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Ohio Marine Reflects On Service And Sacrifice

Five years ago this week, The United States military entered Iraq. Saddam Hussein was quickly deposed. But, the Iraq War and its endgame is being debated by presidential candidates as America prepares to vote in November. Ohioans have a huge stake in the debate. Nearly 200 Ohio military have been killed in action, and thousands more of its reserve and national guard have served in Iraq. WOSU's Tom Borgerding reports on one marine who served with Lima Company during 2005 and has now returned to his job in Licking County.

For Ohio Highway Patrol trooper Larry Bowman there's no question life has changed since the start of the Iraq War. Bowman is a retired marine. But, in May of 2005 he was leading a rifle platoon with Lima Company. The platoon had entered Yubadi City in Anbar Province to do a house to house search for insurgents. He recounted the day shortly after his return to Ohio in July of 2005.

"None of the buildings in Iraq really had basements. They were all just on slabs, so, you never expected somebody to be shooting at you from the floor. And, on May 8th (2005) we had several killed in action because of that fact. You know they would enter the residence and begin to clear it and there would be no visible signs of anyone in the building but they had, as I said, dug out from underneath the floor." Bowman said.

Bowman sustained a serious leg wound from shrapnel and nearly died on the battlefield. He was transported back to Ohio to await the return of the rest of Lima Company. But, deadly violence continued. 22 marines and a Navy corpsman attached to the unit were killed in action during seven months of combat. Last week, while preparing for his shift with the Highway Patrol, Bowman says his leg has mostly healed.

"The nerve damage and the tendon damage is permanent. Of course that'll never be recovered but, you know, I've got myself back into good physical shape. I still have weird feelings in it when the weather changes and I mean there's some discomfort there from time to time but I don't think its anything a marine can't handle. "

But, Bowman says the changes wrought by his Iraq war experience are not only physical. He says he had several months of what he called "hard times" after his return from Iraq.

"Within a two months span I had a death in my family, a near-death in family, two other near-deaths in may family, my marines who had gotten killed in Iraq and my now ex-wife of course and I were having some serious situations about married life."

Like other marines, Bowman says he still keeps up with current events in Iraq.

Ohio University author and political scientist, Patricia Weitsman, says its likely the debate over the Iraq War will grow more intense as the presidential campaign enters its next stage. Weitsman says Ohio is among a group of states which have taken the highest number of casualties in Iraq.

"There are only four states in the United States that have greater loss of life than Ohio does." Says Weitsman.

Weitsman adds that the U-S has made some tactical gains in Iraq but she says it will be difficult to prevail. While Bowman says he keeps up with news from Iraq. He still gets angry when casualties are reported.

"It makes me want to be back over there even more so if I watch too much of it. Because, anytime I see Americans being injured or killed in the manner that they are it really makes me angry. And, it just makes me all the more want to be there because I feel I could possibly, you know, the man in the right place at the right time can make a world of difference."

The Ohio Highway Patrol awarded Bowman its Military Service Award. He was the first to receive that honor.

Tom Borgerding WOSU news