With gratitude to Providence and thanks to all who kept me in their thoughts and prayers, I'm happy to be home from Iraq. I arrived in Ithaca last night at about 9 PM, about 43 hours after beginning the journey home from Baghdad. Naturally there were a few more plot twists along the way. Instead of traveling via Rota Spain and Dover, DE, etc., it was Qatar, Ramstein Germany, Charleston, Charlotte, Philly, Syracuse and Ithaca. I'll spare you all the details, but will say that the East Coast being socked in made for lots more time to appreciate the charms of the Philly airport. Also, if you ever have the choice, opt to travel on a comfy C-5 with commercial-style seats that let you stretch out across a row, versus a spartan C-17. That said, the Air Force crews were great and did their best to keep us comfortable. And the bottom line is that I'm home, safe and sound.
I'll save my commentary on the trip for an upcoming entry. But let me pass along one anecdote reflecting how the trip has changed my life, and giving yet one more insight into the great people serving our country.
If you've been reading my Iraq Diary, you'll recall some of the stories I told about the wonderful Navy Corpsmen, including this report on the heroic Corpsman Enrique Romero who tended to others hurt by an IED despite having sustained serious injuries himself.
Sitting three-across on the flight from Charlotte, NC to Philly yesterday, I heard my seatmate mention to the other passenger that, you guessed it, he was a Navy Corpsman in training. Naturally we struck up a conversation - something I might well not have done before this trip.
Meet Sean McKay, pictured here. One of the major roles for Navy Corpsmen is to serve as battlefield medics for the Marines, and Sean is training at the famous Camp LeJeune Marine camp in North Carolina. He was typically modest about himself, but as we continued to chat, the passion for what he is learning, and the scope and depth of the knowledge he has acquired, became evident. He got out paper and pen, and for over an hour took me step-by-step through all the methods, techniques and principles with which he's been imbued. From triage priorities, to procedures for examing the wounded, to treatment of a wide variety of injuries, to the many types of tourniquets available, Sean patiently and enthusiastically explained it all. He is scheduled to go to Iraq within a few months, and I have no doubt that this hero-in-the-making, originally from Montana, will help save many lives and comfort many wounded. Who knows? - Sean might take the place of Corpsman Romero, and keep the proud tradition alive.
Once again, my sincere thanks to all the NewsBusters members who read my reports and sent me their encouragement and good wishes. It meant a tremendous amount to me out there.
Contact Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org