CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq -- Shrapnel tore through his legs, but that didn’t stop Pfc. John J. Dawdy from maintaining control of his seven-ton truck -- maneuvering a distance of nearly 100 yards -– before pulling off the side of the road and losing consciousness.
Inches away from Dawdy, his machine-gunner, Cpl. Michael R. Renfro, also wounded from flying shrapnel, managed to squeeze off two, five-round bursts at the escaping culprits before coming to the aid of Dawdy.
That’s how the morning of March 19 unfolded as a I Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group convoy hit an improvised explosive device minutes after leaving the gates of their camp.
According to Staff Sgt. Robert L. Chamberlain, a I Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, motor transportation maintenance chief, the Marines and corpsman involved in the convoy did exactly what they’ve been trained to do.
“We’ve done so many drills, gone through so many scenarios. Everyday, over and over until it becomes second nature,” said Chamberlain.
The injured Marines impressed other members of the unit with situations not covered by their training.
“(Dawdy) managed to stay awake long enough to safely stop the vehicle, avoiding a ditch,” said Cpl. Scott M. Sheen, 21, a Phoenix native, who operated a heavy-machine gun three vehicles behind Dawdy’s seven-ton.
The corpsman on scene, Petty Officer 3rd Class Lee M. Green “didn’t miss a beat,” said Chamberlain.
Blood poured out of the vehicle as several Marines pulled Dawdy out. Green quickly assessed the situation and applied his skills to save Dawdy’s life, according to Chamberlain.
Despite suffering injuries to his legs, face, and right eye, Renfro kept trying to help his driver and resisted the fact that he himself was seriously injured.
“Tell Sgt. Reyes, not to pack my bags. Doc, tell them I want to come back,” Renfro blared at Green before the helicopter arrived and evacuated them from the site.
The convoy continued with their mission before returning to the camp, but the Marines’ thoughts were with their comrades.
“Renfro is very mission oriented, a good leader and sets an example for all noncommissioned officers to follow,” said Sgt. Adrian E. Ron, 25, the MHG motor transportation operations chief. “He never gives up.”
Dawdy, an 18-year-old Mabank, Texas, native, is new to the unit said Ron, but has shown he’s a natural leader.
“Dawdy was the father figure among the Marines we hung around with. He made all the wise decisions,” said Pfc. James C. Amy, 19, a MHG motor transportation operator. “We went to Marine Combat Training, and motor transportation school together, we’ve been friends the whole time. Now, he’s not going to be here.”
According to some members of the unit, the fortitude displayed by these Marines is etched in their minds.
“I think what they did was courageous; I don’t think most people would have reacted the way they did. I think they’re both heroes,” said Sheen.
After a couple of days in Baghdad both Marines were flown to a military hospital in Germany and then to Naval Medical Center Balboa in San Diego, Calif.
Renfro is now out of the hospital recuperating in Camp Pendleton, Calif. He’s starting to see colors out of his right eye and his legs are healing, said Master Sgt. Steven A. Snow, the I Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, motor transportation chief.
Dawdy is still undergoing treatment at Balboa on his right leg, said Snow.