By Spc. Ryan Stroud, 3rd BCT, 1st Cav. Div. Public AffairsFebruary 5, 2008
FORT HOOD, Texas - Heroes are those who go above and beyond average expectations, reaching impossible goals, putting others safety above their own and sacrificing their own lives so that others may see another day.
These individuals are true American heroes, like Maj. Dominique Dionne, who was wounded in Iraq while trying desperately to save one of his Soldiers.
Dionne is now trying to fight his way back to his unit, showing his love and desire to be a part of the prestigious 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, based out of Fort Hood, Texas.
"According to my case manager, I'm one of the few Soldiers fighting to get back to his unit, as opposed to fighting to get medically discharged out of the Army," joked Dionne, who is currently assigned to the Wounded Warrior Unit.
"Ever since I was a little kid, I knew I was going to be in the military," said Dionne, who was the commander of the 1st Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 5th Iraqi Army "Patriot" Military Transition Team.
"Even though I'm not fully in 3rd BCT yet, this is helping me with my recovery," he continued. "Seeing the people I deployed and worked with, this really does help. It helps me have a normal life.
"And, with what I learned, hopefully I can help share some experience from my deployment that might save someone's life," Dionne said.
While patrolling the outer cordon of the Khalis township, a primarily Shia village in Diyala province, Iraq, Dionne, his radio operator and an interpreter kept a close eye on the Iraqi police as they searched homes in the area. As their supervision continued, Dionne and his men were engaged with small-arms fire pelting and ricocheting around them. Seeking cover, the Soldiers sheltered themselves beside an IP vehicle. At this time, Dionne's vehicle arrived to help provide support and additional shelter.
"Rounds were still being fired and were entering the turret screen of my vehicle," Dionne explained. "The gunner was facing the opposite direction, fixing his weapon, and was unaware of the oncoming fire. I stepped out from the side of the vehicle, trying to get his attention to let him know to get down."
The shooter apparently changed his attention from the Soldier fixing his weapon to Dionne, who was trying his hardest to catch the attention of the Soldier to save his life.
"While I was trying to get his attention, I heard a ping come off the side of a humvee," Dionne said. "I knew it was coming for me, I just didn't know where it was going to hit.
"Up until that point, all the rounds had been hitting at our feet, so I didn't want to dive on the ground," he continued. "I took my chances and stood still, hoping it might hit me in the leg, but the round hit me right in the jaw.
"It shattered the right-side of my jaw into four pieces and spun me to the ground," he said. "I couldn't talk because of the shattered jaw so I started kicking the ground to signal to my [guys] that I had been hit.
"The first thing I remember after the bullet hit my face was a ringing in my ear and my face going completely numb," recalled Dionne. "I didn't go into shock and I tried to communicate by nodding my head, but the biggest thing for me was to stay calm, limit my movement and control my breathing. I was losing a lot of blood... but I was focused on making it back to my family."
Dionne was evacuated out of the area while the men he had led continued the fight.
"My guys did a great job," Dionne explained. "They were quick to bandage my face and had good contact through the team, letting everyone know I was down. They worked hard to get me back to [Forward Operating Base] Warhorse and [bravely carried on] with the mission."
Dionne was left in the care of the doctors of the "Grey Wolf" Brigade.
"After getting all my gear off and evaluating my wounds, the doctors put me to sleep," he said. "When I woke up, my jaw was wired and I was in Landstuhl, Germany.
"My throat is a little offset to the left because when the bullet hit, it fragmented and I still have some of the pieces in there," Dionne continued. "Three pieces of the bullet are still in my face. It would cause more damage to my face to pull them out."
Dionne, who now has a titanium plate in his face, was then flown back to the states where he was greeted with a hero's welcome by his loving family.
"The day before my surgery, my wife and kids were able to come see me and they stayed through the rest of my recovery," said Dionne. "That was great, but I think it was more beneficial to my family because when you hear someone's been shot in the face, you fear [the worst]. I was lucky that the bullet was a ricochet and didn't hit me with full force."
Dionne feels he is no more a hero than the other Soldiers he led in Iraq.
"I was trying to take care of my team and make sure they were all aware of what was going on around them," he said. "Those are my guys and I love them."
As the weeks go on, Dionne will continue his recovery from his wound and officially join his fellow brothers and sisters-in-arms in the Grey Wolf Brigade. It is a day Dionne said he is looking forward to. Until then, Dionne leans on his family and faith to help him carry on.
"This whole experience has made me more thankful that I have a family," Dionne said. "It's definitely made me more religious. This reinforced that everybody needs religion in their lives to help them through because someone was definitely looking out for me."