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Marines Readjust To Civilian Life

Battered Marines Adjust to Civilian Life

Associated Press | October 09, 2006

COLUMBUS, Ohio - A year after they returned home, members of a badly battered Marine Corps unit are still finding it hard to adjust to their civilian lives.

Some Marines of Lima Company, which lost 16 reservists in Iraq , say they dislike being in crowds, because crowds in Iraq meant trouble.

"I feel like a different person," said Cpl. Seth Judy, 25, who had surgery in July to remove the last bit of shrapnel embedded in his left knee. "I don't have a free spirit the way I used to ."

The Columbus-based company, part of the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines, returned home Oct. 7, 2005. The unit was the subject of A&E Television Network's documentary film, "Combat Diary: The Marines of Lima Company ," which used personal video shot by the Marines.

Nearly all the Lima Company Marines are back to their civilian lives. Judy and 11 others injured in Iraq are on what the military calls "medical hold ," meaning the reservists are still considered active-duty Marines while they continue medical treatments.

They go to physical therapy as needed, but spend a lot of time at the reserve center at Rickenbacker International Airport, where they handle paperwork, among other assignments. They often serve in an honor guard at veterans' funerals or present the colors at sporting events.

But life isn't what it used to be. They have scars, and they've seen friends die.

Lance Cpl. Mark Strahle, 22, coaches football at his alma mater. He took shrapnel in his right arm, stomach and groin in an explosion. The players know what he's been through, he said, but they don't talk about it.

Strahle had nightmares when he returned home. He doesn't remember much about them, except that he'd hear a boom and wake up sweating.

"There were dark thoughts," he said, "bad thoughts." For Strahle, one-on-one civilian counseling didn't help. The doctors couldn't understand what he'd been through. "They tilt their heads and say they are sorry for you, but that doesn't help ," he said.

But there was group counseling every Thursday night with other Lima Company Marines, and that's what has helped the most, Strahle said. Someone would mention he'd been having trouble sleeping. Soon it would become clear a lot of them had trouble sleeping.

The physical and psychological wounds are starting to heal, though.

Strahle anticipates being off medical hold in a month, and he'd like to go back to school to study criminology.

Judy wants to be a federal agent, and he's started running on his left knee again.