MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
“It literally felt like one of those war scenes out of a movie,” recalled Cpl. Randall Sevene, an Orange, Mass., native who served as a Humvee driver for Headquarters Company, Regimental Combat Team 6, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) in the Al Anbar Province, Iraq, December 2006-April 2007.
“The scariest part was when the fire started cooking the grenades and about 1,000 .50 caliber rounds in the Humvee,” Sevene said, mimicking the explosions from the truck blown up by an insurgent’s improvised explosive device. “You see those war movies on TV, that’s what it felt like for me. It was unreal.”
Despite the surreal circumstances, Sevene displayed bravery and a willingness to risk his life to protect his comrades. The risk was so great it earned him a Bronze Star Medal with combat distinguishing device Oct. 18.
Sevene performed heroic feats as a lance corporal driving during a mounted patrol with the regiment’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Security Detachment in Habbaniyah, Iraq, April 13. Coincidentally, the date fell on a Friday.
“We were clearing a route with the Iraqi Army bringing EOD to support (3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II MEF (Fwd)),” Sevene said. “There were four Humvees and a Cougar (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle) in the mounted patrol. I was in the second Humvee, providing security.”
The entire detachment was sitting in a potential kill-zone with 15 to 20 IEDs planted in the area. EOD located the detonation wires between two buildings and quickly began disarming them. The wires led out to the roadside where the mounted patrol was parked.
“The security element cleared the buildings, and EOD stopped two IEDs from detonating,” Sevene said. “The IED on the corner went off and blew the Humvee in front of me up in the air.”
According to the award citation, the vehicle was thrown 45 feet away from the resulting crater. The driver, Lance Cpl. Anson L. Roberts, and the machine gunner, Lance Cpl. Yadiel Sanchez, both assigned to the EOD Security Detachment, were in the vehicle when the IED exploded. While Sanchez was thrown 15 meters away, Roberts was still trapped in the flame-engulfed Humvee.
“I was knocked out for a few seconds, and when I came to, I remember hearing on the radio, ‘I’m on fire, I’m on fire,’” Sevene said. “I saw Sanchez on the ground and thought, ‘Well, it can’t be him, ‘cause he’s not on fire.’”
The citation also states Sevene immediately located Roberts and assisted him by opening the driver’s door so Roberts could escape the burning vehicle. While ammunition in the Humvee ignited, Sevene ran to aid Sanchez, who was severely injured with a broken leg, elbow, spine and two broken ribs.
“It really hurt at first,” Sanchez said. “I was trying to take my (flak jacket) off because it felt like something was stuck in my back.”
An insurgent on the rooftop of the closest building began firing erratically at the patrol with an AK-47 rifle, sending rounds all around them, Sevene recalled.
“I closed Sanchez’ flak and dragged him over behind a wooden fence to conceal us,” Sevene said. “The rounds were landing close to us, so I shielded his body with as much of my flak as I could.”
Another minute passed before Sgt. Douglas Van Norden, EOD technician with the detachment, ran to Sevene and helped drag Sanchez into the second building.
“While we were in the second building, the rest of the team engaged the first building with the MK-19 (40mm machine gun, MOD 3) and (M2 .50 caliber machine gun),” Sevene said. “I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure the insurgents didn’t get away, because they destroyed that building.”
Sevene and three other Marines knocked down a door in the building and used it as a stretcher to transport Sanchez back to the Humvees, where they waited for a CH-46E Sea Knight helicopter to evacuate the two severely injured Marines.
“I was so tired after carrying him back to the trucks,” Sevene said. “I think we all were.”
After the evacuation, Sevene went back into action and manned his M240G medium machine gun on his disabled Humvee, guarding the EOD technicians while they discovered the remaining IEDs.
Ten days after the episode, Sevene was medically evacuated from Habbaniyah due to the injuries he sustained from the blast.
Brig. Gen. David H. Berger, assistant division commander, 2nd Marine Division, awarded Sevene the Bronze Star Medal with combat “V” during the ceremony in front of approximately 30 Marines from the battalion’s remain behind element.
Berger and Chief Warrant Officer Cannon C. Cargile, regimental gunner, 6th Marine Regiment, briefly spoke about the medal and emphasized how Sevene’s courageous actions were performed without regard for his own life.
The Bronze Star Medal is the fourth highest military decoration awarded for an act of bravery or heroism. Though Sevene accepted the medal, he said he’d prefer to tell a different story.
“I’d rather give it back and not have had the (incident) happen,” Sevene said. “I’d give it all back for Roberts’ injuries,” Sevene added about Roberts, who is recovering from third degree burns and hand injuries at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.
Additionally, Roberts and Sanchez received the Purple Heart Medal for the sacrifices they made while serving in Iraq.
Sevene reflected on his combat experience and said he applies it to his everyday life.
“One thing I can say is I have experiences no one else has,” Sevene said about the deployment he calls his “Friday the thirteenth”. “After I came back (from Iraq), I noticed little things don’t bother me anymore because I know what it could be,” he added, contrasting his combat experience with daily problems he said are easier to manage.