Thu, 17 Feb 2011 10:01:00 -0600
By Marine Corps Pfc. Franklin E. Mercado of 1st Marine Logistics Group
CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C., Feb. 17, 2011 - Marja, Afghanistan, was the site of many deaths and injuries while Marines and other coalition forces seized the city early last year to rid it of Taliban forces. Even now, a year after the initial assault, the urban center remains a dangerous region of Helmand province.
On Jan. 22, Steele, who commander the sixth vehicle in a 17-vehicle convoy, was near Forward Operating Base Hansen when his vehicle struck a roadside bomb.
He was wearing all of his protective equipment, but the blast left him in serious condition. Steele, a combat engineer with the 1st Marine Logistics Group's 8th Engineer Support Battalion, suffered injuries to his cheekbone and hip joint area, among other fractures.
The experience is something he says he will never forget.
"Getting blown up will stay with me for the rest of my life," Steele said. "It's a life-changing experience, obviously, but I'm fine, and that's what's important."
After the explosion, Steele was taken to Camp Bastion. Soon thereafter, he was admitted to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, and he subsequently was taken to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. Now on convalescent leave, he said he's taking the rest of his life one step at a time as he continues to recover from his injuries.
Despite his injuries, Steele said, his morale has not been shaken. The self-proclaimed trail blazer, who received the Purple Heart Medal on Feb. 15, said he has a plan and is not going to let something like a combat wound keep him down for long, and that he hopes to make a full recovery and return to duty.
"I like following my own path," he said. "I make my own decisions. Even growing up, I liked to do my own thing."
NATO International Security Assistance Force