Miss USA visits Camp Lejeune’s wounded warriors

16 Mar 2006 | Lance Cpl. Ryan M. Blaich

More than 15 Marines squirmed in their seats, waiting eagerly in a computer room, scattered amongst circular tables, as Miss USA, Chelsea S. Cooley, finally appeared through the double doors of the Injured Support Unit barracks Monday.

The brunette bombshell sat very casually in front of wounded warriors as they tried to catch their breath and build up the courage to ask her questions.

“Do chicks dig scars?” asked a curious Pfc. Pete D. Dmitruk, an infantryman with 1st platoon, Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment.

Dmitruk pulled up the sleeve of his utility greens and exposed his right forearm, which had been badly injured from a mortar attack last October in Iraq. Miss USA moved closer to Dmitruk to get a better look, not frightened of the severe mark.

“Yes, I think chicks dig scars,” Cooley laughed. “I don’t like pretty boys, so I would say scars are not a bad thing.”

Dmitruk, now full of confidence, went on to show the rest of his scars, some which required him lift his shirt and pull down on his trousers.

“Whoa … where are you going?” Cooley asked as she jumped back in her seat.

The scar did not require Dmitruk to drop trou, but did seem that way a first. The Marines laughed and the blushing Marine sat back down in his chair.

Dmitruk has been at the ISU barracks since late December. His injuries require him to rehabilitate and recover before he is sent back to his unit. He said the new barracks allow him to relate with other Marines and sailors who have similar experience. The ISU was developed last November and houses service members injured in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Cooley, who’s traveled the globe hanging out with troops, got to know each Marine and corpsman in the room. She wanted to hear the warriors’ story and how fate had brought them here. Despite their heart-wrenching stories, those here keep a sense of humor. Cooley herself could not keep from busting out in laughter at the Marines and their unique wit.

“I shot myself in the foot,” said a Marine in back of the room not making eye contact with the beauty queen.

“You did what?” she asked.

“It’s true. He shot himself,” Dmitruk said, as the room echoed chuckles.

Stories of explosions and shrapnel scars seem to be a theme within the room of young heroes. The last story to be told that morning was from a Marine corporal missing his left arm.

“What happened to you?” Cooley inquired.

The corporal looked at Miss USA very seriously, and then raised the sleeve of his left arm. The laughter reached its climax and left Cooley speechless.

“Sometimes we ask him to go play baseball,” joked Dmitruk.

“Oh, I see,” Cooley replied, seeming to catch on to the Marines ability to joke about their conditions.

The day was about respect and good times, but had to end at some point. The Marines and sailors surely appreciated her visit and had a great time just hang around with a “chill beauty queen,” Dmitruk stated.  

“She was very beautiful,” said Dmitruck, “I’m glad she took the time to come see all the Marines here,” he went on to say.

Cooley, a native of Charlotte, N.C., said being with the Marines stationed in North Carolina was something she had always wanted to do as Miss USA. Although meeting with service members is not a requirement of the Miss USA crown, Cooley said it is something she just wanted to do.