Marine returns to Iraq for closure
May 17, 2011
During the height of the war in Iraq, patrols, setting up checkpoints and vehicle searches were standard and occurred every day. Most of those ended without any type of conflict or casualties.
For Marine Cpl. Donny Daughenbaugh, during a vehicle search in Amadiya, Iraq, Oct. 12, 2004, ended with a medical evacuation to a surgical hospital.
During a routine vehicle search a red sedan sped ahead of Daughenbaugh and tried to run over one of his team members and, while doing so, the driver was hit by multiple gunshots. In the midst of chaos the driver reached down and pulled out an AK-47 and pointed it in Daughenbaugh's direction and opened fire.
"I saw a couple of flashes and I hit the deck," said Daughenbaugh. "I saw a couple more and it hit me. It felt like I was hit in the face by a baseball bat."
Daughenbaugh then blacked out and as he came to, he saw a puddle of blood and as any good Marine would do, he pushed his M-16 out of the way.
"As funny as it was, I did not want to get my blood on my rifle," he said.
Daughenbaugh tried to get a hold of his team to let them know he was injured, but no one could quite understand what he was saying.
"I radioed my team to let them know I was hit, but when I did, I sounded like I was 100 years old," said Daughenbaugh. "I just put my hand up in the air because I couldn't move."
Daughenbaugh was then medevaced out of the area.
"A Navy reserve neurosurgeon checked me out," said Daughenbaugh. "I remember seeing and feeling his finger go into my face and his thumb swirling around. He could feel it had broken my jaw, so they put me on a helicopter and took me to Baghdad where they put my face back together."
Daughenbaugh was then transferred to the National Naval Medical Center - Bethesda, where the doctors decided to leave the bullet in his head. He had nerve damage and couldn't move the left side of his face for more than a year. He is still struggling to control the muscles in his tongue.
Despite his injuries, Daughenbaugh continues to work with troops as a retired Marine.
"Since 2005 I've been working for an organization that does financial aid and educational support for wounded troops," said Daughenbaugh. "Being around those guys is therapeutic in itself."
"Just being around combat wounded troops and knowing their stories makes me feel like the lucky one," he said. "It instills the spirit of not being able to quit. It's motivating and inspirational."
Daughenbaugh decided to make the trip back to Iraq one last time to help himself in the healing process. He participated in Operation Proper Exit IX and stepped onto Iraqi soil April 25 and walked out on his own terms on May 1.