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'Mojo' and 'Mad Dog' prove their mettle
Stars and Stripes ^ | 4.14.03 | Mark Oliva

Posted on 04/14/2003 7:42:49 PM PDT by Enemy Of The State

'Mojo' and 'Mad Dog' prove their mettle


By Mark Oliva, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Tuesday, April 15, 2003



Mark Oliva / S&S
Marine Sgts. Christopher Merkle, left, and Jose Rodriguez — infantrymen with Company G, 2nd Battalion, 23rd Marines —ducked doctors, hitched rides, begged for gear and even thought about stealing a Humvee to return from a shock trauma center in Iraq to their unit after getting injured in a truck accident.

SOUTHERN IRAQ — Sgt. Christopher Merkle and Sgt. Jose Rodriguez weren’t going to let a little truck accident stop them from finishing what they’d started.

Merkle and Rodriguez, affectionately known as Mojo and Mad Dog to their fellow Marines, might have pulled off the biggest caper of the war in Iraq. They ducked doctors, begged rides and did everything short of stealing a Humvee to return to their unit, despite suffering injuries when a truck overturned with them in the back.

Merkle and Rodriguez, infantrymen with Company G, 2nd Battalion, 23rd Marines, returned to their unit late on March 30. Merkle’s helmet bobbled on his head and the flak jacket he wore was too small to close around his chest. His camouflaged chemical suit was torn down the leg.

Rodriguez didn’t look much better. His flak jacket also was the wrong size, and a bag of grenades hung from his side. The two had just completed a remarkable journey, dodging medical evacuation to Kuwait to return to their unit for the remainder of the war.

“There was no way we were going to the hospital,” Merkle said. “It seems like it was a suicide mission to come back, but we couldn’t go back to the States and look these Marines in the eye knowing they were out there while we were eating ice cream.”

‘Just wanted to get looked at’

Merkle and Rodriguez were riding in a truck with about 20 other Marines at night last month in lights-out conditions during a dust storm. The driver lost sight of the road and careened over the edge of a small bridge.

Some Marines sustained serious injuries, including a broken pelvis, broken legs and back injuries. Merkle and Rodriguez were among those with less serious injuries.

Merkle compressed his spine and neck when he landed directly on his head. Rodriguez also suffered an injury to his back and strained his left wrist.

“I just wanted to get looked at” by medical personnel, Merkle said. “I didn’t know we’d end up going that far back from the front.”

The Marines were shuttled between medical aid stations — from battalion to regiment and, finally, to a shock trauma center about an hour away via Army Black Hawk helicopter.

There, they joined Marines who’d been injured in other accidents and in combat. The ward was filled with 54 injured troops. Merkle and Rodriguez quickly realized that all of them were to be evacuated to Kuwait Military Hospital.

“We knew if we were going there, we weren’t going to be coming back,” Rodriguez said. “They had two C-130s ready to take everyone out.” 

A way back north

That’s when the two got desperate. They knew they wouldn’t be released from the hospital unless a doctor cleared them. Merkle could hide his back injury, but his neck injury was too serious to fake.

“I found a sympathetic doc who understood we wanted to get back and gave me a shot of some kind of muscle relaxer. I felt great,” he said. “I touched my toes, and they told me Patient 101 was cleared.”

“I just told them I was right-handed,” Rodriguez said. “I told them I was good to go, and I’d just get looked at back at my unit.”

To keep from being caught, the two Marines busied themselves among the ambulances, pretending to work, until the planes took off for Kuwait.

“Then it was too late,” Merkle said. “They gave us a cot and a space blanket, and we spent the night there until we could try to find a way back north.”

Two possible rides never appeared, so Merkle and Rodriguez headed out to the main supply route and began flagging down vehicles heading north. When they told drivers they wanted to go beyond Nasiriyah, where fighting was still heavy, some told them they were crazy. But all said they weren’t going that far.

“Everybody had the intentions, but not the means to help us out,” Rodriguez said.

They finally caught a ride to a nearby airfield, but their luck didn’t change there. The pilots sympathized with them, but couldn’t take them without orders. The Marines finally made their way to the Marine Expeditionary Force headquarters, where their hopes were raised.

Until this time, the two had been traveling around a war zone without the slightest bit of protection. One Marine gunnery sergeant listened to their story and offered his flak jacket. Another gave them helmets. Still, they had no weapons.

“We went over to the ammo supply point and talked to the Marines there,” Merkle said. “They couldn’t give us any rifles, but they did give us something else.”

