Sunday, April 16, 2006

Where Do We Get Such Men

Another day at the office for a Marine:

RAMADI, Iraq — The young Marine had just shot a suspected insurgent and was walking back across the villa's rooftop when he keeled over from a terrific thud to the back of his head.

A sniper had fired a single, well-aimed bullet that tore through the top of Lance Cpl. Richard Caseltine's helmet, traced a path along the edge of his skull and buried burning bullet fragments in the back of his neck.

Less than a minute later, Caseltine, 20, from Aurora, Ind., was up on his feet — crouching, shaking and surprisingly, still alive.

"You expect when somebody gets shot in the head, they're dead," the soft-spoken Caseltine said, cradling the battered camouflage helmet that saved his life a week ago. "I consider myself very lucky."

...."It felt like somebody came from behind and punched me in the back of the head as hard as they could," Caseltine said. "It just rocked me. I went forward and my ears started ringing really bad. I couldn't hear anything."

....Three days later, Caseltine was back on base, hours away from rejoining his squad at an outpost elsewhere in Ramadi. Sitting outside his sandbagged tent, he pulled out a photo that showed him cradling his wife. It had been ripped in two by the bullet — right down the middle.
Caseltine had stuffed it into the netting inside the top of his helmet, known as a Kevlar for the protective material, "so my wife would be with me."

"They always tell us not to throw our Kevlars around or bang them on the ground. I usually do, but I ain't gonna be throwing my new one down," Caseltine said. "I ain't gonna take it for granted anymore because I know they work."

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