Name: Matthew W.
MOS: 11B – Infantryman
Length of Service: 7 years
Did you deploy? I deployed with the New York Army National Guard to Iraq in 2004. My unit was Charlie Company, 2/108th Infantry. While in country, we were attached to the 1/26 Infantry 1st Infantry Division. Our area of operations was Samarra, Iraq and the surrounding area. Samarra was in the middle of the Sunni Triangle. It has one of the holiest sites in the Shi'a sect.
Why did you join the military? I joined the military prior to 9/11 to get my college tuition paid
What is the single most important lesson you’ve learned while serving? Don't go alone. I find it particularly important with the epidemic of veteran suicide. When I see people reach out for help, they always say they feel weak reaching out. I try to reframe it as asking for reinforcements. In battle, we call close air support, indirect fire support, more personnel. I encourage them to call close air support. Call someone nearby, have them come to you, and provide support.
What is your most memorable moment or time during your service? Why? The battlefield memorials that I witnessed were the most memorable. Seeing the memorial (boots, rifle, etc), listening to the roll call, slow salutes, Taps, 21-gun salute. It is incredibly moving, heartbreaking, and beautiful.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about your service? I was wounded in action on 23Nov04. We were in a convoy of 4 (Bradley, HMMWV, HMMWV, Bradley) I was driving the lead HMMWV. My A-Driver (front passenger) was taping our route because we had endured an ambush in the area earlier in the deployment. While he was narrating the video with details about the ambush, we came to a T intersection. I turned left, before I could get to speed an IED detonated. It was triggered before the engine and front tire. It absorbed the majority of the blast. I believe the location saved my life. I sustained a significant injury to the outside of my left knee. The initial injury was the size of a small Nerf football and severed my peroneal nerve. I developed compartment syndrome that went undiagnosed. This caused the muscles related to lifting your toes to become necrotic. The muscle was removed, leading to permanent foot drop. I also sustained shrapnel wounds to my right knee. I also had some minor abrasions to my left hand and right forearm. My A-Driver sustained a shrapnel wound to his eye. It wasn't a catastrophic injury as he can still see out of that eye. My gunner was uninjured in the incident. Although, I did notice a hole in his blouse.
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We all survived but what stands out is that by the time I was 1/4 of the way through my deployment I would hear the launch and be able to tell if I had to run or not. It was very strange being able to tell where the mortar would land by the sound of the launch. After getting past that first 1/4 of the deployment I felt no fear.