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Marines give Iraqi man new spring in his step

12 Jul 2004 | Cpl. Paula M. Fitzgerald

Mohammed Jadaam thought he'd never walk again after losing his leg following an improvised explosive device attack in Ramadi last year.

When Maj. Gen. James N. Mattis, commander of 1st Marine Division, heard of Mohammed's situation, he wanted medical personnel from the division to help the 25-year-old man.

Navy Capt. John M. Williams, public health officer for the division's civil affairs team, met with Mohammed in May and gave him a complete medical examination to see what kind of help he required.

"When I first met him, he was not very talkative and seemed depressed," Williams said. "There wasn't a whole lot of color in his face and he was about thirty pounds lighter."

Mohammed was driving a friend home one night in April 2003 when anti-Iraqi fighters detonated a homemade bomb near his car. The bomb sent razor-sharp shrapnel flying, which tore through Mohammed's car and severely injured him. After the bomb went off, the attackers fired machine guns at Mohammed and his friend.

"I remember the bomb going off and then when I woke up, I was in the hospital," said Mohammed, whose father is Gen. Hobaisy Jadaam, the chief of Iraqi police in the Al Anbar Province.

The general said an attack like this was nothing new to him or his family.

"We expect things like this to happen," Hobaisy added.

The Jadaam family has been the target of anti-Iraqi violence in the past. He told of an incident that occurred a few months ago. Several men fired rocket-propelled grenades at the general's house.

Still, the constant fear of being killed does not bother the Jadaams because he they put their faith in the hands of God.

"I am faithful to my God," the general said. "He gave my son to me and he can take him away. But as a father I felt very compassionate toward my son when he was injured."

Mohammed's right leg was amputated from above his knee; the bones in his left ankle were shattered; and shrapnel had ripped massive holes throughout his body.

"He's really lucky to be alive today," said Williams.

Following the attack, Mohammed was rushed to a nearby U.S. Army camp and stabilized. He was then evacuated to a hospital in Baghdad for emergency surgery.

He spent several weeks in the hospital before returning home.

"Mohammed was pretty much wheelchair bound at that time," Williams explained. "His father told me he used to sit around at home all day looking at the computer. He wasn't interested in doing anything."

Williams said in Iraqi culture, a disability is seen as weakness.

"If he was to stay in a wheelchair, he probably would not be able ever find a woman to marry him because there's no way he would be able to find a decent paying job to support a family," he added.

After their initial meeting in May, Williams knew the task at hand would prove to be a challenge.

Because Mohammed's leg was amputated above his knee, he needed a "complicated prosthesis" and Williams wasn't sure if he'd be able to find someone in the Middle East to provide the synthetic leg.

Several months of intensive searching ended in success when Williams talked to the doctors at a hospital in Amman, Jordan.

"I found out that they would be able to help Mohammed," he said.

So Mohammed and a family member were flown to Jordan with all expenses paid for by the 1st Marine Division.

He spent almost two months in Jordan while he recuperated and adjusted to his new leg.

With his new leg and his spirits lifted, Mohammed returned to Iraq a few weeks ago. He and his father dropped by the camp here to show Williams the prosthesis and thank him for his help.

Williams told Mohammed he looked much better than he did when they first met in May.

"You look like you've gained some weight back," the doctor said. "You look good."

Mohammed said he was very grateful to Williams for getting him up and walking again.

"I want to thank everyone who made me walk again," Mohammed said. "I will never forget this favor."