Marine Down, But Not Out
(May 11, 2011)
Retired Marine Cpl. Isaiah Schaffer fires a fully automatic MP-5 sub-machine gun at a range on Victory Base Complex during Operation Proper Exit, April 28, 2011.
|Baghdad, Iraq (5/9/2011) - Some people say that lightning never strikes the same place twice. Retired Marine Cpl. Isaiah Schaffer would disagree.|
Schaffer has twice been struck down by the enemy, and still considers himself to be one of the lucky ones.
The first time he was hit, he was with the Small Craft Company of 2nd Marines, near the Haditha Dam north of Al-Haditha, Iraq, April 13, 2004.
“I was a machine gunner, it was pitch black and my night vision goggles crapped out on me,” said Schaffer as he scratched
|the red hair on top of his head. “I was just trying to follow the guys in front of me.”|
|During their patrol, the Marines in his unit were talking to the locals.|
“We had two guys and their stories weren't matching up,” he said
The unit's lieutenant then told Schaffer's team that they were to take cover in some bushes out of sight while he distracted the two men. Once the rest of the unit pulled out of the area, they were to watch and see what the men did.
His team set up a listening post/ observation post to the rear of where they were hunkered down to watch their backs.
“About five minutes after they pulled out, we heard shots ring out and our guys at the LP/OP came running back toward us,” said Schaffer. “Once that happened we opened fire and they did too.”
“We bounded back to shore and called for an immediate extract,” he said. “The boats came flying in to get us while we were engaged”
During all the chaos Schaffer realized his leg was severely injured. He still doesn't remember how he hurt it, but he does remember it being twisted back behind his body and hobbling into the water.
“As the boat came in it hit a sand bar about 15 feet out,” said Schaffer. “My leg wasn't working and I had 60 pounds on my back; the guy in front of me was about 6-foot-1, as he got in the water it came up to his neck. I hit the water and I'm 5-foot-5, I went under.”
“I remember trying to move through the water and really couldn't swim,” he said. “I stuck my weapon up out of the water and I was yanked into the boat.”
Two surgeries and 13 months later, Schaffer was back in the fight in the city of Ramadi conducting mounted and dismounted patrols.
“I remember rolling down a road and turning around to go back down the other way,” said Schaffer. “I looked at my driver and we were discussing how it was a bad idea to go back down the same road.”
“Then a boom,” he said.
The explosion was powerful enough to knock Schaffer unconscious from inside his vehicle. He sustained additional injuries to his leg and traumatic brain injury.
The next thing he remembered was landing in the U.S. and looking up from his stretcher to see his father help carry him off the plane.
Despite his injuries, Schaffer continues to work with wounded vets to not only give back, but to cope with his personal injuries as well.
“To help myself heal, I work with the Veterans Affairs,” said Schaffer. “I struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder quite a bit and being with other veterans helps. I also spend a lot of time with my kids; it helps me remember why I did what I did and what all of us do.”
Schaffer has also worked at call enters for veterans who have PTSD or just need someone to talk to.
When going back home, struggling with the emotional wounds of war is something that shouldn't be done alone, said Schaffer.
“It's just like going on patrol alone; you're going to get killed,” he said. “You have to combat the emotional pain with all the things we have at our disposal from the VA to Veterans of Foreign Wars programs.”
“If you keep it inside then it's going to eat you alive like a poison,” he said.
Article and photo By USMC Sgt. Joseph Vine
305th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
Provided through DVIDS
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