Back from Iraq: 'Except for getting blown up, it was kind of fun'

Back from Iraq: 'Except for getting blown up, it was kind of fun' »Play Video
Michael Oreskovic in Iraq

CRESWELL, Ore. - Michael Orsekovic doesn't spend a lot of time reflecting on his wartime service in Iraq.  

"Except for getting blown up," he said, "it was kind of fun."

Oreskovic enlisted in 2002 and joined the 3rd Brigade/2nd Infantry division.

He landed in Iraq in the first months of the war and was assigned to a Stryker unit as a gunner.

Then in 2004, he earned his first Purple Heart.

He earned his second less than a week later.

"One for Oct. 5," he said, "and one for Oct. 11."

The first attack was bad enough. A car bomb blew up next to his vehicle.

"This is a piece of shrapnel that was sticking out of my helmet,  it hit right here at the base of my helmet," he said.

Having escaped serious injury, he returned to active duty. Six days later, Oreskovic and the Stryker unit were on their last mission - a training patrol in Mosul, Iraq.

"So I was looking off to my left," he recalled. "There was a little pickup truck of fruit that came out of a side street."

The truck exploded with the force of two 155 millimeter artillery shells and 12 mortars.  

"I should have died," Oreskovic said. "There's no reason why I should have lived."

He lost his left arm and suffered a  traumatic brain injury. Thirteen months of recovery followed at Walter Reed Army Hospital.

That gave him time to reflect.

"Besides the pain aspect and knowing I had lost my arm and I'd have to re-evaluate my life," he said, "I want to spend more time with my family, which I care for a lot more as a result of almost dying."

Even knowing what he knows now, he would still have enlisted.

"The only thing I would do differently," he said, "is I would have ducked the second time."

Oreskovic has a serenity that comes from his motto in life: "things happen for a reason."

He volunteers for Lane County Search and Rescue  - and next year, he'll marry his fiancee.

"It was because of what happened to me that my life is the way it is now," he said, "and it's not a bad life."