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Injured Pa. soldier expected in D.C. today

January 09, 2007|by JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - A 2004 Waynesboro Area Senior High School graduate injured Friday in Iraq could be reunited with family members soon, his father said Monday.

Spc. Corey J. O'Connor recounted the ordeal to cousins who visited his bedside in a German hospital and remembers an explosion coming through the right side of his Humvee, his father, John O'Connor, said.

The improvised explosive device blast bruised the combat infantryman's shoulder and sent shrapnel into his neck, throat and jaw, John O'Connor said.

"His soldier friends were able to pull him out of the Humvee," John O'Connor said.

The younger O'Connor told cousins from Switzerland and London that a combat medic with the group drew an X on his throat and performed an emergency tracheotomy to ease breathing difficulties.

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"Thank God for the medic because I don't think (my son) would be with us if he hadn't been there," John O'Connor said.

The elder O'Connor is counting down the moments until his son is literally with him, citing the U.S. Army's estimates that the 20-year-old will be at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., by 8 p.m. today.

"We plan on visiting him on Wednesday," John O'Connor said, adding that six family members are making the trip.

John O'Connor said his first remarks to his son, a member of the 25th Infantry Division, will be that "I'm very proud of him, and that we're going to get through this."

The phone in John O'Connor's State Line, Pa., home rang steadily Monday.

"We're actually getting calls from people we don't know ... thanking us for his service and all that good stuff," John O'Connor said.

Representatives of the Army Casualty Center reportedly told John O'Connor that his son suffered extensive soft tissue damage and could have a tracheotomy tube inserted for up to three months. A lot remains unknown about the injuries, according to John O'Connor.

"They won't be able to analyze it until the swelling subsides," John O'Connor said. "He is very, very sore. He did have a lot of pain, so they had to give him a dose of Morphine."

Corey O'Connor, who enlisted in July 2004, was in the second of three military vehicles traveling through Hawijah, Iraq, when the IED exploded.

"As far as we can determine, no one else was injured in that episode," John O'Connor said.

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