Saturday, May 08, 2010

Finally Found

Corporal Leon Salisbury, Fire Team Leader, November 2005

Back in November of 2005 I took a photo of a Marine fire team leader with 2nd Platoon, Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment. I had just joined this platoon for Operation Steel Curtain. I always try my best to get all the information possible from each of my portrait subjects. Many of the photos I took would be turned into drawings. There was one drawing/photo where I failed to find out who the Marine was. Thanks, in large part to Facebook, I finally know who the subject of this drawing is . . . Corporal Leon Salisbury.

A few days after photographing Leon he was severely wounded and medevaced to Germany. He, along with 11 other members of his platoon, were wounded the morning of November 16, 2005. 5 others lost their lives in a hellacious firefight in and around a "hell house". On that morning Leon's squad, led by Corporal Javier Alvarez, were assigned to two tanks supporting Fox Company for the final push through the last 100 acre pocket of Ubaydi, Iraq. When the shit hit the fan Alvarez led his squad to the aid of the squad caught in the initial contact. Dashing into the confines of a farmyard they immediately came under fire and Alvarez, in the lead, went down after being shot in both legs by a hidden mujh. Leon, and another Marine, LCpl Justin Mayfield, quickly located and closed with the insurgent who had shot Alvarez. No sooner had they eliminated that threat, a hail of hand grenades started to fall around them. Alvarez picked the one closest to them and tried to toss it back through a window, but no luck. It exploded just as he got it over the sill and into the window opening. His right hand disappeared in a red haze, but the majority of the blast was deflected away from his squad. Alvarez would get the Silver Star for his quick selfless thinking. Leon, although severely wounded by the same blast, dashed to his wounded squad leader and tried to apply a tourniquet. Leon's a little hazy as to what happened next, other than he got dinged again, and although his helmet absorbed most of whatever hit him, it pretty much knocked him out. The next thing he knew he was in Germany. He underwent 6 surgeries for his multiple wounds.

Leon shared with me how his squad leader, Alvarez, even though he himself was recovering from multiple gunshot wounds and the loss of his hand, was bringing his wounded buddies "pogey bait" from the hospital snack bar. And this was mere days after they had been medevaced to Germany.

For his actions that day Corporal Leon Salisbury was recognized with the Purple Heart and a Bronze Star with Combat "V". Leon also endured 6 surgeries to deal with his wounds.

Yesterday Leon came to Fredericksburg to visit and showed me his shattered helmet and bloody flak vest. Leon's platoon sergeant, GySgt Robert Homer, made sure his Marine would have these mementos of his heroics. Homer was recognized with a Silver Star for his actions that fateful morning. Leon was on his way from Harrisonburg to Manassas, Virginia to spend the weekend with his Mom. He's currently a junior at James Madison University majoring in international relations and Arabic.

Corporal Salisbury with his shrapnel damaged helmet and helmet cover

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