Corpsman with character wounded by sniper
Petty Officer Third Class Dustin E. Kirby, a Navy corpsman whose efforts to save a wounded marine in Iraq were covered in an article published Nov. 2 in The New York Times, was severely wounded by an Iraqi sniper on Christmas afternoon, his family and the Marine Corps said yesterday.We are fortunate to have such men. Listening to his mom you get a feeling where he got some of that character.
The bullet struck the left side of his face while he was on the roof of Outpost Omar, the position his unit occupies in Karma, a city near Falluja in Anbar Province.
His jaw and upper palate were damaged extensively, but after several operations he was conscious and on a ventilator in a military hospital in Germany, his battalion commander, Lt. Col. Kenneth M. DeTreux, said by telephone.
Petty Officer Kirby, 22, of Hiram, Ga., was assigned to Weapons Company, Second Battalion, Eighth Marines, serving as the trauma medic for the company’s Second Mobile Assault Platoon. It was his second tour in Iraq. He had married weeks before leaving the United States in July.
He was expected to arrive today at Bethesda Naval Medical Center in Maryland, where his wife, Lauren Kirby, and his parents, Gail and Jack Kirby, planned to meet him.
Although Petty Officer Kirby cannot speak because of his injuries, his mother said she had communicated with him through his brother-in-law, a serviceman who is stationed in Germany and has been at his bedside, holding a phone to Petty Officer Kirby’s ear.
Petty Officer Kirby listened to his mother and replied by writing notes, which his brother-in-law read aloud.
“He told me, ‘Don’t cry, Mama,’ ” Ms. Kirby said by telephone. “I said, ‘I have to. I’m a mom. That’s what moms do.’ ”
She added, “He wrote, ‘Be strong for me and Lauren.’ ”
Colonel DeTreux said Petty Officer Kirby began writing within minutes of being shot, when he jotted a note to his platoon before being evacuated by helicopter.
In the first note he apologized to the company’s senior enlisted man for being wounded, the colonel said. He then refused a stretcher and insisted on walking to the helicopter.
“He’s tough,” Colonel DeTreux said. “He showed his character, walking onto the aircraft himself.”
The article last month was about the battlefield treatment Petty Officer Kirby provided, and the prayers he said, for a marine who had been shot through the head by an Iraqi sniper.
The National Envelope Corporation, of Austell, Ga., where Petty Officer Kirby’s father is a janitor, is taking donations to help his family.
Kathleen Childs, an executive assistant at the company who was helping to manage the donations, said collections began when it was uncertain whether the family could afford to visit Petty Officer Kirby from the moment he arrived in the United States.
Even before Gail Kirby arranged a plane ticket, Ms. Childs said, it was clear she was headed to his bedside, whether she had the money or not.
“His mother said there was no way she was going to stay at home while her boy was that close,” Ms. Childs said. “She was going to start out on foot and walk.”