Wounded Warriors Pay Visit to USS Nimitz
Fifteen wounded Marine and Army personnel were welcomed by an enthusiastic round of applause as they exited their plane on the flight deck aboard the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) Jan. 25.
By MC2 Jeremiah Sholtis
USS Nimitz Public Affairs
Thursday, January 31, 2008
They were flown aboard the ship on a C-2 Greyhound along with personnel from Naval Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD) who assisted them during their transit to and around the ship.
''I’ve never been on a ship before, and I’ve heard a lot about them,'' said Marine Lance Cpl. Brandon Mendez. ''I’ve seen them on T.V., and I wanted to see it in person.''
Mendez, who was injured by a suicide bomber while on check point in Iraq, sustained an amputation of his left hand and fractures in both feet. He plans on moving back to Orange County, Calif., to attend college for criminal justice after completing his tour of duty.
Their service and sacrifice were greatly appreciated by the crew members aboard Nimitz as was revealed by the number of Sailors and Marines gathered on the flight deck for the opportunity to greet and thank them.
''I’m glad that they’re here so they can see that the U.S. Navy is here for them,'' said Chief Aviation Structural Mechanic (AW) Pero Clark. ''It gives them the opportunity to see what we do as Sailors.''
''I think we take things for granted,'' said Culinary Specialist 1st Class Christopher Lizzio. ''We have a great life out here. I think what the troops do on the ground is unbelievable and I have a great deal of respect for everything they do.''
The invitation to come to Nimitz was extended by Capt. Michael Manazir, Nimitz’ commanding officer, during a recent visit to NMCSD. Cmdr. Chris Bolt, Nimitz’ executive officer, and Command Master Chief (AW⁄SW) Billy Ward, Nimitz’ command master chief, were also present at the visit.
''We went over to the center and got to see you all doing your jobs,'' Manazir said to the wounded warriors. ''I thought it would be pretty neat if I offered you the opportunity to see what we do out here.''
After the gala on the flight deck the troops were escorted into the commanding officer’s in port cabin for refreshments and an official welcome aboard.
''This trip is for you,'' said Manazir. ''We look forward to showing you our ship. I can’t tell you how proud I am of you and what a pleasure it is to have you aboard.''
Before arriving on Nimitz the medical staff made preparations to ensure the troops were adequately prepared to transit the ship.
''We made sure a couple of them were able to go up and down ladders,'' said Capt. Kathy Goldberg, Comprehensive Combat and Complex Casualty Care (C5) director. ''At the C5 facility we actually have a ladder set up so we were able to test them on it before coming on board.''
Assistants provided service members like Army Spc. Joshua Hooker, who lost his left leg from the knee down in an improvised explosive device attack, the ability to overcome the struggles of maneuvering with a prosthetic.
''The Navy offered each of us an assistant to stand in front or behind us in case the ship was moving and we started teetering,'' said Hooker. ''It was nice to have the support.''
Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Odell Barley, a C5 staff member and one of the escorts, had never been on an aircraft carrier and expressed his gratitude for the experience.
''It gives us an opportunity to see another side of the Navy, and not just one perspective,'' said Barley. ''I appreciate the opportunity to come out here with these guys to tour the ship.''
Barley works closely with the troops as the supply petty officer ordering their prosthetics.
''It’s very inspiring to see an injured Sailor, Marine or Soldier come in a week, two weeks out from the battlefield and then two to three weeks later you see them actually walking or progressing through their rehabilitation,'' Barley said. ''It keeps me doing my job and keeps me motivated and appreciating what they do even more.''
The wounded warriors were afforded the chance to witness flight operations and hear a brief delivered by Marine Capt. Jon Curtis in one of the ship’s ready rooms offering a history of the only Marine fighter squadron on Nimitz.
''It’s a real honor to give a presentation and welcome them,'' said Curtis. ''We’re a small part of the Marine Corps that’s placed on aircraft carriers to work with the Navy.''