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John DeWeese sat up in the turret of his Humvee scanning the scene.

Two blocks away a Bradley Fighting Vehicle lay flipped over and smoldering next to a bomb crater.

The locals were milling about, rubbernecking Baghdad-style.

DeWeese and his mates had rolled from their base to escort two Iraqi fire trucks to the site of the deadly roadside bomb blast. The soldiers were now guarding a nearby intersection. They’d been there for 90 minutes as responders dealt with the Bradley.

In the distance DeWeese saw something fishy.

"It looked like three guys dropped something," said the 21-year-old Army specialist. "At the same time everybody just ran. So I’m thinking there’s going go to be a firefight. I stand up in the gun and start scanning my sector, waiting to get shot at.

"Then I see a red fireball coming flying at the truck."

The dropped package had been a modified air-to-ground rocket, set on the ground and fired from more than 100 meters. The rocket hit the Humvee, exiting through the windshield. It was a lucky shot from such a distance.

Inside the Humvee the fire extinguisher system started gushing. A lieutenant in the back seat was screaming and a sergeant in the right front was bleeding and teetering out of his opened door.

The driver, now dead, was sprawled at the feet of DeWeese, who was bleeding.

The Adhamiyah section of northeast Baghdad was a messed-up place in June 2007. The Sunni enclave was surrounded by Shiite neighborhoods and suffered many deaths from sectarian violence.

DeWeese’s unit, the Stuttgart, Germany-based 1st Platoon, 554th Military Police Company, was there to train Iraqi cops or at least keep them from shooting each other.

The platoon worked in support of Schweinfurt’s 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, which saw 31 of its soldiers killed during its deployment, including five in the destroyed Bradley two blocks east of DeWeese’s position.

After the rocket tore through DeWeese’s Humvee, soldiers scrambled to aid the wounded and defend the disabled vehicle.

After regaining his bearings, DeWeese stood in his smoking turret and aimed at muzzle flashes coming from the same direction as the rocket.

"At least I was behind a .50-cal and a turret shield," DeWeese said. "I knew I had some cover.

"My job was to suppress the enemy so everyone else can do their job. That’s the only thing going through my head."

DeWeese promptly tore into the distant building with his .50-caliber heavy machine gun. But he soon noticed that a baseball-sized hole had been blown open in his right thigh under his buttock.

He took out his tourniquet and quickly cinched up his leg above the wound, and then turned back to the enemy fighters, who were firing at the soldiers with small arms, probably AK-47s.

DeWeese had zeroed in on a third-story window from which guns were blazing about one block away. He directed most of his .50-caliber fury at the window as a medic and others tended to the wounded sergeant and others.

DeWeese, tall and lean from tiny Deputy, Ind., held forth in his turret.

"We looked up and it was like, ‘He’s not coming down,’" said Sgt. Robert Holloway. "There was so much fire going on around us and he was, like, standing up.

"He wasn’t trying to hunker down and select targets. He was just trying to shoot and destroy whatever he was looking at. Who knows what else they would have tried to fire back at us? But instead of trying to get out and save himself, (DeWeese) kept firing."

DeWeese unhooked the .50-caliber from its mount, accidentally squeezing off a last few rounds from his hip, and then tripped over his gunner’s sling and fell face first into the right front seat of the Humvee.

On the way out he grabbed his collapsible butt-stock, barrel-shortened .249 Squad Automatic Weapon. Wounded and bleeding heavily, he took position behind a vehicle and continued laying down fire.

The other personnel were finally ready to evacuate. DeWeese was the last soldier to board.

DeWeese was transported to the combat hospital in Baghdad’s International Zone. He was given two weeks’ worth of Percoset and sent back to his base in Adhamiyah.

"I took the Percosets for, like, two days," DeWeese said. "Then I told them I couldn’t sit around the (base) anymore — I’m going back out. So I flushed the Percosets.

"Every day before I’d go out, (medics) would rewrap the leg. I’d go out on a mission, come back, take the bandages off, pull all the stuff out of it, take water bottles and clean it out," DeWeese said.

"Then (they would) stick in more wet cotton, foam, some crap like that, and shove it back in there and wrap it back up. They did that every day until it healed up."

DeWeese had built a Tiki bar at Combat Outpost Old MOD (Ministry of Defense building, where the platoon was based). DeWeese, Cpl. Karen N. Clifton and others would meet at their Tiki bar to play cards, sip non-alcoholic drinks and have a few laughs.

At 10:30 a.m. on June 21 — one year into their tour and just as they started a three-month extension — DeWeese and his squad got the call to roll. A Bradley had been hit; fire trucks needed an escort.

Clifton, age 22, hopped into the driver’s seat of DeWeese’s Humvee.

The soldiers would return to Stuttgart without her. "We were just making the best of a (expletive) situation," DeWeese said. "After she got killed, no one would go out to the Tiki bar anymore."

Spc. John DeWeese

Unit: 554th Military Police Company

Award: Bronze Star with "V"

Earned: June 2007, Baghdad


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