Five anti-tank rockets and 30 grenades heavier, the two Marines continued their frantic search for a ride north.

Becoming legend

A truck unit took them as far as it could, but a promise of further help from a sergeant major fell through. Their reputation soon preceded them. They became a popular battlefield rumor.

“It kind of caught me by surprise when we were trying to explain ourselves and people told us they’d heard about us,” Rodriguez said.

But not everyone was convinced they were who they claimed to be. One Marine master gunnery sergeant doubted they were even Marines when he spied Merkle’s torn uniform and Rodriguez’s unshaven face.

Finally, they happened upon a Marine helicopter pilot who had a soft spot for the two. Merkle pulled out a map of Iraq he bought at Barnes & Noble before deploying and showed his unit’s expected location. The pilot happened to be headed north and took the two along on his flight.

“We walked off the helicopters and noticed the lack of hospitality,” Merkle said. “That’s when we knew we were back with the grunts.”

Back to the front

They were welcomed back to their unit with open arms. Many had doubted they’d see the injured Marines again. But for others, the sudden appearance of Merkle and Rodriguez was no surprise.

“Particularly with those two Marines,” said Gunnery Sgt. Scoby, company gunnery sergeant. “It shows their character. They’re not in it for themselves.”

Merkle and Rodriguez said they still feel a little tender. They’re taking it as easy as field life allows and are still trying to gather up their gear that was quickly “borrowed” by Marines in their platoons.

“There was no way we weren’t going to come back,” Rodriguez said. “We even thought about stealing a Humvee for a while. We were checking which ones had the most gas, but knew it would be stupid because we had no weapons.”

It was duty calling once again. Their job, they said, wasn’t to kick back and take life easy just because they happened take a ride over a bridge that wasn’t on the map.

“I had a sense of responsibility to finish the mission,” Rodriguez said. “I made a personal promise to myself to bring everyone of my Marines home, so I had to come back to take care of them.”

 


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; Foreign Affairs; Free Republic; Front Page News; News/Current Events; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: americanheros; anamericansoldier; embeddedreport; iraqifreedom; marines; prolife; semperfi
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1 posted on 04/14/2003 7:42:49 PM PDT by Enemy Of The State
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To: Mr. Silverback; gaspar; Bahbah; JoJo Gunn; anoldafvet; Jagdgewehr; wideawake; Flurry; OldFriend; ...

2 posted on 04/14/2003 7:45:47 PM PDT by Enemy Of The State
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To: All

God Bless This Great Country!


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3 posted on 04/14/2003 7:48:50 PM PDT by Support Free Republic (Your support keeps Free Republic going strong!)
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To: Enemy Of The State
Great story. Walking around with a sack of 30 grenades! Those two are crazy in a good way ...
4 posted on 04/14/2003 7:51:29 PM PDT by solzhenitsyn ("Live Not By Lies")
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To: Enemy Of The State
Someone please post a thread about the wonderful image these guys have portrayed to the whole world. Not being military, myself, I have been floored by the goodness and kindness of our troops. At every turn, they prove themselves to have the "right stuff". And while risking their lives at the same time! We have seen troops administering aid to enemy in middle of firefights! It is just uncanny! Whenever they are interviewed, they come across as the "boy next door". Is it possible that these guys are really as good as they appear? And, these guys mostly are kids! They have made me proud as punch!
5 posted on 04/14/2003 7:58:38 PM PDT by whadizit
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To: Enemy Of The State
Excellent! These men will have a hard time living down all the variations of the truth that will be told amongst the grunts in the field. LOL

I hope they both get promotions because of their sense of duty to men and country.

6 posted on 04/14/2003 7:59:26 PM PDT by B4Ranch ( "It's too late to work within the system, but too early to shoot the bastards".Claire Wolfe)
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To: Enemy Of The State
Now that's what you call "tough hombres". THUMBS UP!
7 posted on 04/14/2003 8:01:38 PM PDT by JoJo Gunn (Help control the Leftist population. Have them spayed or neutered....)
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To: Enemy Of The State
You know those good ol' traditional songs about American folk heros like John Henry and Davy Crockett? I'd love it if there were a song like that some day about Mad Dog and Mojo!
8 posted on 04/14/2003 8:03:51 PM PDT by solzhenitsyn ("Live Not By Lies")
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To: B4Ranch; HighRoadToChina; maui_hawaii; Slyfox; Free the USA; rightwing2; borghead; ChaseR; ...
Ping everyone to this thread, I want everyone to know their story!!!

