On January 21, 2005 a woman received a call from her boyfriend serving in Iraq. As soon as she heard his voice she knew something terrible had happened, though he refused to say. After months of phone calls she was able to translate what he meant when he said, “It was just a really bad day.” It meant someone died.
It wasn’t until he came on in February, on leave, when she heard about the accident, during which her sweetheart received a knee injury. When he came home for good, or so they thought, and proposed on September 11th, 2005 at a 9/11 Memorial, she had to help him up after he got down on one knee.
January 17 of 2005, Specialist David Conde was injured in Iraq. While traveling in a combat patrol in Baghdad, in observation post, Specialist Conde’s convey was trying to capture a vehicle suspected of transporting weapons, in an area of Baghdad, where gunfire and explosions were heard. The suspected vehicle was seen crossing in front of Specialist Conde’s vehicle, and a high speed pursuit engaged.
While in pursuit one US vehicle rolled over in a canal. Specialist Conde’s vehicle dismounted to evacuate personnel from over turned vehicle. Soldiers went into still canal water with full gear, including bullet proof vests. Specialist Conde jumped from the vehicle’s turret and came down in the water to assist. Once wet, the gear easily doubled in weight. The sudden excessive weight caused his knee to buckle, but not break.
Three injured personnel were in the water, while one was trapped within the vehicle. Ingesting the still and stagnate canal water was inevitable. Specialist Conde tried to get to trapped soldier in vehicle but was unable. Attempts to locate the soldier resulted in an unsuccessful rescue. First aid was performed on injured soldiers. He helped set up medical evacuation while radioing for assistance in securing perimeter. Unfortunately the driver and trapped soldier were killed in action while two others suffered disabling injuries.
Specialist Conde suffered a knee injury, which was made worse by running thru rocky field while helping carry a stretcher with injured personnel. He was on crutches and unable to walk without assistance for five months until receiving knee surgery in Kuwait, in June of 2005. Since his surgery he is walking without crutches, but continuing pain. Rather than being sent to Germany for surgery, then home, like most injured soldiers, he was sent to Kuwait for surgery. He was send BACK to Iraq to finish his tour. Knee surgery incisions do not fair well on sandy ground, delaying and deterring healing. He is unable to run, carry heavy weight or sit for long periods of time.
Since he has ingested the canal water Specialist Conde has numerous stomach aliments, and intestinal issues, causing him to miss months of work at a time.
One form wasn’t filled out while was still in Iraq. Because of this he was denied his Purple Heart. The military may send him back for a second tour despite his injury and continuing ill health.
What does the Purple Heart mean? It is not merely a status metal stating you were injured serving your country. It means the soldier can get help medically, qualify for loans for school and purchasing a home, and assist his children, (when he has them), pay for their college education. It means the military will have to pay attention and help him find out a cure, or a medication to help him with his stomach issues. It means he’ll have access to more tests to help determine if he ingested a parasite while helping to perform a rescue mission in still, stagnate canal water. It means he’ll have a chance at a normal life.