AR RAMADI, Iraq -- A Salt Lake City Marine didn’t let a shoulder injury keep him from participating in an operation June 20 with his fellow brothers-in-arms from Company B, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment.
It was Cpl. Donald W. Ball’s final mission. He would be leaving the Marine Corps soon and refused to allow the pain of a torn muscle rob him of enjoying finishing on top.
“Today’s my last foot patrol,” the 22-year-old team leader and machine gunner with 3rd Squad, 4th Platoon, proclaimed to his comrades in the company’s briefing room at Camp Ramadi minutes before pushing out into the city. “Let’s make it a memorable one.”
Ball leaves Iraq early next month because his enlistment in the Corps ends Sept. 16.
Exemplifying true warrior spirit, Ball ignored the pain of a torn muscle and took to the urban battlefield with his Marines to conduct a presence patrol in Company B’s area of operations. After a short trip into the heart of the Al Anbar provincial capital, they staged their convoy at an observation post and set out on foot.
Ball’s fortitude impressed and motivated his fellow Marines.
“With his hurt shoulder he could be (at camp) relaxing,” explained Ball’s platoon sergeant, Gunnery Sgt. Walter G. Siquieros. “But he’s not. Look at him; he’s out here with us because he wants to stay with his Marines as long as he can.”
Though the mission was routine, it marked a milestone for Ball. He’s been with 1st Battalion, 5th Marines supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom since it began.
“This is my third time to Iraq,” said the OIF veteran. “I’ve made it through the fighting three times. Today is the culmination of all my doings in the Marine Corps.”
Shortly after graduating Cottonwood High School in 2001, Ball sought out the nearest Marine recruiter in his hometown to whom he expressed his desires to enlist and become one of The Few, The Proud. His recruiter enlisted him and sent him to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, where he earned the title, Marine.
His training didn’t end here though. He soon found himself completing training as an infantryman at the School of Infantry West, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. He then received orders to 1st Battalion, 5th Marines in 2002, just in time to start gearing up for war.
“All I’ve done is train for Iraq and fight in Iraq for my entire Marine Corps career,” Ball said. “I’ve pretty much been in the heat of battle the whole time. Fighting is what I know. I haven’t had the privilege of visiting other parts of the world during my time in the Corps, but that’s how it goes. I did what I was called to do.”
Ball did most of his fighting in the turret of a Humvee behind a M240 Gulf Medium Machine Gun when 1st Battalion, 5th Marines swept through Baghdad at the start of OIF. Then later when the infantry battalion battled insurgents in Fallujah, he carried his weapon and led a machine gun squad on foot.
This year he’s wielded an M-16A4 and led his fire team on security and stabilization operations in and around Ar Ramadi.
According to Ball, he will miss the times he has spent deployed.
“I’ll miss the adrenaline rush I get,” he said. “It’s hard to beat, especially when you’re getting hit by IEDs (improvised explosive devices) and getting shot at. That fear is hard to beat.”
Its Ball’s opinion that the riggers of these combat deployments caused his shoulder injury.
“The wear and tear on my body from three deployments to Iraq gave me this injury,” Ball said as he shrugged his right shoulder while walking along a road with his squad. “Wearing all the gear, carrying the machine gun and the constant patrols; that’s what did it.”
He had a corpsman check out his shoulder a few days ago and though painful, it will heal.
“Doc said the tear should heal in a couple months,” he said. Marines routinely call their corpsmen “Doc”.
Despite suffering some hardships along the way, Ball said he doesn’t regret his tenure in the Marines.
“I’m glad I joined and would do it over,” he said. “I lost my best friend last month and it stays on my mind day and night. I often ask the question, ‘Why him and not me?’”
Corporal Jeff B. Starr was killed May 30, Memorial Day, by small arms fire while conducting operations against enemy forces in this city. He was in Ball’s platoon and the two had served and hung out together since 2002.
Ball and his Marines finished their patrol without incident and returned to the observation post. Some of Ball’s comrades gave him high fives as they briefly celebrated his last mission before retrograding back to their base.
“It’s exciting and I’m ready to go home,” said Ball, who plans on perusing a higher education at the University of Utah after receiving an honorable discharge. “I’m going to miss the Marines, though.”
Ball has four sisters and said his fellow Marines “are like the brothers that I never had.”
“We’ve served together and have gone through a lot,” he said. “I really enjoyed serving with them, and I can’t wait to greet them on the parade deck (at Camp Pendleton) when they get home.”