Wounded Marine survives trial by fire

22 May 2009 | Lance Cpl. Jonathan Wright

He leaned against the side of the roof, watching over his fellow Marines as they cleared houses to his side. The gun that was mounted before him was heavy on its turret, yet at any crucial moment it would become light as a feather. A crack sounded in the distance, and before he had time to react his skull was shoved like someone hit him with a crowbar, and the sky turned to blackness.

It was a small event in size, but few things are greater than reuniting with the person who saved your life.

Lance Cpl. Colin Smith, once from 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, reunited with Petty Officer 3rd Class Dustin Kirby, a corpsman from the same unit, at the Warrior House, May 15.

“Colin was hit by a sniper round in the high right temple of his head in the village of Karma, Iraq,” said Bob Smith, Colin’s father.

Al-Karma, which lies 16 kilometers northeast of Fallujah, was one of the most violent cities in Iraq from 2005 to 2007; Smith’s injury sustained Oct. 30, 2006.

“It happened during a house-clearing operation in search of (improvised explosive device) making materials,” said Kirby. “Then shots started going off and I thought ‘alright, this should be interesting.’ I regret ever having said that now.”

Kirby went on to describe his actions during that day after being called up to Smith. “I held him like a baby,” said Kirby. “There was hardly any blood, but I dressed his wound and stayed with him until he was (medically evacuated.)”

Eventually arriving back to the U.S. in a coma, Smith started on the toughest journey of his life.

“The doctors said survival was less than one percent,” Bob Smith said. “If he survived at all he would be in a vegetative state.”

Now, nearly three years later, Smith has traveled quite a ways down the road to recovery; he is mentally comprehensive and able to walk on his own.

“He’s going to attend the Warriors Walk on Saturday,” said Bob Smith. “He’ll walk a mile when he wasn’t expected to walk at all.”

Smith reunited with Kirby after two years and was finally given the chance to thank him for saving his life.

“Nothing but stubbornness and the hand of God made this progress,” said Kirby. “Saving him was the only good thing I’ve ever done in my life.”