Marine Recalls, Reflects Life-Altering Night
(July 7, 2011)
Retired 1st Lt. Denis Oliverio is one of
seven wounded warriors participating in Operation Proper Exit X,
June 25-July 2, 2011 ... which assists them in finding closure they
need to help in their healing process. Photo by USMC Sgt. Joseph
Vine - June 29, 2011
BAGHDAD, Iraq (6/29/2011) -- Retired 1st Lt. Denis M. Oliverio's
life would change forever, Oct. 14, 2005, as an evening tank
operation rolled through the streets of Karabilah, Iraq. It would
turn into a life or death fight for the U.S. Marines of Bravo
Company, 1st Tank Battalion.
Advancing to gunnery sergeant
with 16 years of service in the non- commissioned officer corps
before becoming a commissioned officer, Oliverio is no stranger to
the Corps. With all the experience he accumulated during his 20-year
career, Oliverio did not expect to leave the Corps abruptly, he
said. Fortunately, Operation Proper Exit gave him the opportunity to
come back to Iraq to see the spot where he was injured and share his
story with others.
“That night as I was manning my position,
nightfall was starting to come,” Oliverio said. “As we went and
refilled our tanks with gas,
we got the call that our snipers were under fire. We stopped gassing
and headed immediately to their position to help them out.”
“As we started maneuvering to those positions, we had a Marine
light-armored vehicle that came upon the scene and like any good unit,
they wanted to help, but they came right down the middle between us and
the enemy houses we were engaged with,” he said. “I popped up out of the
tank a little higher and waved my hands at them frantically, pointing at
the houses telling them not to go down there, and it was right about
that time when I felt the impact.” |
Oliverio said the impact of
the sniper shot that hit him was amazing. The force of the impact made
him think he got hit by bat, crushing his left arm. It spun him around
more than 90 degrees in the turret and he didn't know what happened. He
almost went into shock.
“I looked down and realized the damage,
that my desert camouflage utility uniform was black with blood; as black
as you can imagine,” he said. “It was all over my uniform and I realized
that I had been hit.”
His tank crew was hollering at him to get
down into the tank, but he was stuck in the opening and wasn't able to
move, he said, because he no longer could use his left arm.
tank's loader, Lance Cpl. Jared Malone, jumped out of the tank into the
line of fire and helped Oliverio dislodge his arm and applied a
Once he was moved to safety behind a building,
Oliverio was medically evacuated within 20 to 25 minutes after being
shot, he said. “I just had to consciously remind myself to breathe.
Don't pass out or don't freak out, just breathe,” he said.
flown to the Marine base at Al Qa'im, where he was rushed into two
consecutive medical operations.
Over the next several months,
Oliverio would return to the United States and undergo 12 additional
surgeries, as well numerous hours of intensive physical therapy to
repair the damage to his arm.
With this life-altering experience,
Oliverio uses what he went through to help and give insight to others.
“I almost feel like it's my duty ... I feel with my experience, I can
explain to them what I go though, what the average wounded warrior goes
through during their recovery,” he said. “I know how rough it was, so
it's almost like my calling in life. I've got to put the story out there
and let the people know what's going on and how they can help.”
Oliverio chose to come back to Iraq. “I wanted to go see that spot. I
wanted to stand there and reflect on it for a minute,” he said. “I
wanted to think through the events that happened and relive it, as
horrific as it was. Also, just seeing how [Iraq] has changed over the
Oliverio will continue explore Iraq throughout the rest
of the week, but his trip so far can be described in two words - amazing
and phenomenal, he said.
As an additional benefit, Oliverio was
able to be re-united with Malone, now a civilian contractor who works at
Forward Operating Base Hammer, as he was able to make a trip to Victory
Base Complex to visit his old platoon leader for a night.
really great to see him. He literally saved my life that day,” Oliverio
By Army Spc. Paul Holston
U.S. Forces Iraq
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