Last weekend, I had a chance to visit my friend Justin who is back from Iraq. He is a U.S. Marine Reserve who volunteered to go overseas this fall.
Justin’s family is Fairfax City all the way. We both graduated from Fairfax High School in the late 80′s and then reunited on the rugby field in the mid-90′s playing for Northern Virginia RFC. Last year, he joined a brigade of former ruggers that put up road signs for my Lt Governor campaign.
A few weeks ago, Justin was on a convoy in Sunni-dominated territory in Anbar province. He was not there in a combat capacity. In fact, he is a lawyer (former JAG) who was there as part of a civil affairs unit — tasked with establishing civil authority in an area that is both lawless and hostile to Americans.
He was walking out in the open — seconds after stepping out of a vehicle — when he was shot in the back of the neck by a sniper. The bullet passed through his jaw and exited by his mouth. He remembers nothing. A journalist traveling with him captured the story. Basically, Justin’s life was saved by a corpsman that treated him oblivious of personal danger from the sniper.
Justin has spent the last several weeks at Walter Reed Medical Center. The medical facts of his case are amazing, except for military doctors who do this every day. Basically, he is going through a series of reconstructive surgeries for his jaw and face. However, his mind is clear and alert, and he looks in great shape. In fact, he looks like he hasn’t missed a workout.
I don’t think Justin would consider himself a war hero. He was only in Iraq for six weeks. But this is the type of young man or woman that represents the best of our community in the U.S. military. It’s also a reminder that the casualties of war can hit close to home. Even Fairfax High School.