My name is Lino Zackary Manglona Tenorio. I was born on the Island of Guam but raised on the island of Saipan. First of all, I would like to thank all the individuals in the U.S. Armed forces who have served, are currently serving, and most especially to those who gave all. As a 12B (Combat Engineer), I was stationed on Fort Lewis, WA from 2006 to 2008 and only a few months after arriving, I was deployed to Iraq.
The sense of great danger is still fresh in my mind as we arrived in the country. It felt surreal that I was probably in one of the most dangerous journey of my military career, but at the same time I could have never been more proud to be a part of our U.S. armed forces because I know that I’m defending my country and my people for our freedom.
As the days went by the feeling of danger became less and less because it started to feel “normal.” On Oct. 22, 2006, it felt like just any other “normal” night in Iraq as we were on a route clearance in Baghdad city. I was the driver of the third vehicle doing route clearance when out of nowhere we came across an Explosive Force Penetrator, which hit us on the passenger side of our Striker vehicle. Just a few minutes later the Striker caught fire and there where soldiers yelling in the back. As the driver, I tried to hit the switch for the ramp to drop while I had flames all around me but I was unsuccessful due to all the switches being melted from the flames. I felt like my head was in an oven that has been preheated to its highest degrees. As I got out of the vehicle and still keeping an eye on the rooftops and everywhere else around me, I managed to help other soldiers out of the vehicle and into safety. Then there was a little sense of relief as the Medevac vehicle arrived and I can remember complaining about my face feeling like it was burning. The next day half of my face was peeling. I was told that I couldn’t go on any mission for a week or two and that got me really angry inside because whenever any of my battle buddies got injured I couldn’t be there for them.
Some time on Jan. 20, 2007, we were informed that there was an area which we had an intel that there were enemies close by. We drove to that area and found nothing but equipment trucks parked all around. We then stared to head back toward base and as I was driving the second vehicle we passed by an area that seemed suspicious, but the lead vehicle cleared it. When I passed by the suspicious object, we were hit by 400-500 lbs of stacked up land mines. I knew we were hit but I couldn’t determine the amount of damage or if I was even injured because at that moment I didn’t feel any pain. I felt like as if I was suddenly paralyzed as I couldn’t move any part of my body. About less than 10 seconds later I felt a sudden rush of pain in my left arm as if I had my arm up on a wall and a one-ton truck was crashing into it at eighty miles per hour. Then my battle buddies helped me out of the vehicle and carried me to the Medevac vehicle where the medics started treating my wound. Not knowing the extent of my injury I remembered yelling to them that “I will be back! I will be back!”
I then got medevac out to different hospitals for operations and therapy and as I knew it I was on a flight back home to Fort Lewis. I felt devastated for leaving my battle buddies out in Iraq so about three to four months before everyone returned back to the U.S., believe it or not, even if I was close to losing my arm and God knows what else, I still went ahead and volunteered to go back to be with my unit. I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy request but I took it all the way to approval. I had to go through many high ranking people such as a brigade sergeant major and many more to approve my request. I don’t know how many soldiers that you hear of that almost lost a body part during deployment but still requests to return, because I did! I never once looked back at it with regret.
Later in my military journey I got medical discharge/retire from the army but if I can switch places with any soldiers I really would. Because serving my country never really felt like an option for me but more of an obligation to proudly serve with great honor for our people because we deserve our freedom no matter what the price may be.
SSG Lino Zackary Manglona Tenorio