for it, how to react and briefed it before they left on the mission.  Still, none knew exactly what it would be like.

"I was scared at first," said Lance Cpl. Eric S. Freemen, an infantryman and from Thousand Oaks, Calif.  "It was like, 'Wow, it finally happened.'  It didn't feel real for a while.  We all knew it would happen, we just didn't know when."

Several days later, the Marines still wondered how they weren't killed or severely injured.

"There were large holes everywhere," Holloway said.  "We are amazed nothing too bad happened to us.  Someone was looking out for us."

And it didn't slow them down.

In less than a day, the Marines were out patrolling the same street where it happened.  Some still wore the same blood-stained uniforms.

"This is what we do. It's all muscle memory," Rivera said.  "They can't stop us."