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Sharing a story of service

November 17, 2008

Serving so others don’t have to

While serving in Iraq Col. Scott E. Leith came to know one of the luckiest or unluckiest people he has ever met.“It depends on how you look at it,” he told a crowd last week at the Veterans Day Celebration in Mary Baker Russell Music Center Lagerquist Concert Hall. Leith and about 1,000 of his “best friends” were positioned in the backyard of the Iraq Insurgency. Their days were filled with firefights during the ongoing battles.

There he met an army specialist who was wounded twice while on patrol, but not severely, Leith said.

“That’s were the lucky part comes in,” he said.

Although his injuries were not severe, it was clear he should not go back out on patrol until he was healed. But the specialist insisted on rejoining the battle.

That was fine the first time, but the second time Leith decided the young soldier should not return to the field.

Leith told him to stay put and assembled a patrol of uninjured soldiers to return to battle. When he hopped into the Humvee, the bandaged and wounded specialist had made his way aboard.

He wanted to serve, Leith said. His helmet wouldn’t fit because of the bandages he had around his head, but he wouldn’t be kept from fulfilling his duty.

Leith finally ordered him to switch places with a tower guardsman so he would not go out on patrol, but could continue to serving in a certain capacity at base.

Now here’s the unlucky part, Leith told the assembled crowd.

The third time this specialist was wounded, a bandage wouldn’t suffice. He was out on patrol when his body was ravaged by an IAD.

True to form, he fought the doctors trying to help him, demanding to be patched together and sent back out there to serve, Leith said.

But this time he had to be sent to a hospital. Days later, Leith received a letter from the doctors that he had sent them a combative soldier. Apparently he had to be sedated because he wanted to get back to combat so badly, Leith said.

The soldier was sent home, but his desire to serve did not dissipate with his healing wounds.

He fought to go back to Iraq. He tracked down every doctor at the military hospital by his home until one signed off that he could return to active duty in Iraq.

After seeing this serviceman wounded three times, Leith was in disbelief that the young soldier had returned.

Leith asked him, “Why did you come back? You’ve done enough.”

The soldier just said he would rather be here and serving than force another soldier to take his place in combat.

“It reflects the caliber of American that serves this nation,” Leith said.