>>>> SEMPER FI !
>> Leading the fight is Gunnery Sgt Michael Burghardt, known as "Iron Mike" or
>> "Gunny". He is on his third tour in Iraq He had become a legend in the bomb
>> disposal world after winning the Bronze Star for disabling 64 IEDs and
>> destroying 1,548 pieces of ordnance during his second tour. Then, on
>> September 19, he got blown up. He had arrived at a chaotic scene after a bomb
>> had killed four US soldiers. He chose not to wear the bulky bomb protection
>> suit. "You can't react to any sniper fire and you get tunnel-vision," he
>> explains. So, protected by just a helmet and standard-issue flak jacket, he
>> began what bomb disposal officers term "the longest walk", stepping gingerly
>> into a 5ft deep and 8ft wide crater.
>> The earth shifted slightly and he saw a Senao base station with a wire
>> leading from it. He cut the wire and used his 7in knife to probe the ground.
>> "I found a piece of red detonating cord between my legs," he says. "That's
>> when I knew I was screwed."
>> Realizing he had been sucked into a trap, Sgt Burghardt, 35, yelled at
>> everyone to stay back. At that moment, an insurgent, probably watching
>> through binoculars, pressed a button on his mobile phone to detonate the
>> secondary device below the sergeant's feet "A chill went up the back of my
>> neck and then the bomb exploded," he recalls. "As I was in the a ir I
>> remember thinking, 'I don't believe they got me.' I was just ticked off they
>> were able to do it. Then I was lying on the road, not able to feel anything
>> from the waist down."
>> His colleagues cut off his trousers to see how badly he was hurt. None could
>> believe his legs were still there. "My dad's a Vietnam vet who's paralyzed
>> from the waist down," says Sgt Burghardt. "I was lying there thinking I
>> didn't want to be in a wheelchair next to my dad and for him to see me like
>> that. They started to cut away my pants and I felt a real sharp pain and
>> blood trickling down. Then I wiggled my toes and I thought, 'Good, I'm in
>> business.' "As a stretcher was brought over, adrenaline and anger kicked in.
>> "I decided to walk to the helicopter. I wasn't going to let my team-mates see
>> me being carried away on a stretcher." He stood and gave the insurgents who
>> had blown him up a one-fingered salute. "I flipped them one. It was like,
>> 'OK, I lost that round but I'll be back next week'."
>> Copies of a photograph depicting his defiance, taken by Jeff Bundy for the
>> Omaha World-Herald, adorn the walls of homes across America and that of Col
>> John Gronski, the brigade commander in Ramadi, who has hailed the image as an
>> exemplar of the warrior spirit. Sgt Burghardt's injuries - burns and wounds
>> to his legs and buttocks - kept him off duty for nearly a month and could
>> have earned him a ticket home. But, like his father - who was awarded a
>> Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts for being wounded in action in Vietnam -
>> he stayed in Ramadi to engage in the battle against insurgents who are
>> forever coming up with more ingenious ways of killing Americans.