Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Marine Continues on With One Leg

Marine Corps News | LCpl. Katie Mathison | March 10, 2008
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - He faded in and out of consciousness. He knew his legs were injured, but he did not know to what extent.

Capt. Ray Baronie, the executive officer for the Wounded Warrior Battalion-East, Wounded Warrior Regiment, Manpower and Reserve Affairs, has few clear memories of his hospital stays overseas. One of the things he remembers is watching the doctors cut off his boots, as they talked about amputation.

Baronie, at the time, a liaison officer between the Iraqi Security Forces and the Marines of II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), was on a U.S. Army convoy moving an Iraqi battalion from one side of Ramadi, Iraq, to the other, when his vehicle was struck by a 57 mm anti-tank rocket, Dec. 1, 2005.

"I got knocked out and when I came to, the vehicle had rolled for two blocks," he said. "There were just two Marines on the convoy, Sergeant Delwin Davis and myself. Sergeant Davis pulled me out of the vehicle."

Baronie was free from the vehicle, but far from safe.

"Very shortly after we got on the street, we started taking small arms fire," he said. "It was a weird feeling. I didn't know if I was going to make it. For the first time as a Marine, I felt helpless. It was pretty hectic. I had no control over the situation at that point, but I knew I was in good hands with Sergeant Davis."

Baronie said he knew his legs were injured, but did not know the full extent of his injuries until he woke up in the Naval Hospital in Bethesda, Md.

"My legs were crushed," Baronie said. "I had 20 fractures in my left leg and 18 fractures in my right. I had close to 40 surgeries."

Baronie found the strength to overcome his injury through the support of his family and the Marine Corps.

"My father and my fiancee were with me," he said. "The Marine Corps did an excellent job of taking care of me. They took care of my girlfriend even though we weren't married. The Marine Corps knew I needed her support and that was very important."

The support he received helped him make the otherwise hard decision to have his right leg amputated above the knee during January 2006, after a year of trying to save it.

The amputation did not stop him from wanting to continue his career, but he was unsure what path he would take until he received a fateful phone call.

"I was in Bethesda when Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Siebenthal gave me a phone call," he said. "He needed a battalion executive officer, and I thought, 'I need to take this position.'"

Being the executive officer of a battalion is hard enough, let alone a brand new battalion still trying to find its place, said Master Sgt. Kenneth Barnes, the operations chief for the battalion.

"He came here and had to drink from the fire hose just like everyone else," Barnes said. "He was wounded, so he knew about half of it. That makes it a little bit easier for him."

His injuries also allow him to empathize with the Marines in the battalion, giving him insight someone without injuries might not have.

"He's great at his job," Barnes said. "His heart is really in it. A Marine can come in with his sob story, and all he has to do is stand up and show them they can get through it. It also makes it harder for someone to pull the wool over his eyes."

The job goes both ways for Baronie. Being able to help Marines with their injuries is also therapeutic.

"Everyone has their own way of dealing with their injuries," he explained. "Sometimes they need a little guidance in the right direction, tough love or to talk one-on-one. My injury gives me credibility with the Marines. It's given me the ability to deal with their individual needs. Working with the Marines and being back to work has greatly helped me. Being in this position has made me forget the fact I am hurt."

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