A wounded warrior goes back to work

A wounded warrior goes back to work

COMBAT OUTPOST SEMINOLE, Afghanistan - The Marines prepare for today’s mission slated for 1300, the most miserable part of the day.

The sun is bright, glaring like some malicious, evil force. Beads of sweat trickle into my eyes as I heave my armor over my head and guzzle several bottles of water.

“Why are we going out on patrol in the heat of the day?” I ask to no one in particular. The Marines just shrug; they just do what they are told, without complaint. | Photo Gallery

We start off over a large field of over turned soil that is sun baked into huge chunks of rock like formations. The front of my boots flex on the tough ground as I try not to stumble.

Someone says its 97 degrees out, but it feels like 120 degrees. In fact a Marine claims it’s a cool one today.

After the field we reach irrigation ditches reaching down some five to ten feet.

The Marine ahead of me leaps over each one without hesitation. I take my time and each time count myself lucky that I didn’t fall and break my leg.

The next portion of the course is a flat plain of mud, about ankle deep with foliage of some kind of dying green plants up to our shoulders. The sweat drips into my eyes like some kind of acid rain. I wipe away the drops, with fingers covered in dust.

But I don’t complain because the Marine in front of me walks with his head up, lugging a huge backpack and a hefty M4.

This is LCpl Daniel Halek’s second patrol since he was shot in the right arm on Aug. 12, 2010.

Halek and the men in 3rd Platoon, based out of Combat Outpost Seminole, are on patrol to relieve Marines from another company in a smaller outpost. “They’re waiting for relief,” says Halek. Some of the men have been at the outpost for two months.

For Halek the patrol marks his official return to duty. Just 17 days ago he was medevacked to Dwyer (a larger base with higher levels of medical care), where medical staff attended to his wound, which did not even require stitches.

He stayed with the wounded warriors, which refers to wounded Marines in the area, for just over a week.

“You sit there and you’re just ready to come back. You talk to everybody’s families and they know they’re all going on patrols and you’re stuck in Dwyer wanting to go out with them," he says. “You don’t really know what’s going on the whole time you’re there. So you go pretty crazy.”

According to most Marines there is nothing worse than having time on their hands.

Although his wound is still healing, Halek is right where he wants to be, out in the sun slogging through the obstacle course of Afghanistan’s terrain.

“I’m feeling good now that I’m back,” says Halek. “I’ve been dying to come on patrols.”

For his first week back at Seminole with his fellow Marines, Halek was put on light duty, which means staying on base.

“You fight with everybody, stay with everybody in combat,” says Halek.

Dan Morrison and Cali Bagby are embedded with the Marines in Helmand province, Afghanistan, north of the Pakistani border, as multimedia journalists for KVAL News.

Morrison teaches photojournalism and multimedia reporting at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication in Eugene, Ore.

Bagby is a freelance multimedia journalist who spent 10 months embedded with the Oregon National Guard in Iraq for KVAL.com.