Heroes 2006: He ‘told me I was hit, and I said: No, I’m not’
Wounded himself, corpsman rushed to save comrades after IED blast
By PATRICK DICKSON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 14, 2006
Hospital Corpsman Juan Rubio grabbed a Marine he was on patrol with to repeat a warning the radioman hadn’t heard.
“I said, ‘Parrello, man, we need to get back behind this building.’ And as soon as we turned around, it went off.”
Their platoon leader had told them that the 5-gallon aluminum can on a nearby wall was the kind of thing insurgents often used as a marker, to know when to set off a bomb by remote.
“It knocked him into me, and threw me up against the building,” the San Angelo, Texas, native said, likening it to the desktop toy where a metal ball hits the stack and knocks the ball on the other end free. “[It] knocked me out.”
Seconds later, Rubio came to. With rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns roaring, he low-crawled over to 19-year-old Lance Cpl. Brian Parrello, who had absorbed much of the blast. He was in bad shape.
“So I started working on him and I dragged him over a wall … and asked another Marine — I had 15 Marines that I had taught Combat Lifesaver [skills] … I asked Sergeant Davie to monitor him to make sure the bleeding had stopped …
“And that’s when I heard the cry that there were two more people out there.”
Directing cover fire at muzzle flashes in a tree line and shooting his own M-16, Rubio came first to a major whose name he does not recall.
Rubio brought him behind a building, and put a tourniquet on his severed forearm. He grabbed another Marine to monitor the major. The Marine saw another wound.
“What color blood is it?” Rubio shouted.
“Holy s---!” Rubio said. “We’ve got another arterial!”
Rubio went back and found out that his gunnery sergeant was shot twice in his right hand. He started an IV and left him with another Marine. He then got to a Marine who was shot in the leg and the least critical of the four.
With their radioman down, they had to send two runners back to the boats they’d been patrolling the Euphrates on before an ambush had brought them into the small hamlet of Haqlaniyah, near their base at Haditha Dam.
The boats and their firepower were nearby, but they had no sense of the battlespace, having lost radio contact with Parrello. But with the runners directing fire, they opened up.
“They saw the insurgents, and they waylaid on those son of a guns, oh my gosh,” Rubio recounted.
With the wounded on board, the group’s lieutenant gave the order: “Punch out! Punch out!”
They drove about a mile and a half upstream to three Humvees waiting outside the base. They roared to the base, where medics at a battle aid station could administer more care while they waited for the arriving Medevac helos.
Not sure about the fate of the insurgents, Rubio and two Marines got back in the Humvee to rejoin the battle. They were speeding off the base when one of the Marines saw blood on Rubio’s leg.
“[He] told me I was hit, and I said, ‘No, I’m not — it’s other people’s blood,’ and he goes, ‘No, doc, your pants are ripped and I can see it! Holy s---! Doc’s hit!’”
“The corporal who was driving slammed on the brakes,” Rubio remembers, and he busts out laughing. “I flew from the back of the Humvee into the cab!
“And they turned around and they called back one of the birds and loaded me up.”
They were in radio contact with the other chopper carrying Parrello. Rubio had been talking with him on the boat and in the Humvee, keeping him alert, reassuring him that he would be OK.
Rubio begins to choke up when retelling the scene.
“He took 90 percent of the blast when —” he stops. “He was standing right next to me when it went off …”
Over the radio, he heard that Parrello had lost consciousness. He never awoke.
Rubio was awarded a Silver Star for his actions that day. And, of course, a Purple Heart.
At the hospital at al Assad, doctors looked at Rubio. They told him that if he wanted some of the deeper pieces of shrapnel taken out, he’d have to go back to the States.
“I asked, ‘Can I live with it in my leg?’ and they said, ‘Well, it’ll bother you from time to time, but sure.’”
A day and a half later, he hopped a convoy back to the unit.
Petty Officer 2nd Class
Unit:Small Craft Company, 4th Platoon, Camp
Medals: Silver Star, Purple Heart
Earned: Jan. 1, 2006, in Haditha Dam, Iraq.