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Wounded Marine remembers fallen comrade

CALEDONIA -- He lost a kidney, his spleen and almost his life.


Friday, February 02, 2007
By Ted Roelofs
The Grand Rapids Press

But Marine Lance Cpl. Joshua Munsee insists any sympathy should be directed toward the family of the fellow Marine he watched die Jan. 20 in Iraq.

That would be Lance Cpl. Luis Castillo, who died from gunshot wounds he received on the streets of Fallujah in Anbar province.

"It sucks what happened to me. But everyone knows the real heroes of this war are the ones that have paid the ultimate sacrifice, like Lance Cpl. Castillo," Munsee said.

Munsee, 22, returned to his Caledonia home Wednesday after recuperating at a military hospital in Germany and Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland.

Munsee said he and Castillo, of Lawton, were on foot patrol in Fallujah with 10 other members of the Lansing-based 1st Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment in Fallujah.

"A car came up and ambushed the squadron," Munsee recalled.

Though wearing full armor gear, Munsee was struck by a bullet in the back that penetrated his kidney and spleen and narrowly missed his spine, before exiting his stomach.

The initial word passed along to his family was not encouraging, said his girlfriend, East Grand Rapids resident Michelle Goeman.

"The first thing we were told is that he had been wounded in the chest and probably wouldn't make it," Goeman said.

Goeman, a member of First Reformed Church in Byron Center, asked members there to start praying for Munsee.

Over the next day or two, the 2002 Caledonia High School graduate began a remarkable recovery. He left Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Ramstein, Germany after a couple days and was flown to Bethesda Naval Hospital.

His brother, Pfc. Zachary Munsee, 18, accompanied him to Germany and then stateside. Zachary Munsee is assigned to the Grand Rapids-based Alpha Company of the 24th Marines while his brother serves with Lansing's Charlie Company. Both companies are performing security missions in or around Fallujah.

While grateful his brother could be at his side, Munsee was haunted by what he saw the day of the ambush.

The soldiers were doing a morning patrol in a city that has been wracked by Sunni-based insurgent violence for months.

"You never know what is going to happen," he said.

Munsee remembers being hit in the back, turning around and seeing one of his best friends dying right in front of him.

"I don't even know how to describe it. How do you describe seeing your best friend shot and you watch him die?

"I can't really describe that. That's the hardest thing I ever had to see."

His father, Grand Rapids resident Phillip Munsee, saw his son for the first time after he was wounded in the intensive care unit at Bethesda Naval Hospital. He gave him a hug.

"You see all these young men out there that are injured. Their spirits are pretty high," he said.

"I am very proud of him and happy that he is alive."

Munsee, a senior history major at Grand Valley State University, is grateful for all the support that has come his way since he was wounded.

"I think I had half the state praying for me," he said.

As he recuperates at home, Munsee said he is unsure if he will be cleared for combat duty.

But if he is cleared, he is ready to go back and join his band of brothers.

"I am proud to serve my country," he said. "I will do whatever it takes."