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Injured, but still dedicated to duty

From The Moffett County Morning News in Craig, CO.  I don't see any indication on their site that their articles are archived and this is too good to risk not being able to read again later. Guess they'll just have to sue me. Hat tip: Mamamontezz for emailing me about this.

Injured, but still dedicated to duty
Cory Hixson wishes he could return to his buddies in Iraq

By Will Fletcher
Morning News Staff Writer

Lance Corporal Cory Hixson never wanted to be anything but a Marine.

Long before Sept. 11, and long before U.S. troops were called to duty in Afghanistan and Iraq, the 2002 graduate of Moffat County High School said he knew he would one day be bound by the words “Semper Fidelis.”

The usual perks such as traveling abroad, unique training and money for a college education, played little in his decision to sign up.

To be able to look down upon on a dirty, blood and sweat-stained uniform after a long day in the field was all Hixson said he needed to make the experience worthwhile. To be a grunt in the thick of battle was all he wanted out of life.

“I wasn’t doing it for anybody. I just wanted to shoot stuff and blow stuff up,” he said of his decision to enlist during such torrid times.

The ideals of “the few and the proud” were imbued early on in Cory by his father, a Vietnam-era Marine, who Cory said coached him along the road to donning a pair of fatigues.

His older brother, Greg, is also proud to call himself a member of the Corps.

Cory’s stepmother said she remembers her son’s desire to join the Corps began when he was just a little boy.

And in the month since volunteering for a patrol in the volatile town of Falluja, where a volley of mortar shells sent shrapnel into his face and took the sight from his left eye, being a Marine is still all that Hixson longs to be.

Whether he still can or will, however, remains to be seen.

Cory’s homecoming to Craig two weeks ago was a scene repeated in small towns and large cities across the nation. A community welcomed its battle-weary home with open arms and support.

A barrage of “Welcome Back Cory” signs flooded the windows of local businesses. A stranger even presented him with an AR-15 assault rifle, the civilian counterpart to the military M-16, just to tell him thank you for his service.

A reluctant hero, Hixson said he would trade all the pomp and celebration in an instant to be back in Falluja with his platoon.

“People say thank you all the time. That’s great and all, but I was kind of doing my job,” Hixson said. “I feel like I didn’t do enough. That’s why I want to go back.”

Although the circumstances are different now, Hixson’s return to Craig hasn’t been the first homecoming he has experienced in his life. Like an increasing number of servicemen and women, Hixson has been seasoned in the art of war, and was injured over a month into his second tour in Iraq.

The firefight that claimed Hixson’s eye was not the first time he had had to “get some” either, the term the Marine’s 3rd Battalion/5th Regiment uses for having to light up the enemy with firepower.

Hixson joined the 3/5 in March 2003, right out of infantry training to be a squad automatic weapons gunner (SAWgunner). He met his platoon already inside Iraq several weeks after the war got underway.

He was shoved in with little experience to fight alongside people he had not yet begun to know.

“When I first got there it seemed kind of evil; it was a scary place,” Hixson said of a country he described as looking like a giant ghost town, littered with the chards of war.

Blown-up buildings scattered the towns and destroyed vehicles cluttered roadsides.

Getting to know and trust his fellow Marines, and catching on to the lifestyle one was required to have inside a war zone was difficult. He learned to pay attention to the Marines who were “saltier,” those who knew the ropes and how to stay safe, and to learn to spot and ignore those who just pretended to be seasoned.

But after some time, things settled.

“You do everything together; sleep in nasty [conditions] together. You go through hell together,” Hixson said.

“The next thing you know the platoon is just like this,” he said, crossing his middle and index fingers.

Before he could realize it, he was no longer at the bottom of the food chain, and newer recruits had arrived, giving Hixson his own bit of salt to share.

Hixson’s platoon spent the majority of its tour from March through September patrolling streets and standing guard around banks and facilities in the southern city of Diwaniyeh, a metropolis of just under a half-million people about 180 kilometers south of Baghdad.

The insurgency had yet to ramp up to the deadly situation that exists today. After a while Hixson said the war became almost mundane.

“It wasn’t too hairy. There was a couple of times we got mortared,” he said. “One of my buddies got shot in the back. Stupid stuff like that.”

When his battalion rotated back to their base at Camp Pendleton, Calif., Hixson said the Marines knew they would soon return to Iraq, and vowed to give them hell when they did.

For the next year, Hixson said his platoon followed a strict regimen of day-in and day-out training.

When they returned to Iraq this past September, things were a bit different.

Hixson’s unit went straight to Falluja amid the volatile insurgency where soldiers and Marines were being attacked and killed every day.

