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That November day, the men of Golf Company saved Mark’s life.  There would be no body bag, no homecoming parade either.  Twenty one year old corporal Mark O’Brien would return home without two of his limbs. 

Corporal Mark O’Brien’s trip home from Iraq took him through a series of operating rooms and hospitals and has brought him to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C.  Mark is just one of more than 12,000 troops injured in the war.   He joins hundreds of other service members whose limbs have been destroyed in the war.  Now Mark has to learn how to live life as a double amputee.

“Losing the leg really isn’t that bad. ‘Cause if I wear pants, and I walk no one can know, or no one can tell that I have a fake leg cause I walk pretty much perfect," says Mark. "The arm is the hardest thing. It’s your hand and I can’t do a lot of things now.  I wrote right-handed and I did all these things right handed.  So I have to teach myself how to write left-handed. When I get married and have a kid, how am I going to teach him to throw a baseball? Or go outside to play catch with him? I can’t. I can’t put a glove on."

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Special Report
MSNBC TV presents "Coming Home". Lester Holts follows the triumphs and tragedies of service members returning from combat.
eyond the physical challenges, Mark is fighting a psychological battle.  “Sleep is almost non-existent. I sit there all the time and I think about how I could have changed things," he says. "There are a million different scenarios you can run through your mind.”

In Iraq, Mark was a vital member of a combat platoon and faced death on a daily basis.  There, he had his fellow marines but now he must fight without them.

Across the country Mark O’Brien’s platoon is about to come from war. They’ve been away for seven months.  Their families eagerly await their arrival at Camp Pendleton in California.    Mark, after months of rehabilitation, was able to fly there to see his brothers-in-arms come safely home.  The last time he saw them he was on the verge of bleeding to death. 

While his platoon's voyage home from Iraq may have been longer, Mark's trip from the Amputee Center at Walter Reed to this moment -- signals the end of a personal war. 

“I just want to be one of the guys," he says. "I don’t want anybody to think of me any different.  I’ve been waiting to see my friends since the day I got hit. The last time I saw them, they were patching me up.” 

Five long months of separation ended as Golf Company marched in.  Mark spotted one by one the dear friends he was separated from so violently.                                  

“They’re just great friends of mine," Mark says. "I just trusted them with my life for so long. If I had to go back and do it again I wouldn’t change a thing.  It’s hard to explain.  I’d definitely go back with them again and I’d give my other arm and leg for them. I’d give my life.”   

Finally Mark gets to see Doc McDonell - the man who saved his life.   Their simple words say it all.                                                                                            

“I’m nervous. Last time I saw him I was bleeding all over the place. I didn’t think I was going to make it. But, here I am," Mark says.

"I was nervous to see him … it was weird," Doc says. "I was nervous.  I was carrying my gear and I saw him down there and it just flashed back to me the last time I saw him.  When I hugged Mark I felt my eyes water up with tears and it was a joy. It was a happiness.  His struggles are always going to be something that I don’t know anything about but he’ll beat it and, we know that he’s still with us."

The fight for legislation:
Jeremy Feldbusch, now blind, was once an elite army ranger.   On April 3, 2003, in a fight to control the second largest dam in Iraq, Jeremy manned a mortar for 36 hours under enemy fire, destroying a missile defense system and 45 of Saddam Hussein’s soldiers.  Then, a small piece of shrapnel from an artillery shell pierced his right temple, destroyed his sight and damaged his brain.  

Former staff sergeant Heath Calhoun was wounded on November 7, 2003 when a rocket propelled grenade exploded into his truck.   

Former staff sergeant Ryan Kelly’s convoy was ambushed by Iraqi insurgents in July, 2003.  His lower right leg was destroyed in the attack.


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