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Pa. soldier is wounded in Iraq war

January 08, 2007|by JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, PA. - A 2004 graduate of Waynesboro Area Senior High School was injured Friday in Iraq when he was struck by shrapnel from an improvised explosive device, his father said Sunday.

Spc. Corey J. O'Connor was in the second of three military vehicles moving through Hawijah, Iraq, when the IED exploded and injured him at 8:22 p.m. Iraqi time. He was in a hospital 40 minutes later, undergoing surgery and being stabilized, according to his father.

O'Connor, 20, suffered neck, throat and jaw injuries and remains in Landstuhl, Germany, awaiting transport to the United States, his father said.

"We don't really know the full extent of his injuries. ... As far as we can tell, there is no neurological damage," said John O'Connor, the combat infantryman's father.

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Corey O'Connor signed up to join the U.S. Army while a junior at Waynesboro Area Senior High School.

John O'Connor, a career military man, received a call about his son's injuries Saturday morning and was able to talk to him Sunday. A tracheotomy tube prevented the younger man from responding to his father's comments.

"The nurse held a phone to his ear. Although he couldn't talk, he gave two thumbs up," John O'Connor said.

Doctors at the soldier's bedside and representatives of the Army Casualty Center have told John O'Connor that his son is alert, oriented and doing well, and will not require further surgeries. The State Line, Pa., man believes his son will handle the injuries in stride, much like he did when others questioned his decision to enlist.

"He said, 'Don't feel sorry for me. I volunteered for this,'" said John O'Connor, who feels his son was profoundly affected by the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

Corey O'Connor had finished a tour of duty in Afghanistan when the Bravo Co., 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division "Tropic Lightning" brigade was sent to Iraq in August 2006. Last estimates were that the 25th Infantry Division would return to the United States in October.

Corey O'Connor, who loves hunting, fishing and the Green Bay Packers, according to his father, reportedly was serving as a gunner in the turret of a Humvee when the IED exploded Friday. The first vehicle in the convoy bore the brunt of the explosion.

The elder O'Connor hopes his son is transferred to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., rather than Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, so he is better able to visit.

Corey O'Connor's injury occurred on the same day that a 2002 Waynesboro Area Senior High School graduate was being buried.

Edward W. Shaffer, 23, was serving as a gunnery sergeant in Ramadi, Iraq, when a roadside bomb severely burned him Nov. 13, 2006. He died as a result of those injuries Dec. 27, 2006.

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