 

9 posted on 04/14/2003 8:05:16 PM PDT by Enemy Of The State
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To: harpseal; Travis McGee; Squantos; sneakypete; Chapita
A jarhead bump!
10 posted on 04/14/2003 8:05:51 PM PDT by razorback-bert (Beer bottles and Marines are both empty from the neck up.)
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To: Enemy Of The State
I was thinking about what movie to watch tonite......my question has been answered..."A Few Good Men"...albeit tom croose is in it...oh well, gotta take the good with the bad...

FMCDH

11 posted on 04/14/2003 8:06:09 PM PDT by nothingnew
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To: whadizit
" Whenever they are interviewed, they come across as the "boy next door". Is it possible that these guys are really as good as they appear? And, these guys mostly are kids!"

They are our future.
12 posted on 04/14/2003 8:07:54 PM PDT by OldEagle (Haven't been wrong since 1947.)
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To: tallhappy
ping!
13 posted on 04/14/2003 8:09:14 PM PDT by Enemy Of The State
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To: Mr. Mojo
Check this out. What a great story.
Relative perhaps?:) or is Mojo a common name like Smith. LOL
14 posted on 04/14/2003 8:14:03 PM PDT by Balata
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To: Luis Gonzalez; DrDeb; hoosierpearl; quack; Jeff Head; Republic; PeoplesRep_of_LA; Mister Baredog; ..
PING!!
15 posted on 04/14/2003 8:14:50 PM PDT by Enemy Of The State
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To: Enemy Of The State
BTTT!
16 posted on 04/14/2003 8:19:37 PM PDT by F.J. Mitchell ( The roots of sweet liberty are best fertilized by the stinking rotting corpse of tyranny.)
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To: Balata
Thanks for the ping. Yep, those dudes are my brothers in arms.
17 posted on 04/14/2003 8:20:03 PM PDT by Mr. Mojo
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To: OldEagle
"They are our future."

It's just so sad that most of our young are just the opposite as these guys. But, what I want to know is: are these guys just naturally good or does the military instill these wonderful traits?
18 posted on 04/14/2003 8:24:14 PM PDT by whadizit
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To: Mr. Mojo
This sounds like a movie in the making.
19 posted on 04/14/2003 8:25:50 PM PDT by Balata
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To: solzhenitsyn
You are sooo right--If I could write music I'd try to tell it myself.
20 posted on 04/14/2003 8:26:12 PM PDT by pooh fan
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To: F.J. Mitchell
EFFING "A"!!!!
21 posted on 04/14/2003 8:26:31 PM PDT by Luis Gonzalez
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To: BurkeCalhounDabney; Willie Green; Looking for Diogenes; Diogenes; Sam Cree; be131; apillar; ...
PING!!
22 posted on 04/14/2003 8:31:32 PM PDT by Enemy Of The State
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To: Enemy Of The State
This is the Marine version of Incredible Journey.

Attention: do not get between these Marines and the battle.

23 posted on 04/14/2003 8:32:39 PM PDT by PhilDragoo (Hitlery: das Butch von Buchenvald)
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To: whadizit
Leaders arent born, they're made!! (compliments of the USMC)
24 posted on 04/14/2003 8:32:40 PM PDT by Enemy Of The State
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To: Balata
Great idea. I have a very old friend who's now a Hollywood hotshot producer (producing many feature films), and I'll email him this story. It's just up his alley.
25 posted on 04/14/2003 8:32:52 PM PDT by Mr. Mojo
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To: All
Where the heck is the media on this one? Fox? MSNBC? They want to cover heros...well here they are!!!!
26 posted on 04/14/2003 8:34:09 PM PDT by Enemy Of The State
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To: Enemy Of The State
The Anti-Woodstock
27 posted on 04/14/2003 8:36:40 PM PDT by Revolting cat! (Subvert the dominant cliche!)
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To: Balata
"This sounds like a movie in the making."

Yeah, what a great buddy movie. Two young marines hiking and hitchhiking around Iraq in the middle of a war, trying to find their unit, lugging five anti-tank missiles and 30 grenades around with them ... it's just too good! There's a lot of grit, courage, and "can do" in that story, and some humor, too. What a couple of great American GIs!

