By Kari Hawkins, Redstone Rocket StaffAugust 25, 2008
One of Redstone Arsenal's very own is receiving long-distance support from a contingent of well wishers after surviving a life-threatening explosion while patrolling the streets of Baghdad.
Lance Cpl. Marvin Fletcher, known to many on the Arsenal for his service with the Marine Detachment and his participation on unit-level flag football and softball teams, suffered a neck injury April 26 when his Humvee hit a hidden pressure point IED (improvised explosive device) while on a mission in a five-vehicle convoy.
Although Fletcher has long since healed from his injury and returned to patrol, his personal connection with the workers at the Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center via his sister, contracting officer Zina Smith, has led them to "adopt" Fletcher and send him care packages, cards and letters.
"He's just an outstanding person committed to serving his country," his sister said. "When I received a copy of the incident alert I shared it with my supervisor Tonya Wood. All my co-workers have been very concerned about him."
According to the incident report, Fletcher, serving with Headquarters & Service Battery 1st Platoon of the 2nd LAAD (Low Altitude Air Defense) Battalion at Camp Al Taqaddum, was the machine gunner in the second of five vehicles out on a daily 14-hour patrol routine. They were patrolling through the Baghdad area known as Hibernia as darkness approached. As the vehicle's driver attempted to turn right at an intersection, the Humvee hit an IED placed 6 inches in the ground. The explosion destroyed the vehicle and seriously injured all six Marines inside.
"They are all lucky to be alive," Marine Staff Sgt. Shane Williams said in the incident report. "When I saw the Humvee get blasted, it flipped and landed back down on its front like something in the movies and was engulfed in flames when it came to rest.
"Both Fletcher and (second patrolman Robert) Perez, I thought were dead. Once I approached the Humvee, all that Fletcher was screaming was 'Please, don't let me die.' He was helpless and severely bleeding and appeared to be out of it. Perez was bleeding severely also and was unconscious from the blast."
Iraqi police officers and Marines of Headquarters & Service Battery 1st Platoon rushed to rescue the six wounded Marines. It took about 45 minutes to remove four Marines. Fletcher and Perez were trapped in the bed of the Humvee and covered with sharp metal. It took another hour to free them from the wreckage. They were both flown to a Baghdad hospital, where Fletcher was treated for a neck wound.
After about a week and a half in the hospital, Fletcher returned to his unit. He was assigned to desk duty for about a month and then returned to patrol. He was recently named Marine of the Quarter for the 2nd LAAD Battalion.
Fletcher, who was known as "Fletch" while serving on Redstone Arsenal, has been a Marine for about five years.
"He's a great guy," said Skip Vaughn, editor of the Redstone Rocket who reported on Fletcher's athletic achievements with unit-level sports teams.
"He was on the softball post championship team a couple years ago. He was the 'poster child' for the Marine Detachment here. It hit me like a ton of bricks to hear he was hurt in Iraq. I can still picture him at the front desk of the Marine Detachment when I walked in. I'm glad to hear he is going to be OK."
Fletcher's personal connection to the area goes far deeper than Redstone Arsenal. He grew up in Athens as the youngest of four children born to Christine and Robert Fletcher of Athens. He attended Clements High School.
"We weren't surprised when he joined the Marines because we always felt he would go into the military. He's always been very protective of his family. He's always been a tough, good hearted and honest person," said Smith, the oldest of the four Fletcher children.
"He was excited about the opportunity the Marines gave him. He knew he'd get to travel. He was excited about going to Iraq as well. He wants to serve his country."
Military service is not new to the Fletcher family. Fletcher's older brother served in the Middle East during Desert Storm.
"When my mom found out Marvin was going to Iraq she said 'All I can do is pray for him. I've already had one son to go. I will say my prayers and hope he'll come back safely.' It's hard for any mom to see their son go to war," Smith said.
Fletcher, 28, was in Iraq for a little over a month when he was injured in the IED explosion.
"I think he had a premonition that something was going to happen," said Smith, who talks to her brother by phone regularly. "When I talked to him, he said he didn't feel comfortable about this next mission."
But the attack didn't make Fletcher hesitant about returning to his patrol routine.
"He told me 'I just want to get well so that I can continue to do what I came here to do,'" Smith said.
"In the letters he has sent to me, Marvin says he feels the attack helped him to grow as a person. He's had time to think about it and reflect on it. A lot of people who have traumatic experiences do need time to reflect. He has done that and it has made him a stronger person with a stronger faith. He feels like he survived because there is something God wants him to do. He is really proud of being a part of something where he is doing something for someone else. He says he is proud to pay the price so his family can be free."
Fletcher has also impressed his senior officers in Iraq.
"(Fletcher and Perez) are two very outgoing Marines that are one of a kind and there isn't enough that can be stated about their character and abilities. They love defending their country and care for the freedom of that of their families and loved ones," Williams commented in the incident alert.
"I'm on my third deployment to Iraq and they are two unique Marines that I would take anywhere in the world with me to fight a battle for I know without a doubt that my life's in good hands with those two ... Fletcher and I had a conversation about a week prior to this (explosion) and he stated how he loves this tour and he loves what it represents to him."
Fletcher calls his mother nearly every week and talks to his sister every couple of weeks. He also stays in touch with his 8-year-old son Kaleb.
"Our family is faithful to God to do whatever He wants to do," Smith said. "He will watch over Marvin."
Smith last heard from her brother Aug. 5, when Fletcher called to wish her a happy birthday. He is scheduled to return from Iraq in late September.
"Marvin has always been my hero," Smith said. "You can look at him and know he is a Marine. They have that look.
"The Marines fit Marvin's personality so well. He is a prime example of what a Marine is. He's a tough, well-trained, hard core guy who wants to serve his country. I couldn't see him doing any other branch. The Marines fit him."
Editor's note: Lance Cpl. Marvin Fletcher can be contacted by mail at LCPL Fletcher, Marvin B, H&S Battery, 2d LAAD BN, Unit 78087, FPO AE 09509-8087.