CAMP BLUE DIAMOND, AR RAMADI, Iraq -- On September 25, Seaman Leonard A. Mclean was on a routine patrol through the streets here. The 21-year-old corpsman from Queens, N.Y., and the rest of the Marines from 2nd Squad, 4th Platoon of the Camp Guard Force had just left the back gate of the camp and were only 15 minutes into their patrol. It was approaching 2 p.m. and the local primary school was letting out for the day when Mclean’s humvee pulled up.
The kids gathered around him and the Marines in the convoy. The squad handed out candy and treats to the kids when they saw them, a ritual started when the Guard Force arrived here in late August.
Soon after, it was time to push on and the tires of Mclean’s vehicle turned as the convoy rolled down the street. Mclean was still waving goodbye as he watched the children’s’ silhouettes grow smaller when it happened; a loud boom and a clap of light. An Improvised Explosive Device detonated under Mclean’s vehicle. The blast lifted the humvee off the ground and blew off the drivers-side door, launching it into the bushes nearly ten feet away catching a bush on fire.
Mclean looked around to see if anyone else was moving. He checked himself for blood. To his surprise, he wasn’t hurt. The rear drivers-side door swung open and Mclean fell out head first in a daze.
As he struggled to gain his senses, the vehicle slowly rolled back toward the crater left by the explosion. Its rear tires rolled into the hole before dragging to a stop. The humvee was high-centered and Mclean’s foot was pinned between the gravel road and the vehicle’s frame.
“I remember waving to the kids just before the boom,” Mclean said. “I was looking around to see if anyone was hurt, then the door opened and I just fell out. It was confusing.”
Mclean tugged at his leg but couldn’t free himself. He saw the driver pulled from the vehicle and placed next to him. Although he was pinned down, Mclean managed to roll-over and inspect him for injuries.
The driver was bleeding from a laceration on his inner thigh. Mclean quickly applied a bandage to stop the bleeding.
The Marine lifted his legs and his foot flopped in the opposite direction. The bones in his lower leg were broken.
Mclean again reached into his medical bag. With the help of a nearby Marine he splinted the wounded Marines legs and stabilized them with a cast-making material.
“When I rolled over to see if he was all right he started screaming because I was rolling on his legs. When he lifted his legs I saw his foot point in the other direction,” Mclean said. “He kept asking me if he was going to loose his leg. All I could do was try to stabilize them.
“In (corpsman school) they teach you the steps to go through. Somehow it all came back. It was like movement without thought.”
Mclean then turned his attention back onto his foot. Other Marines came to his aid desperately trying to free him. Several Marines left to look for a jack while another began digging under Mclean’s boot with his pen-knife. The knife proved futile, the weight of the vehicle was too great and Mclean’s foot was forced further into the ground.
One of the Marines returned with a vehicle jack and after several attempts Mclean’s leg was freed.
“When I finally got my leg out I could still move it so I knew it wasn’t broken,” Mclean said. “I thought if I can move it, I’m good to go.”
Shortly after being freed, Mclean sited another wounded Marine laying next to a palm tree adjacent to the humvee. He quickly got up and hobbled to him.
Checking the Marines for wounds, Mclean noticed blood coming from the Marines mouth and he was clutching his ribs.
“I looked him over and felt his ribs,” Mclean said. “He was hit in the mouth during the explosion and I felt two floating ribs that were broken.”
Mclean spent the remainder of the time moving back and forth between the two injured Marines ensuring they remained stable before the camp’s reaction force arrived.
“I don’t know how long it was before the reaction force got there. When they arrived they put them on stretchers and took them back to the [battalion aid station] across the river.” Mclean said. “I stayed because we still had Marines out there trying to find the trigger man for the IED.”
Mclean and the rest of his squad eventually made it back to camp and to his knowledge they never found the triggerman, but he is not discouraged. This was not his first encounter with an IED. One exploded in the middle of his patrol within the first month of his arrival.
He said it angered him, but he’s not embittered about the people here.
“At first, of course I was angry, but now I just watch everyone a little closer.” Mclean said. “Some people get discouraged, but every time we catch a bad guy it makes it all worth it.”
Mclean was awarded the Purple Heart during a ceremony here Nov. 4 for his injuries and is still conducting patrols daily here with his fellow Marines.