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News | July 1, 2010

Wounded warriors return to battlefield

By None , US Forces - Iraq

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Staff Sgt. Jeral Majetic (left) and Cpl. Charles DuPree comfort Staff Sgt. Christopher Bain as he visits the site where he was injured in 2004. These three, along with eight other wounded warriors, came out to the site as part of the Operation Proper Exit program’s most recent trip to Baghdad, June 12 - 16. The veterans spent the week touring Iraq, visiting the sites where they had been injured while taking time to meet with troops to talk about their experiences.

BAGHDAD (June 27, 2010) – Cpl. Charles DuPree took a knee and buried his head in his hands. Staff Sgt. Jeral Majetic knelt in front of him as they grabbed hold of one another; both veterans too overwhelmed to support their own weight. With his voice cracking, DuPree said, “This is it, we’re back.”

Dupree and Majetic, injured near Baghdad five years ago, recently made it back to the battlefield together; this time around, leaving on their own terms.

The two Soldiers, along with nine other veterans wounded here, visited the Hall of Heroes on Forward Operation Base Falcon as part of Operation Proper Exit VII, June 12-16. The program, sponsored by the Troops First organization, brings wounded veterans back to Iraq to visit the sites where they were injured and to share their stories with other service members.

In 2005, Majetic was with the 304th Psychological Operations Company and Dupree was part of the unit’s Personal Security Detachment (PSD).

On a mission outside Baghdad that October, their humvee was struck by a road side bomb. Immediately after the blast, they came under attack from small arms fire, said DuPree.

The blast from the IED killed two Soldiers in the vehicle and threw DuPree out of the gunner’s hatch. He landed fifty meters away from the humvee, suffering a broken right elbow, an open fracture to his lower right leg and second-degree burns to eight percent of his body.

“My leg was swollen so much they had cut it in order to relieve the pressure, otherwise they would have had to amputate on the scene,” said DuPree.

The explosion sealed the doors of the humvee, trapping Majetic inside. He sustained 2nd and 3rd degree burns to his entire head and face, and to 35 percent of his body.

After being pulled out of the humvee, Majetic was shot twice in the right leg during the firefight that followed the blast. After 52 minutes of fighting, the two Soldiers were medically evacuated off the battlefield.

Now, five years later, both wounded warriors returned to Iraq, and DuPree says there is some irony in their visit.

“The day we got hit, the first thing we said was, we will never be back,” he said.

Both DuPree and Majetic are glad they were wrong. “I really enjoyed coming back to Iraq, and I’m thankful we get to do this together,” DuPree said.

Throughout OPE VII, DuPree said he felt like he was looking out for Majetic as if he was still a part of the PSD.

But on this day it was Majetic who was looking out for DuPree.

“This time Majetic was there for me,” DuPree said. “It was great to have someone there who knew what I was going through.”

Majetic said he couldn’t remember much of the attack, and knew the visit was going to be a little harder for DuPree.

“I wanted to be there for him like he was for me when I was injured,” he said.

The opportunity to visit FOB Falcon again was very emotional for both Majetic and DuPree. But it is something that they will never forget, according to Majetic.

“Visiting FOB Falcon was hard; it was very hard,” he said. “Not because it was sad, but because I had to leave. I wish I could come here, stay and do my job again.”