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UNSUNG HEROES: The Marine Who Lost A Leg In Iraq And Became A Georgia State Trooper
Stephen M. Smith’s application to the Georgia State Patrol last year came with the stipulation that no one would go easy on him because he was an amputee. “They said, ‘That’s awesome that you are trying out, but don’t expect any special treatment,’’’ Smith told the Telegraph, a local Georgia newspaper, in January. “I said, ‘I absolutely don’t expect that. In fact, I would be offended if I did receive special treatment.’ I had to do everything just like everybody else.”
After passing every physical agility test required of state troopers, Smith reported for duty to the Georgia State Troopers Perry Post on Sept. 1, 2014, eight years after he lost a leg in Iraq, according to WMAZ TV-13.
During a patrol near Ramadi in October 2006, Smith, then a sergeant, stepped on an improvised explosive device while on a mission to destroy a sniper hideout. The blast severed his left Achilles tendon, nearly severed his vital femoral artery, broke his femur, and shattered bones throughout his lower leg, according to a II Marine Expeditionary Force press release.
Smith begins to walk with his new prosthetic.
One of his last memories before losing consciousness at the battalion aid station was the moment he received a visit from his brother Clayton, who had recently transferred into the same battalion of the 6th Marine Regiment so the Macon, Georgia, natives could deploy together. "I remember feeling a touch on my shoulder,” Smith told WMAZ TV-13. “Then, my brother's voice. He said, you hang in there, you stubborn SOB."
When doctors began fixing his severely mangled leg at Landstuhl Medical Center in Germany, Smith was stuck in a horrific middle state of consciousness. “I was unconscious, but I could feel and hear everything around me,” Smith told the II Marine Expeditionary Force. “They were resetting my bone, which stuck out of my leg, and I remember feeling all that pain, but I was like a vegetable — I couldn’t scream, I couldn’t move, I couldn’t do anything.”
At National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, Smith could just barely feel his foot when a doctor touched it with an inquisitive hand. But Smith opted for amputation after doctors told him there was little chance of saving his limb.
After the surgery, Smith was plagued by a succession of high fevers, and the sutures on his leg refused to heal. His doctors were puzzled, until Smith told them about the sewage water he came into contact with on the day of his injury. When Smith hit the ground immediately after the IED explosion, he accidentally swallowed a mouthful of it.
The insurgent IED had already forced doctors to amputate Smith’s leg up to the top of his boot, but an E. coli infection from the sewage water forced them to amputate another three inches.
He arrived at Walter Reed Medical Center in November 2006. Smith waited for the largest bone in his body, his femur, to heal before he could receive his prosthetic limb. He watched frustratedly while other injured veterans received their prosthetics more quickly.
Meanwhile, it seemed like he was haunted by the ghost of his own foot. In the space where it used to be, Smith occasionally felt an irritating itch, or the shooting pain of just having stepped on a nail.
“I was in a wheelchair for two and a half months,” Smith said. “Going to places that were crowded was difficult. Fighting infections, not getting my prosthetic as soon as I wanted to, and then there was the phantom pain.”
Smith’s injury precluded him from returning to the infantry, but he chose to stay in the Marines and received orders to serve as an armorer at School of Infantry East in North Carolina, responsible for repairing and maintaining weapons. Longing to leave his stateside desk job, the Marines granted Smith’s wish to deploy to Afghanistan in 2011 as armory maintenance chief with the 8th Marine Regiment.
“Once I decided to stay in, I just wanted to do my job,” Smith told II Marine Expeditionary Force that year. “It’s all about what you make out of it. Some people accept the fact they are crippled for life, but I’m back in a combat zone.”
Although Smith did not serve in an infantry role during his deployment, the nature of a war with no clear frontline meant he wasn’t out of harm’s way. His vehicle drove over an IED, but that time, Smith walked away from the explosion uninjured, reported WMAZ TV-13.
Smith’s biggest milestone since his injury has come after his service with the Marines, when he was one of 46 cadets to complete 31 weeks of training with the Georgia State Patrol last year. During his August 15 graduation ceremony, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal announced Smith as the first amputee to ever graduate from the Georgia’s school for state troopers, reported The Telegraph.
Thanks to his background with the Marines, Smith was recognized upon graduation with the honor of highest firearm proficiency. He now hits the road in his patrol car within the four-county area covered by his post.
“When the doctors told me I had to make the decision to amputate my leg, I envisioned myself scooting around on my butt for the rest of my life,” Smith told the Telegraph. “I was crushed.”
Thanks to his prosthetic leg, modified to hold his backup firearm, Smith found the determination to stay in shape and excel as a trooper. He proved himself during field training — riding with an experienced trooper to learn firsthand — when a suspect ran from him. Smith and his fellow trooper ran after the suspect, caught up with him, and tackled him together.
Smith recalled what one trooper later told the suspect in custody: “Do you realize you just got outrun by a man with one leg?”
His supervisor, State Patrol Sgt. Craig Smith (no relation), told the Telegraph the rookie never let himself be held back by his prosthetic leg since the moment he applied. “Bottom line is that he has good moral character,” Smith said. “He has proven himself above and beyond since day one.”
A former sailor who was busted buying firearms with his military discount and then reselling some of them to criminals is proving to be a wealth of information for federal investigators.
Julio Pino used his iPhone to record most, if not all, of his sales, court documents said. He even went so far as to review the buyers' driver's license on camera.
It is unclear how many of Pino's customer's now face criminal charges of their own. Federal indictments generally don't provide that level of detail and Assistant U.S. Attorney William B. Jackson declined to comment.
It all began with a medical check.
Carson Thomas, a healthy and fit 20-year-old infantryman who had joined the Army after a brief stint in college, figured he should tell the medics about the pain in his groin he had been feeling. It was Feb. 12, 2012, and the senior medic looked him over and decided to send him to sick call at the base hospital.
It seemed almost routine, something the Army doctors would be able to diagnose and fix so he could get back to being a grunt.
Now looking back on what happened some seven years later, it was anything but routine.
The US military now has to ask the Iraqis for permission before giving close air support to troops in combat
U.S. forces must now ask the Iraqi military for permission to fly in Iraqi airspace before coming to the aid of U.S. troops under fire, a top military spokesman said.
However, the mandatory approval process is not expected to slow down the time it takes the U.S. military to launch close air support and casualty evacuation missions for troops in the middle of a fight, said Army Col. James Rawlinson, a spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve.
Army Spc. Clayton James Horne died in Saudi Arabia on Aug. 17, making him the eighth non-combat fatality for Operation Inherent Resolve so far this year, defense officials have announced.
Horne, 23, was assigned to the 351st Military Police Company, 160th Military Police Battalion, an Army Reserve unit based in Ocala, Florida, a Pentagon news release says.
The soldier who was arrested for taking an armored personnel carrier on a slow-speed police chase through Virginia has been found not guilty by reason of insanity on two charges, according to The Richmond-Times Dispatch.
Joshua Phillip Yabut, 30, entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle — in this case, a 12-ton APC taken from Fort Pickett in June 2018 — and violating the terms of his bond, which stemmed from a trip to Iraq he took in March 2019 (which was not a military deployment).