Warriors' Voices: CPL David Kelley---Part III
“You can’t engage anybody in battle who doesn’t do the same things you do…It’s like a boxing match, where your opponent gets to kick. It’s impossible to survive, let alone win.”
In addition to life-threatening blood loss, Kelley had sustained an ugly hodge-podge of injuries of the sort consistent with a bomb attack: permanent nerve and tendon damage (in both legs); an injured internal organ (his liver); and significant shrapnel to the head, arms, and chest.
Indeed there are now small bits of shrapnel embedded throughout his body—according to Kelley, perhaps 300 pieces in his right leg alone. “Sometimes it works its way to the surface of the skin and just comes out from there,” he says. These days, a certain level of chronic pain and skewed sensation are also reminders for Kelley of the toughest episode in his life as a soldier.
Kelley and a gunner—whose leg had been broken in four places in the blast—were flown from Iraq to Germany for further care; in a little over a week, Kelley was back at Ft. Hood, on crutches. After having been awarded the Purple Heart for “wounds received in action”, Kelley was medically retired from the Army.
Shortly thereafter, things began to come full circle in a way he could not have envisioned as a young teen, a teen raring to break free from school and meet the world head-on.
The David Kelley whose restlessness had driven him from the classroom onto the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Kittyhawk—and then into full-scale desert combat as an Army infantryman—decided the time had come to pursue his education, and to do so with vigor. He is now a certified drafter with an Associate’s Degree from Three Rivers Community College, and is currently pursuing a B.A. in Industrial Technology Management from Southeast Missouri State University.
Kelley’s final thoughts on the coalition forces’ ability to meet their objectives in Iraq are not comforting. They reflect a deep concern with the fact that 21st-century warfare is unlike anything conventional strategists have ever encountered. His thoughts also reflect a belief that only a less-constrained military response to hostile forces will bring resolution—however antithetical to longstanding protocol that response might be.
“If the U.S. government had untied the hands of the soldiers, this war would have been finished a long time ago,” Kelley asserts. “The Geneva convention needs to be updated. That thing has been around for years.
“You can’t engage anybody in battle who doesn’t do the same things you do,” says Kelley. “It’s like a boxing match, where your opponent gets to kick. It’s impossible to survive, let alone win.”
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