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II Marine Expeditionary Force

Readiness. Standards. Values.

Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Wounded warriors share experiences with deploying sailors

By Lance Cpl. Trevon S. Peracca | | January 28, 2013

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Deploying sailors actively listen as wound warrior Sgt. Maj. Patrick Wilkinson, formerly  2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment Battalion Sergeant Major, shares his story during a pre-deployment at the Naval Expeditionary Medical Training Institute here Jan. 24.

Deploying sailors actively listen as wound warrior Sgt. Maj. Patrick Wilkinson, formerly 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment Battalion Sergeant Major, shares his story during a pre-deployment at the Naval Expeditionary Medical Training Institute here Jan. 24. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Trevon S. Peracca)


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Lt. Cmdr. Helen Chandler, a registered nurse for the Intensive Care Unit in Kandahar, Afghanistan, holds back tears as she listens to a wounded warrior's heartbreaking story  during a pre-deployment at the Naval Expeditionary Medical Training Institute here Jan. 24.

Lt. Cmdr. Helen Chandler, a registered nurse for the Intensive Care Unit in Kandahar, Afghanistan, holds back tears as she listens to a wounded warrior's heartbreaking story during a pre-deployment at the Naval Expeditionary Medical Training Institute here Jan. 24. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Trevon S. Peracca)


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Ret. Sgt. Maj. Patrick Wilkinson, former 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment Battalion Sergeant Major, reflects on experiences during the sailors’ pre-deployment at the Naval Expeditionary Medical Training Institute here Jan. 24.

Ret. Sgt. Maj. Patrick Wilkinson, former 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment Battalion Sergeant Major, reflects on experiences during the sailors’ pre-deployment at the Naval Expeditionary Medical Training Institute here Jan. 24. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Trevon S. Peracca)


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Sgt. Jordan Williams, 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, shares his deployment experiences during a pre-deployment brief at the Naval Expeditionary Medical Training Institute here Jan. 24.

Sgt. Jordan Williams, 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, shares his deployment experiences during a pre-deployment brief at the Naval Expeditionary Medical Training Institute here Jan. 24. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Trevon S. Peracca)


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Cpl. Toran Gaal, formerly with 1st Battalion 5th Marine Regiment, shares his deployment experiences with medical personnel during a pre-deployment brief at the Naval Expeditionary Medical Training Institute here Jan. 24.

Cpl. Toran Gaal, formerly with 1st Battalion 5th Marine Regiment, shares his deployment experiences with medical personnel during a pre-deployment brief at the Naval Expeditionary Medical Training Institute here Jan. 24. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Trevon S. Peracca)


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CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- The sailors didn't know it, but in minutes, many of them would be crying.

During their last few days in the states, more than 100 Navy corpsmen, nurses and surgeons sat at the Naval Expeditionary Medical Training Institute here Jan. 24 and prepared for a journey to Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan.

Five empty chairs, positioned below a raised platform, faced the class at the audience's level.

As the sailors waited to begin a panel discussion with wounded warriors, they reviewed techniques on caring for combat troops and chatted casually about the excitement of the fight.

When Cpl. Toran Gaal and four others arrived at the institute, the chatting went silent and things got real.

Gaal, in civilian garb, wheeled before the audience and hoisted himself into one of the chairs. Retired Iraq veteran Sgt. Maj. Patrick Wilkinson, also wearing plain clothes, revealed a prosthetic right leg and a very scarred left leg. Sgt. Jordan Williams and Cpls. Michael Casey and Anthony Arriaga, less visibly scarred, represented Wounded Warrior Battalion West here and wore camouflaged utility uniforms.

The institute's training and academics officer Navy Lt. Tuesday Adams invited the wounded warriors to recount stories of challenge, loss and survival, and the panelists obliged by giving details of their injuries, which were inflicted by roadside bombs, ambushes, detonated suicide vests and other combat-related incidents.

Gaal, formerly with 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, said he knew there was always a possibility of getting injured in Afghanistan, but he never thought it would happen to him.

He told the crowd, "I would get blown up every day for a year to know that my squad is alive and out there currently leading Marines in combat."

An improvised explosive device left Gaal comatose for more than a month. His first thought after waking was, "Who is leading my squad? Are they okay?"

Gaal said he refused to accept his injuries.

Audience members wiped away tears as a contagious weeping made its way around in the room.

Arriaga, who recalled slipping in and out of consciousness after being ambushed in Afghanistan, said he remembered how a nurse made him feel better by rubbing his ears while he was transported to a forward operating base.

With compassion and understanding being the lessons of the day, the sailors, who came from various naval medical units throughout the world, were days from deploying to the NATO Role 3 Multinational Medical Unit in Kandahar -- the busiest military trauma hospital in the world.

"I am ready to get out there and do my job," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Anthony Martin. "It's time to get out there, get the experience in and start learning."


11 Comments


  • Timothy Organ 309 days ago
    Patrick Wilkerson was one of my SSgts in the Marine Corps early on. He was an inspiration to me and many, many others. I am glad to see him out and about continuing to push for the welfare of combat vets. God bless Sgt Maj Wilkerson, and the many others whose names we have yet to learn...
  • Sargas 322 days ago
    As a veteran myself, I have to give some props to these guys. Gentlemen, the Knights of Targoth Fraternal Brotherhood salutes you.
  • denise 1 years 94 days ago
    Kudos to the Marine Corp and Navy for making it real by putting a face on their future patients before arriving at the Role 3 hospital where they are wounded warrior's Chance in Hell for survival.
    Search for Chance in Hell a series with vivid pictures on the Role 3 Hospital in Kandar published by the Virginia Pilot in Norfolk VA.
  • Support the Troops 1 years 180 days ago
    Cpl. Toran Gaal is humiliated by TSA in Sky Harbor Airport. The Marines need to teach TSA a lesson in honoring wounded soldiers! Link: http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/Marine-Embarrassed-by-TSA-san-diego-phoenix-199073921.html
  • SPC Tate 1 years 223 days ago
    I'm a injured soldier. I was blown up in Afghanistan by a dismounted IED. I have been through 27 surgeries and I'm still going. I have multiple injures, but I'm not complaining. Just wanted to wish y'all look on the deployment.

    Follow me on twitter or Instagram @tate3821 if you want to see my recovering process
  • Andrey Min'kov 1 years 224 days ago
    Everyone gets what he wants. Need to learn to make the right choice.
  • HM1 William Banks 1 years 227 days ago
    Comming from a retired FMF Hospital Corpsman, I am very happy to see this kind of med intel briefing. I know how those in the FMF get attached to the Corps and thier profession.
  • Monica 1 years 228 days ago
    God bless u and ur familys
  • Chris Woodford 1 years 228 days ago
    God bless all of you and thank you for your service to the United States of America.
  • ana alvarado 1 years 229 days ago
    this are very brave men and women and we thank them for their dedication in keep our country free and wonderful and for helping other in need thank you marines God bless you
  • Former Sgt. Michael Knight 1 years 230 days ago
    Great article. Well done Lance Cpl. Peracca

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