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Marine injured in Iraq returns to Hagerstown

September 29, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

For a local Marine recovering at home from shrapnel wounds, the reason for joining the infantry at a time of war is clear.

"I just wanted to serve my country. I didn't want to do it behind a desk," said Lance Cpl. Jonathan Breehl, 19, who was injured Sept. 14 in Iraq while participating in a patrol.

A 2005 North Hagerstown High School graduate, Breehl used crutches to get around Thursday as he greeted friends at his alma mater during a volleyball game.

Breehl, who said he is assigned to six months of limited duty, was released from National Naval Hospital in Bethesda, Md., where he had been treated for injuries to his right wrist and left thigh. According to reports, he was hurt when shrapnel from a remote-controlled improvised explosive device struck him in Habbaniyah.

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During a brief interview in the high school's cafeteria, Breehl said he could not disclose where he was at the time of the bombing, and he did not want to discuss details of the incident. He also declined to state with what unit he had been stationed.

None of the other troops with him on foot patrol was injured, he said.

"In this instance, we were on our way to make a raid on house that we thought had an individual," Breehl said.

According to Breehl, Marines on daytime patrols typically walk with 30 to 40 yards between them.

"So in case of, if a bomb does go off, it doesn't hurt everybody," said Breehl, who said he was injured in the early morning.

While Breehl was in the cafeteria, a custodian approached him to say how proud he was of his service. A woman also approached Breehl to wish him well.

Breehl's mother, Melissa Custer, 35, said she is glad to have her son home, and she and her husband, Jeremy Custer, said they are grateful for the support they have received.

Custer said she was heartbroken by the injuries some of the soldiers being treated at the National Naval Hospital had suffered. One soldier had lost a leg and an arm, and another suffered brain injuries and lost his eye, she said.

"When you walk in there, and you see some of these young boys in there, your heart drops to your feet ... And, they're defending our country," said Custer, the mother of two other boys.

Breehl said he misses his comrades in Iraq.

"I've got brothers now," he said. "It's an unbelievable bond being a Marine."

Breehl's youngest sibling, a 15-year-old junior at the high school, also wants to join the military "to defend his country," Melissa Custer said.

Though Breehl said he doubts he will be back in action by the time his unit is scheduled to come home in February, he said he knows he likely will return to Iraq for a second tour before his four-year enlistment is finished.

"I'm a Marine," Breehl said. "I'm going to do whatever my country asks for me to do."

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