Chaffey College football coach David Battle, 32, served in the 1st battalion of the Marine Corps. until he lost his left ring finger and was shot in his left leg in the 2nd Battle of Fallujah.
The 2nd Battle of Fallujah was a full assault on the Iraqi city of Fallujah that occurred in 2004. The US military had not performed such an attack since the Vietnam war, according to Battle.
“You’re at alert all the time because of where you’re at, but at the same time, you’re not actively looking around,” he stated, “It’s just you know the danger’s there, and being able to carry on while there’s danger there. You know, it’s a task that a lot of people probably couldn’t figure out, and we did it on a daily basis.”
Before entering the city, the US released a message evacuating many residents or else they would be considered hostile. Battle claimed most of the civilians had already evacuated, but some still remained. He did his best to distinguish between hostiles and civilians, saying the evacuation helped, but they still had to be “smart” and couldn’t kill everything they saw.
“It was something very different, you know? Before you’d patrol, try to make a good presence. The Battle of Fallujah, it was just a two-way rifle range,” said Battle.
Despite “knowing” what they were doing, injuries were unavoidable, and Battle was shot and hit with a grenade.
“When I got shot in my leg, it felt like something pinched me… When I got out of the house, and I got hit with the grenade, all I felt was heat. It didn’t hurt. It just felt like my hand was on fire,” said Battle on his injuries. “We go through a lot of training, and one of the things they tell you is that as long as you’re not hit in this [chest] area, you’re gonna be okay.”
Immediately after being hit with the grenade, Battle had his leg treated by the corpsman in his platoon, and was then evacuated to a triage, what Battle described as being a lot of first aid to get to the hospital. However, he did not receive meaningful medical attention right away because of the number of wounded.
Battle had to wait until the ambulances took others who had been injured before him to the hospital from the triage. Upon arrival at Bravo Surgical, Battle had shrapnel removed from his hand. Afterwards, he was moved to Baghdad for more surgery, and flew to Germany two days later for further medical treatment.
After having more shrapnel removed, he was flown to Bethesda, Maryland for two weeks to continue his surgeries. According to Battle, the injured would usually be sent to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, he was sent Bethesda Hospital because Walter Reed was already full.
However, Bethesda Hospital, too, was a almost at capacity, and Battle, along with others, was placed in a doctor’s office inside of the children’s cancer ward.
“There’s kids walking around, and they all have cancer… And we’re there, fucked up. It was… Fucking kids don’t need to see what we’re going through. They didn’t,” Battle commented on his time at the hospital. “And [it adds] perspective too. That kid is fighting for his life. I can do this… They’re an inspiration. Together we’re gonna make sure we get out of here… I remember telling a kid — we’re doing a puzzle — and I remember telling him, ‘We’re gonna be alright.’”
During his medical treatment, Battle was told that he would never be able to walk again. He claimed that he found out when he tried to walk to the restroom, and when he tried to walk, he heard something pop and fell to the ground and became “hysterical.” Although it was painful, Battle worked through it and learned how to walk again within eight months.
“Even now, I can’t lift my foot up. So what I do is I just use my hip to throw my foot out,” explained Battle.
However, just walking was not enough for Battle. He still needed to do what was important to him. Battle tried out for Chaffey’s football team, but wasn’t ready right away. It took the help of Chaffey Strength Conditioning Coach Phil Roberts to help Battle get to where he needed to be to join the team for one year.
After the surgeries were finished, Battle was given an honorary medical discharge, but he still wanted to return to the Marines. He claims that he might have pushed himself a little too hard, but is still proud of it.
“Now I can look at my son, or any other player, and say, ‘Don’t let somebody tell you you can’t do something. It’s up to you.’ Not because I saw it in a movie, or I saw it on a poster, because I lived it,” said Battle on what he learned from the experience.
Battle says he had a lot of trouble “readjusting,” stating that he was still in “combat mode.” He claims the sudden change of surrounding had a lot to do with it, since he went from active duty, to being treated for his wounds and then being sent home without any time to “decompress.”
“When I cam home, I started to realize, ‘Wow, I’m so aggressive! I’m so attentive.’ I didn’t realize that when I was over there… My head knew I was back at home, but my body was still there,” Battle remembered.
In Battle’s experience, the hardest thing to get used to was speaking to people. The way he spoke in the Marines was more direct. He claimed that part of it was Marines have strong beliefs, and it was hard for him to “realize that not everybody wants to hear your opinion.”
Despite the injuries, Battle is still proud of his service. He claims he knew what he wanted to do, and that he wanted to be there.
“I was prepared to give my life for this country, for what I stood for. I wasn’t prepared to come back disabled, but it’s still part of the deal,” he said.