Are You In The Mood To Be Inspired???
From: Greta Van Susteren , Fox News
Thursday, February 21st, 2008
Yesterday my colleague Jennifer Griffin emailed us (yes, us, since she wanted you to read these dispatches from her!) from Iraq and Afghanistan….in one email she told us about Bill Gibson (a/k/a Spanky)…he is a Marine who lost his leg in Iraq…came home…got medical treatment…got rehab…and then? He insisted he go back to Iraq even though he now was minus a leg…Jennifer put in her email that he would like to hear from us and provided his email address (scroll back and read one of her prior emails….. if you want to email him IN IRAQ (yes, he is there!!!) and did not, here is his email address: email@example.com)…I emailed him and asked him for some pics….he just emailed me these pics….and WOW! THEY ARE INSPIRING!!
I just got this email (see below) from my colleague Jennifer Griffin…she is with the Commandant of the Marine Corps in Afghanistan and has been keeping us up to date with her behind the scenes emails….what is REALLY fun about this one today is that she introduces us to “Spanky” — a marine who is an amputee in Iraq…yes, deployed after losing his leg in Iraq because he wanted to return…according to Jennifer, Spanky would love to hear from you (his email is provided in Jennifer’s email below.) (I just emailed him!!) [Email Spanky!!!!!]
From: jennifer griffin
Sent: Wednesday, February 20, 2008 4:38 PM
To: Van Susteren, Greta
No blackberry service yet in Iraq so I grab some internet space anytime we get close to some marines. Just landed in Afghanistan at Bagram Air Base via Kuwait. A surreal landing into a frozen air base (Bagram) at 1 am in the morning. We woke this morning in Fallujah and formed a convoy of uparmored humvees and a large MRAP (Mine Resistent Ambush Protected Vehicle) for a slow journey by road to Baghdad. The Headquarters for the marines 1MEF in Fallujah is in an old palace like building that Saddam had built for the Mujahideen e-Khalq - the Iranian defectors who wanted to overthrow the Ayatollahs in the 1980s during the war between Iraq and Iran in which more than a million people were killed. The Khalq were the ones who got the intell from Iran a few years ago that uncovered for the IAEA the Iranian nuclear program. The Khalq seemed a bit like a cult when we first met them in Baghdad and were taken to desert training with tanks and women gunners talking of retaking Iran. It was so strange to be back at their base under such different circumstances - the last time I was there was 1996.
I met the most amazing marine in Fallujah - Gunny William Gibson from Pryor, Oklahoma - his friends call him Spanky. Gunny Gibson lost his entire leg after an Iraqi sniper fired a round through his knee in Ramadi in 2006 - May 16, 2006 - just 19 months ago. He is the first full leg amputee to be returned to the fight - redeployed as an active marine. This Gunny had been in the marines for 18 years - that is who he is. He said all he wanted to do was get back into the fight. He said returning to Iraq was his first step back to feeling like he was a marine again. He runs half marathons with his prosthetic and it was when he swam in a race from Alcatraz and ended up at the feet of General Mattis out in California. As he emerged from the water General Mattis asked him what he could do for him - he said, “Sir, send me back to Iraq.” It was the only way he said that he would feel whole again. His wife and 4 year old daughter are in Oklahoma. This marine is now supporting his unit from the back - coordinating fire in the Combat Operations Center in Camp Fallujah. General Kelly of 1MEF said that he works out at the gym harder than anyone at the base. And he doesn’t want anyone’s pity. He won’t go out on foot patrol - not because he is fearful but he doesn’t want to endanger any other marines should they encounter trouble. He is a true inspiration. I asked him if he would engage some of our viewers with e-mails - take questions and he said yes - so if anyone wants to write to him and give him a bit of support and ask him what it is like to be back - here is his e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or if that doesn’t work try email@example.com. I asked if he had met any Iraqis since he had been back. He said he did at the Barber Shop - an Iraqi soldier who had been shot in the head in Ramadi. They stood outside and bonded over what they had been through. He said the Iraqi soldier was very moved that Gunny Gibson had come back to try to help rebuild Iraq.
When we got on the convoy this morning I asked if there were any marines who had been through Fallujah 1 and 2 - the really dark days in Anbar. I pulled Sgt Matiodda aside and quite unexpectedly (for him and me) he choked up very visibly when I asked him why he had come back. He immediately talked of his buddy who had lost both arms in Fallujah and those who hadn’t made it. His lip quivered through our entire interview - which had him very embarrassed at the end - but the emotions of those who fought hard and now are back seeing the dramatic changes and that it wasn’t all in vain are very raw. I hit him on the shoulder and turned away before I teared up. Most Americans have no idea.
Lot’s more to tell you but I have to get up in a few hours. I had an hour with General Petraeus today in Baghdad - keep an eye out for our interview when I get back. I have the distinct impression after talking to a lot of different Generals and Pentagon types that the army is readying itself to announce that they will be drawing back down to 12 month tours from 15 month tours in the next few months. Expect an announcement around the time that Petraeus returns to report to Congress sometime between April 7-9. He wouldn’t make the announcement. Expect the President to do it as they announce the success of the surge. General Casey, Army Chief, said Tuesday that he could foresee the army units that deploy in August will be deploying for 12 rather than 15 months, a move that will relieve some of the pressure on the force. You’ll remember they went to 15 month tours to support the surge.
Appreciate all of the nice comments from the viewers. They would be so blown away if they could see this war up close right now. It is very difficult to describe the changes in an article or television piece. You have to be here to believe it. Afghanistan - that’s another story. If anything, it is slipping backwards.
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