Wounded vet shares story during Fort Lee visit
August 16, 2012
FORT LEE, Va. (Aug. 16, 2012) -- Wounded warrior Marissa Strock paid a visit to Charlie Company, 832nd Ordnance Battalion here Monday evening.
The 27-year-old veteran shared her story with roughly 200 advanced individual training Soldiers at an outdoor gathering on the company's physical training quad. Most of the participating troops are currently attending the Army's Explosive Ordnance Disposal Course.
"I'm not a professional speaker, and I'm never sure what I should say when I'm asked to talk to groups like this," said Strock as she introduced herself. "I suppose I could talk about my short military career, which started at Fort Jackson (S.C.). Man, what I wouldn't give to run up to that water tower again … if any of you went to basic there, you know what I'm talking about.
"After that, I attended AIT and became a military cop. The first unit I was assigned to (the 170th Military Police Company, Fort Lewis, Wash.,) was already deployed when I got there, and they were short on personnel, so they threw a bunch of equipment at me, gave me some quick training and put me on a plane to Iraq."
Like many Soldiers deploying directly after initial entry training, Strock was barely out of her teens. She described herself as the "girl who hung out with the weird-colored hair and piercings crowd" in high school and admitted that her introduction to the war-fighting environment was "a huge wake-up call."
"I learned to shut up and listen," she told the Charlie Company Soldiers in her pull-no-punches style. "I know you learned a lot in basic and they're showing you how to do a job here, but they can't teach you everything. Use your head and listen to whatever advice the experienced Soldiers -- the NCOs -- are giving you. That's the stuff that kicks in when it gets bad."
And it did "get bad" for Strock while she served as a gunner during reconnaissance missions. She witnessed eight attacks with explosive weapons and described an incident in which her team assisted badly burned Soldiers after an ambush on a fuel convoy. On Thanksgiving Day in 2005, while patrolling the southern Baghdad area known as the "Triangle of Death," her Humvee was hit by a command-detonated IED. It was a violent blast that instantly killed both the team leader, Staff Sgt. Steven Reynolds, and the driver, Spc. Marc A. Delgado.
Strock was thrown backward by the explosion and knocked unconscious. In addition to serious leg wounds, she had traumatic brain injury and a broken wrist, collarbone and arm. Cranial swelling left her in a coma for nearly a month. Few expected her to survive. She subsequently had both legs amputated below the knee, but she fought back and soon found herself on the road to recovery.
"I'm not the type who gives up on anything if I want it bad enough," Strock told the Charlie Company Soldiers. "At that time, I would have gone right back to work as a military policeman if the Army approved it. But it didn't work out and I had to forget the idea of continuing my military service. That's my one regret; not fighting even harder to stay and finish what I started."
That same indomitable spirit, however, led to many new adventures as Strock completed her rehabilitation and began pursuing other interests. Her status as a wounded warrior opened several doors and she gladly walked through them. A rock climbing event in 2007, a boar hunting trip in 2010, fulfilling her dream of swimming with dolphins in 2011, a trip to the Culinary Institute in New York earlier this year … the list of accomplishments is impressive, and she's not done yet. Her future goals include additional college studies and a possible career in psychology. Strock's blossoming relationship with a Fort Lee Soldier also has her thinking about motherhood and setting up a home.
"I guess I've always been a risk taker, but it's a lot more calculated and less reckless these days," Strock said. "I really don't have anything that I need to prove to myself. I'm just proud of everything I've done over the past seven years, including the move from my previous home (near Albany, N.Y.) to Jacksonville, Fla., which I accomplished all by myself. I like the idea that I'm not sitting around feeling sorry about this situation. That's not the type of person I will ever be."
Strock offered a final thought about the word hero that often pops up in introductions and articles written about her.
"To tell you the truth, I don't really like it when they use that word to describe someone in my situation. I signed up to do my job, and I did it. There was no jumping on a grenade or taking out an enemy position to save my platoon. I was just doing what I joined the Army to do and wound up being in a bad place at the wrong time."