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Body armor still does the job

3 Nov 2004 | Lance Cpl. Miguel A. Carrasco Jr.

While warfighting experts are testing new methods, equipment and gear to minimize casualties on the battlefield, Marine Corps-issued body armor is responsible for keeping Cpl. Joshua Miles alive.

Miles, a squad leader with Company L, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, was hit by fragments from a mortar round during a security patrol on the outskirts of Fallujah, Iraq, Oct. 27.

Fragments from the mortar hit his flak jacket and Kevlar helmet, and went through the left
arm sleeve of his uniform.

"We were being mortared, so we tried to take cover, and as I was going behind a berm, a mortar landed five feet in front of me," said Miles, 21, a native of Silver City, N.M.

Miles didn't realize that the fragments had impacted him until the firefight was over.  His sense of humor allowed him to laugh about it days later.

Though Miles can smile about it, he takes the use of protective gear seriously, and makes sure his Marines are properly protected before leaving the gates of Camp Baharia.

"It (body armor) is a great piece of gear.  Marines have to make sure they are wearing the gear," said Miles.

While out on a convoy or in a humvee all protective gear must be worn to include the throat and groin protector.

"This armor is only the first and second generation of protective gear, so it will continue to improve," said 1st Lt. Michael D. Weiner, 27, a native of West Orange, N.J., and a supply officer for Headquarters and Service Company.

The flak and Kevlar worn by Miles Oct. 27 will allow him to return to southern California next spring, where his wife and one-year-old daughter, Brianna, currently reside.

Before departing for Iraq, Brianna gave her father 'Frank,' a teddy bear, which Miles attached to his flak and hasn't removed since. 'Frank' was hit with fragmentation during the mortar attack.

"I think he (Frank) deserves a Purple Heart," joked Miles.

Thanks to the flak and Kevlar, Miles won't receive a Purple Heart, which is awarded to servicemembers wounded in action.