What a GREAT DAY!.
First, Gunny Burghardt is back in action:
BY C. DAVID KOTOK
WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER
RAMADI, Iraq – The sight of Marine Gunnery Sgt. Michael Burghardt scrambling and poking through a dirt mound searching for explosives drew smiles Tuesday from Sgt. Joe Dunlap of Lincoln and other Nebraska Army National Guard soldiers.
A month ago today, Dunlap had driven to Burghardt’s aid after the Marine explosives expert wasn’t able to disarm the last of three improvised explosive devices.
Two things amazed those who were there that day:
• Burghardt survived the explosion and would return to duty in less than a month.
• A World-Herald photograph showing Burghardt standing on his own two feet, pants cut off, legs bandaged and directing a single-digit salute of defiance at his attackers, has transformed him into one of the most famous Marines of the Iraq war.
The photo appeared on numerous Marine-related Internet weblogs. Burghardt received more than 100 e-mails within days of the picture’s publication. It has become a screensaver on soldiers’ and Marines’ computers across Iraq.
“I don’t know how my anger turned into a motivational picture,” Burghardt said.
Dunlap and the others with the 1st Platoon, Troop A of Nebraska Guard’s 167th Cavalry didn’t think about motivation when the IED exploded, engulfing Burghardt in debris, shrapnel and dirt.
“I thought he bought it,” Dunlap said. “Then I saw his legs kicking.”
When Dunlap reached Burghardt, the wounded Marine kept saying, “Just tell me I’m all right.”
Don’t lie, Burghardt told Dunlap, “Just tell me I’m all right.”
The Marine Explosive Ordnance Disposal units are assigned to locate, identify, disarm and dispose of IEDs, which have become a favored weapon of the Iraqi insurgents. The Nebraskans accompanying those units provide security at the scene, guarding the perimeter while the EOD teams work.
Even wounded, the one thing Burghardt made sure he kept in his possession was his special-issue EOD unit Shrade knife with its 7-inch blade. He has carried it since 1994.
The knife came out of its sheath again Tuesday, as Burghardt searched in vain for a wire or explosives in a dirt pile previously used as a hiding place for bombs.
His first day back out was Oct. 13. But Tuesday was his most active, handling three missions with the CAV’s 1st Platoon.
Burghardt said the three-plus weeks he spent recuperating at his unit’s headquarters, unable to go on missions, were among the most difficult of his career. However, he joked that he did enjoy going to the base medical center to have his bandages around his thighs and wounds to his rear attended.
Sitting remains a problem, and his calves occasionally are sore. But Burghardt’s not looking for a ticket out of Iraq. This is his third deployment to the country, and he expects more.
The 35-year-old Burghardt, of Huntington Beach, Calif., has been in the Marine Corps for 18 years, the last 15 in bomb disposal.
He’s not looking to put in 20 years and then move into a lucrative civilian job, either.
“I’ll do 30 years, as long as I’m having fun,” Burghardt said. “Unless I die.”
Burghardt was having fun just before dusk Tuesday, during his third mission with the CAV’s 1st Platoon. They were called out onto the main highway east of Ramadi because of a suspicious inner tube spotted alongside a bridge.
“Gunny,” as everyone calls Burghardt, moved off the highway and onto a berm, where he found a wire. The scissors came off the front of his body armor, and he snipped the wire.
That did not mean all was safe.
There were dangers of a booby trap or an alternate detonation source. So the EOD unit used a robot to check it out. It found two large artillery shells bound up in the inner tube.
Burghardt and his men removed the shells, which were large enough to destroy a Bradley Fighting Vehicle or Abrams tank. The shells were safely taken to a nearby field and detonated, sending debris skyward.
Just the kind of end to a day that Gunny Burghardt likes.
Second, the House has passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, and President Bush has said he’d sign it.
Third, David Hardy reports that Michael Barnes, president of the Brady Center has resigned citing the stress of losses – like the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.
Ah, what a great day!