28 posted on 04/14/2003 8:37:34 PM PDT by solzhenitsyn ("Live Not By Lies")
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To: anniegetyourgun
ping
29 posted on 04/14/2003 8:40:34 PM PDT by Enemy Of The State
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To: Enemy Of The State
“We walked off the helicopters and noticed the lack of hospitality,” Merkle said. “That’s when we knew we were back with the grunts.”


I loved that line.

30 posted on 04/14/2003 8:41:56 PM PDT by gcruse (If they truly are God's laws, he can enforce them himself.)
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To: PARodrig; RaceBannon; Yehuda; nutmeg; Black Agnes; Clemenza; Ex Submariner
And now for something different
31 posted on 04/14/2003 8:43:14 PM PDT by Cacique
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To: Enemy Of The State
2nd Battalion, 23rd Marines

Isn't this the only reserve unit there? The one Rick Leventhal is with?

With guys like these, no wonder we rolled over Iraq!

32 posted on 04/14/2003 8:46:35 PM PDT by dixiechick2000
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To: Enemy Of The State
Great story bump.
33 posted on 04/14/2003 8:51:38 PM PDT by browardchad
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To: Enemy Of The State
"I had a sense of responsibility to finish the mission,” Rodriguez said. “I made a personal promise to myself to bring everyone of my Marines home, so I had to come back to take care of them."


34 posted on 04/14/2003 8:51:39 PM PDT by Enemy Of The State
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To: Balata; maddog
You forgot to ping maddog!
35 posted on 04/14/2003 8:55:02 PM PDT by Cultural Jihad
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To: Enemy Of The State
Bookmarked and BUMPED.
36 posted on 04/14/2003 9:03:01 PM PDT by semaj
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To: Enemy Of The State
Bump
37 posted on 04/14/2003 9:05:56 PM PDT by Fiddlstix
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To: Cultural Jihad; maddog
OK maddog, this ping's for you!:)
38 posted on 04/14/2003 9:23:49 PM PDT by Balata
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To: solzhenitsyn
These stories now days are to few and far between. Talk about having all the elements for a hit. I wonder is Hollywood is watching.
39 posted on 04/14/2003 9:26:08 PM PDT by Balata
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To: Mr. Mojo
Man, you have all the connections. Wouldn't that be something if your friend made it a project? It would be a can't miss hit.
40 posted on 04/14/2003 9:28:21 PM PDT by Balata
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To: Enemy Of The State
What dedicated Marines! Many thanks for the ping.
41 posted on 04/14/2003 9:34:38 PM PDT by Jen (Support our Troops * Stand up to Terrorists * Liberate Iraq)
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To: Enemy Of The State
Fantastic story!
42 posted on 04/14/2003 9:36:32 PM PDT by HassanBenSobar (Baghdad Bob sez: Terry McAuliffe, all your job are belong to me)
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To: *An American Soldier
http://www.freerepublic.com/perl/bump-list
43 posted on 04/14/2003 9:51:16 PM PDT by Libertarianize the GOP (Ideas have consequences)
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To: Enemy Of The State
bump!
44 posted on 04/14/2003 9:56:35 PM PDT by Dr. Marten
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To: Enemy Of The State
Thanks. May be a slogan, but it's true from what I see! It's just hard to believe that the military can instill in someone something that did not have seeds originally. I guess a combination of both. Bringing out the best is what I have gathered.
45 posted on 04/14/2003 10:12:39 PM PDT by whadizit
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To: Enemy Of The State
"YEAH, BOY!!"
46 posted on 04/14/2003 10:13:26 PM PDT by whadizit
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To: patton; river rat; Poohbah; Squantos; harpseal; Matthew James
You can't make this stuff up!!!
47 posted on 04/14/2003 10:23:34 PM PDT by Travis McGee (----- www.EnemiesForeignAndDomestic.com -----)
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To: whadizit
here's another 'dogs of war' story you might enjoy

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/893346/posts

48 posted on 04/14/2003 10:33:57 PM PDT by Zacs Mom (Frankly, my dear, I DO give a damn ~ http://www.goodolddogs.com/oldragged.html)
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To: Travis McGee
Guys like this are the reason America will "Always" win ..................if polidiots stay out of it of course.

Stay Safe , Great Story !!

49 posted on 04/14/2003 10:52:27 PM PDT by Squantos (Cum catapultae proscriptae erunt tum soli proscript catapultas habebunt.)
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To: Enemy Of The State
Now, this is a great story. These guys are the right stuff.

Red

50 posted on 04/14/2003 10:54:27 PM PDT by Conservative4Ever (got the new computer, touch pad, keyboard learning blues)
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