MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- There they were, moving into an area known to be a hot spot for insurgent activity when it happened Oct. 2, 2005. Gunfire, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades began flying around them as they took cover and started their assault on the enemy’s position in Karmah, Iraq.
Lance Cpl. Michael A. McGraw, a 20-year-old automatic rifleman with 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, stood up early on in the attack to begin the movement on the enemy when he was struck in the lower leg by heavy machine gun fire.
McGraw was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with a combat "V" Jan. 25 in a ceremony here for his actions in the face of danger.
“I thought I was fine when it first happened,” explained the Clarence Center, N.Y. native. “I thought I had gotten hit by a brick or something until I tried to get up and my leg crumbled beneath me.”
McGraw knew what he had to do when they were attacked, he said. He stood up and began providing suppressive fire as the enemy was attacking his platoon’s position.
McGraw’s bravery enabled his platoon to move safely away from the main sectors of fire and mount a counter offensive.
“When I stood up, I took a round through my lower leg that ended up shattering both bones in my leg,” the 2004 Clarence Central High School graduate said.
McGraw’s actions permitted his fellow Marines movement to close with and destroy the enemy. He was pulled off the line of fire by his squad leader and was tended to by his corpsman during the first few moments of the firefight.
A twist of ironic fate came to McGraw a week later in his recovery. His squad leader, who had saved his life by pulling him off the line of fire, was killed by another enemy attack.
Currently, McGraw is recovering and walking with a cane, and remains thankful to be alive, he said. He is hoping for a full recovery from his wounds and continues enjoying his job as an infantryman, he said.
“I have always known that I was supposed to be here doing this,” McGraw said.
Many of McGraw’s commanders praise him and his fellow Marine’s efforts fighting the Global War on Terrorism.
“It’s the (privates first class) and lance corporals who are out there doing the job and getting it done,” explained Maj. Christopher Dixon, executive officer, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment. “I am impressed with his (McGraw’s) actions out there.”