But this time he had also gained the camaraderie of his older brother, Greg, a Marine truck driver with another unit who had been in the country since August. The two spent several weeks in each other’s compay, stationed at camp Falluja on the city’s outskirts.

Then Hixson’s platoon was called to patrol deeper into the city, and things got hairy. His squad would move forward into the city for four and eight days at a time, camping at bunkers along the way.

They were tasked with hunting down insurgents and ensuring the Marines’ main supply routes around Falluja remained free and clear.

On their off time around the base, Hixson said the guys tried not to take work too personally.

“Morale was good. We’d laugh. Everyone would share packages. We got a lot of mail,” he said. “Nobody would really talk about home. [But] if you ‘got some,’ that was something to talk about.”

One afternoon, Hixson said he noticed all hell was breaking loose as he stood outside the Marines’ compound. explosions began as an echo in the distance but were soon landing closer and closer.

A fleet of armored trucks and tanks began passing by toward the raucus. He remembers a call coming from one of the vehicles shouting for four Marines and a SAWgunner.

Hixson said he jumped in, no questions asked.

As they ventured into the hot zone, the Marines noticed several insurgent lookouts and several armed enemy trucks. Hixson said he lit up one truck with machine gun fire and sent an insurgent racing into an alleyway near a factory building.

All the while his comrades pounded other points.

Hixson pursued the rebel down the alley.

“Your training starts kicking in real quick and you do what you got to do,” he said. “You just keep fighting.”

Halfway down the long corridor he began to hear frantic shouts coming from the rear, while an increasing number of enemy mortars began landing.

Racing back to the vehicle, a rain of shells began hitting all around him, and shortly before reaching the safety of his truck, Hixson felt pain.

“I just got hit, came back a little and grabbed my eye,” Hixson said.

Somebody screamed “medic,” and rushed him into the Marines’ truck. Hixson’s face was a bloody mess and he began coughing up blood. But he said thoughts of death never crossed his mind. Instead his mind raced to far-away things such as how he would ever get a job back in the world with such a wound covering his face.

Hixson was rushed back to Camp Falluja for surgery, and three shots of morphine later, the world turned into a haze.

But he does remember his brother being there to comfort him when he woke up.

Greg Hixson was also the first one to send news back to their family of the day’s tragic events.

Right when I woke up I ... I knew I had lost my eye,” Hixson said.

Hixson was evacuated to Germany, and shortly thereafter sent back to Camp Pendleton where he has undergone additional medical treatment, including a surgery to remove leftover shrapnel that was lodged in his nasal cavity.

When he returns to Pendleton, doctors will fit his left eye socket with a prosthetic. Getting used to having only half his vision has not been easy, but Hixson said he is making due.

He can still drive, and may be able to remain in the Corps, but the prospect of a desk job is not something he takes lightly.

Hixson says his wounds do not bother him, but he repeatedly rubs his eye socket as he says so.

Other than having to get used to the awkward coordination of only seeing through one lens, he admits the hardest part about being back is worrying about his many brothers-in-arms who remain in harm’s way.

In the fallout of the military’s siege of Falluja, his concern has only grown. Since Hixson’s forced departure from Iraq, he said a good buddy of his was badly injured as well, and that he is not sure if one of his lieutenants is still alive.

Hixson said he and his fellow Marines stay in touch as best they can, and he has gotten word many times that the troops all wish he could still be with them.

Hixson said he would like nothing more than to aquiesce.

Will Fletcher can be reached at

There's more here:


At 3 a.m. on a Sunday, inside his bedroom in Craig, Jim Hixson awoke in a haze of sleep and grabbed the telephone on the first ring. He heard the familiar voice of another Marine. The voice was crying.

"Dad, Cory's been hit," Gregory told him through sobs.

"Is he alive?" Jim Hixson demanded.


More here, here, here, and here.

Posted by Bill Faith on November 23, 2004 at 06:31 AM | Permalink


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Let me preface this by saying that B.D. Faith is one of the good guys. His site, Small Town Veteran, is always a good read from the perspective of (in his words) a "Baby boomer, nerdy kid, Viet Nam veteran,... [Read More]

Tracked on Nov 24, 2004 12:01:18 AM


Note: I hate to have to do it but I'm turning on comment and trackback moderation. If you post a legitimate trackback or comment I'll do my best not to be too slow about approving it. If the only reason you're here is to advertise your porn, music, or penis enhancement site you can kiss my sweet ass.

Great post, Cory's experience and attitude shows just how tough and dedicated our fighters are, so glad he hasn't suffered more severe wounds and I hope that he and the Corps can jointly finish an exemplary career together if they choose to. Cory has a lot to offer his fellow Marines and younger trainees. My thanks and admiration extend to this Marine for the sacrifices he has made.

Posted by: Jack | Nov 24, 2004 10:53:33 AM

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