Photo Information

Private First Class Derik A. Arnold, 20-year-old infantryman with 1st Platoon, Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, sits with his wife, Katrina, with his arms around her Nov. 3 at the Combat Center. Arnold was on a night patrol Oct. 20 in Fallujah when two fragment grenades were thrown toward his squad. His alertness saved their lives when he hollered to run away. The York, Neb., native received a barrage of shrapnel into his backside and his life was saved by the flack jacket he was wearing.

Photo by Pfc. Michael S. Cifuentes

2/7 point man saves squad, survives 2 grenades

11 Nov 2005 | Pfc. Michael S. Cifuentes

The battlefield in Iraq is different from the battles fought before. Much of the combat operations take place in narrow alleyways and inside crumbling buildings – a dangerous, urban landscape with an enemy taking post in the streets and homes.According to a military fact sheet, enemy insurgency in Iraq has grown in size and complexity over the course of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2004, attacks averaged to about 25 a day and averaged in the 60s in 2005.In October, U.S. military officials announced that the war in the Middle East has taken the lives of more than 2,000 service members.Nonetheless, U.S. forces continue to deploy units to fight the war on terrorism. Some Combat Center units have already seen three deployments. Marines and Sailors personally know the terror that can exist on the frontlines. Some are unfamiliar with it as they deploy for the first time.Under the same circumstances, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, deployed to OIF for the third time in July. Pfc. Derik A. Arnold, infantryman and a 20-year-old York, Neb., native, became a member of the battalion’s 1st Platoon, Golf Company, six months prior to the deployment in January.Unlike most who deploy for OIF, Arnold’s deployment was cut short by four months after two fragment grenades hailed shrapnel into his back.The company’s mission was to train the Iraqi army in Fallujah and to show presence in the city, said Arnold. The Marines would use their knowledge to teach and train Iraqi soldiers as a significant fighting force in order to defend their country. Iraqi soldiers were taught weapons handling and patrolling operation missions.“After training them for a considerable amount of time, we took them on patrols with us,” said Arnold. “We ran into a few small-arms firefights here and there.”John North, Channel 7 ABC Eyewitness News reporter from Los Angeles, was embedded with the company as they took the streets in Fallujah. During a patrol, North asked Arnold a few questions concerning his experiences in the deployment so far.“Have you been on any patrols that were hit with an IED?” asked North as they were sitting in the bed of an armored truck.“Yes, sir,” replied Arnold. “Pretty much everyday.”On Oct. 20, Arnold’s company was conducting a foot patrol in Fallujah’s streets late at night. He was walking as point man leading his platoon.“It was a quiet night, and the street we were walking on was going up hill,” said Arnold. “I heard steel-like noise coming from up the street into our direction. Right then I knew it was a couple of grenades rolling toward us. I immediately turned around and hollered to my platoon to run back - incoming grenades.”After his quick and keen reaction, Arnold followed his platoon down the street with two fragment grenades rolling right next to him. The platoon made a right into an intersecting street and as the last man, Arnold followed. Just as he turned his body toward the opposite direction of the grenades, they exploded, bursting fragments into his backside and throwing him down onto his stomach.Lance Cpl. Salvador G. Rizo, team leader with 1st Platoon, grabbed Arnold from his flack jacket that saved his life, pulled him into an unoccupied building and dressed his wounds. His squad called for a quick reaction force to relieve their position and get Arnold evacuated from the area.Arnold was taken to a Camp Fallujah medical facility where his wounds were further treated. He suffered heavy amounts of shrapnel from his left ankle to his right shoulder. He underwent surgery to make sure no fragments had reached his organs.Arnold was flown to the United States arriving back aboard the Combat Center Oct. 30.“After a couple weeks of healing, I’m starting to get movement back in my legs more and more,” said Arnold. “Once I got here, though, I felt out of place. I feel that it is not time to be home yet. It doesn’t feel right being here this early.”“What I miss the most is the interaction between the platoons,” continued Arnold. “Whenever we were inside a base or camp, we’d have a bit of a friendly rivalry between us. A person from our platoon would sneak up on another platoon member and thrash him, but in a friendly manner. Out of nowhere, all platoon members from each platoon would join in and defend their Marines. It would be an all-out ‘Royal Rumble’ until our first sergeant comes by.”Behaving in such a manner would boost camaraderie and take off a lot of tension, said Arnold. The tension now lies between him and his body. Arnold said he is fortunate to a supportive wife.He met his wife, Katrina, a Glendora, Calif., native, after joining his new unit. They have been married since June 17.“I thank God everyday that Derik is safe,” said Katrina. “He called me every Monday night during his deployment, telling me how he was doing and what was going on over there. I knew he wasn’t telling me all, but I would be relieved after every call.”However, Arnold’s phone call from Camp Fallujah’s medical facility wasn’t the usual call he would give her on a Monday night. He was the first to notify Katrina and his family about the incident.The married couple are now moving in to a new house in Twentynine Palms. Aside from healing and recovering, Arnold said he will be spending most of his time with his wife and her family and setting up his new home.It is not the absence of fear that make the valiant warriors risk their lives to stay in the fight, but the will to overcome it and execute their mission. Arnold was trained to fight, and through this he learned to act decisively and make a decision in the midst of chaos.
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