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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Marine Corps Reserve Cpl. Mark A. Camp

In May of 2005, Marines stationed in Anbar province began a week-long hunt to root out insurgents and foreign fighters in the volatile areas around the Syrian border. Dubbed Operation Matador, those tasked with carrying out the mission encountered enemies who had dug in and were ready to fight: deadly roadside bombs, sniper attacks, and several well-planned ambushes.

One day after the operation began, then-Lance Cpl. Camp and his company were sent to New Ubaydi on a house-clearing mission. As Camp’s squad entered one of the houses, insurgents hiding in a closet and in an underground crawlspace opened fire, shooting four Marines. Camp, outside, heard the gunfight and immediately ran inside to help. Three separate times he entered and exited the building to recover his squad members and clear the house of insurgents.

On May 11, Camp was again tested. This time, his company was heading to another small town to clear other insurgent strongholds. Camp was standing at the top hatch of his amphibious assault vehicle when he noticed an eerie silence. Camp was instantly on alert – but that could not stop the roadside bomb that detonated at that moment, hitting the vehicle and throwing the man standing next to Camp into a nearby field.

Shrapnel dug into Camp’s right thigh, and the explosion lit his hands and face on fire. He was thrown back into the burning vehicle, and he began beating out the fires all over his body and head.

Then, Camp heard the call of one of his teammates still trapped inside. As he crawled back into the wreckage, heat was cooking off ammunition all around him, ammunition that ricocheted inside even as insurgents continued to fire from outside. And then there was another explosion. Camp fell back out of the vehicle, on fire once more. Again, he beat his body until the flames subsided.

His comrade was still in the vehicle. So Camp went back inside and tried to grip the Marine’s pack, his helmet – anything – but by then Camp’s skin was melting from his hands. Camp later told the Columbus Dispatch, “I [was] screaming for someone to help me . . . someone with fresh hands.” Finally, some Marines answered his calls, and pulled Camp and the other Marine free.

For his actions and bravery, Camp was awarded the Silver Star on May 15, 2006. Columbus Dispatch article here.

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