FORWARD OPERATING BASE MAREZ, Iraq – Ever since America has waged modern war, U.S. Soldiers have been noted for packing their gear, grabbing their rifles and hopping onto aircraft, flying to various parts of the globe in answering the call of duty.
They never shy away in the face of danger. Loyalty, duty, and courage – all imminent parts of their creed – will not allow them to be afraid.
Deployed, they ride through strange towns in Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected armored vehicles, knowing at any time an improvised explosive device could explode, or they could be suddenly attacked.
This never stops them. They keep riding, carrying out their mission and bringing safety and security to their area of operation.
One former Soldier, who knows perhaps all too well the dangers and sacrifices made by U.S. Soldiers, recently made a huge decision to return to the place where duty led him and changed his life, forever.
Sergeant (Ret.) Juan Arredondo, returned to Iraq through Forward Operating Base Marez, in Mosul, for the first time since he was injured in combat, which resulted in the loss of his left arm from the elbow down, damage to both his calf muscles and injuries to his right foot.
The sergeant, along with seven other combat-injured service members, received recognition during Operation Proper Exit V, April 4 through April 10. These Wounded Warriors were provided the opportunity to share their experiences with Soldiers throughout Iraq Theater of Operations.
Sergeant Arredondo said the trip back to Iraq was well worth it. He was glad to come back, so he could leave Iraq "the right way."
"The last time I was here, I got carried out. As a Soldier, I have always wanted to come back and be able to walk out on my own two feet," said the sergeant.
According to Sgt. Arredondo, to see the mission for which he sacrificed so much, unfolding up close and personal, was very fulfilling.
"It is truly great to see the mission is almost complete. The Soldiers who came behind me and those on ground today are doing a magnificent job," he said. "For the few nights I've been here, I've been able to sleep like a baby, which was not the case the last time I was here."
The sergeant's brother, Staff Sgt. Julio Arredondo, 46th Civil Affairs Battalion, currently deployed to FOB Basra in Iraq, was able to fly in for his brother's "Proper Exit."
The staff sergeant said it meant a lot to him to finally be able to, in a sense, serve in-theater with his brother.
"I'm very grateful my command was able to give me an opportunity to be here to support my brother. We never got a chance to actually serve together, so this time together is definitely special to me," said Staff Sgt. Arredondo.
Because the staff sergeant was scheduled to deploy just three months after his brother's injuries, he said their family was extremely nervous about him deploying, but his brother's courage is what motivated him to be fearless and push forward.
"A lot of my family members were really scared for me to deploy. They did not want me to come over here. My brother was the brave one. He told me I signed the contract just as he had and that I had a job and duty to carry out," said Staff Sgt. Arredondo.
Sergeant Arredondo's courage, bravery, and clear commitment to his comrades and country clearly showed, according to Staff Sgt. Arredondo, during a conversation he had with his brother, while still in the hospital recovering from injuries.
"It was hard seeing my brother in the hospital. I had never seen him like that before. I remember he told me all he could think about was the guys he left behind, how he wished he was still there with them," said Staff Sgt. Arredondo.
Besides his brother, Sgt. Arredondo also got a chance to see Command Sergeant Maj. Glenn Robinson, 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment command sergeant major, attached to 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, who was the Sgt. Arredondo first sergeant when he was injured.
Command Sergeant Major Robinson said he had mixed emotions, of both happiness and sadness, when he saw his Soldier.
"Sgt. Arredondo and I were deployed to Korea and Iraq together. I remember when he was injured. Seeing him today makes me feel some sadness, but also joy at the same time. He is here, in Iraq, standing," said the command sergeant major.
"I'll never forget when we redeployed, and he met me and the other guys getting off the plane. We were so happy to see him there, recovered," he said. "Moments like that and this one, today, are priceless."