I seriously doubt Santa will try to make it down Route Boston in Fallujah this year to bring that new dartboard to Lt. Greco… too many IEDs!
The Marines of Alpha Company, 1/24, will celebrate this Christmas far from home and their families, but they will manage to get by somehow. Maj. Dan “Santa” Whisnant will make sure that they are okay. They’ll have each other as well as the thoughts and prayers of all Americans. They will carry on a long tradition of the legions of military heroes who have stayed in the fight so that we might be free, warm and peaceful at home.
I want to tell you about two of those heroes who have more than earned a mention by me in this blog, and deserve to have their story told all around the world.
Sgt Kopera and Sgt Doezma kept me alive during my brief visit in November. They led many of the patrols that I went on and risked their lives for me to get the story. And now both are recovering in hospitals after being shot by a brutal enemy.
Sgt Kopera was shot in the head by a sniper and fortunately is going to survive because he had his Kevlar on and great corpsmen nearby. As the incident was recounted to me, “the round penetrated his Kevlar, breaking a fragment off and impacting his skull.” (This is the point at which mere mortal men exit the fight… unless your name is Kopera.)
“He was conscious the entire time and continued to give orders to his squad even after he had been hit,” one Marine told me. And when the helicopter arrived in the hot zone to evacuate him, the story goes that Kopera “jumped up, grabbed his rifle and began to walk” himself aboard the bird. I just hope the cowardly sniper saw him do it because it sends a real message – You just messed with the wrong Marine!
And no one should be praying more for Sgt Kopera’s swift recovery this year than a Fallujah woman who was shot by the bad guys caught in a crossfire. For it was Sgt Kopera who under a hail of bullets safely evacuated her to a hospital and thus she will wake up in her own home this Christmas morning – alive and well.
Sgt. Doezma for whom I am eternally grateful for getting me through a “Whoosh Bang” incident (that’s Marine slang for an RPG attack!) was shot in the leg exiting his humvee while going after Kopera. He is recovering in a hospital in Germany and if I know him very well, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that he makes it back out in the field before 1/24’s deployment ends this summer. That’s the kind of warrior he is.
It was originally said about the Marines in Iwo Jima, but it can certainly be said this year in Fallujah of the men of Alpha Company – “Uncommon Valor was a Common Virtue.”
Merry Christmas Marines, Semper Fi!