- The Washington Times - Monday, March 16, 2009

Spc. Derek Griffard, 22, from Santa Maria, Calif., was wounded by a roadside bomb during a foot patrol on Oct. 15, 2008, on his first deployment to Iraq. Griffard, who is single and whose parents both served in the Army, carried rosary beads from his first communion while in Iraq.

Griffard’s perspectives in serving in Iraq, what it was like to lose to the first of two Killer Blue soldiers to die, and later the homecoming at Fort Hood:

“When we lost him, it was rough for everybody, and it was hard to recover. I know it was especially rough on a couple of us. It’s just something that you’ve got to kind of take in, and move on, and push forward because we had a mission to do. Being back it’s still pretty rough on everybody.”

“You know you’ve got to every once in a while look up to the sky and let them know you’re thinking about them.”

“I could hear my mom’s voice screaming before I could even get inside the gym. It’s a realization that you’re home, that your family members are right around the corner. As soon as you walk in you hear the people cheering. You’re in formation. They do a little prayer. Welcome you guys home. Honestly, for that little five minutes or whatever it was, that made my whole 15 months worth it.”

“I was glad to be home but I wasn’t really fulfilled ‘til the rest of my friends came back.”

“It’s very hard thing to do, right after someone gets killed or injured, you’ve got to get back in that mindset, to be combat effective. You can still be under attack even on the ride home.”

“Sometimes I think, well why didn’t I see the IED? How come I couldn’t see this? How come we couldn’t do that? I kind of step by step go through the event, how it happened. I try not to but it’s kind of one of those things you can’t help.”

“It’s never really going to be behind you. You can’t really kind put that away because if you do it’s just kind of bad, like bottling up mad memories.”

“I usually try and talk about it, try and downplay it much as possible. I don’t really think it’s affected me in the civilian life at all. I just hope it doesn’t affect me in any of my new jobs. If I become a police officer I don’t want something to trigger my post-traumatic stress. … Just having a relapse, that’s just some of the worries I have getting out.”

“They teach you about it _ you coming home and having combat stress or freaking out while you’re driving. Just having a relapse of what you’ve been through over there. … Just try and hope it doesn’t happen to you and try to get your mind set right so you don’t have those relapses. But it’s still always a fear in the back of your mind. You don’t want to hurt the ones you love.”

On what he’ll tell his kids someday: “That we went over there to help the country be a better place for everybody who lives there. And that war is a bad thing and violence is a very bad thing.”

“There’s also the emotional side that destruction of war has on us. So I would just tell them that that war is so destructive, and not to think, `Oh well, go shoot the bad guys is kinda cool, and you’re cool because you shot a guy.’ “

“Some people don’t like talking about it but I was injured and I did get hurt in Iraq. I did survive. I made it. And other people made it. So me being outspoken, I just think I’m trying to live my life to the fullest before something else happens, and I don’t make it through that event.”

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