Local Marine injured in Iraq

By Lesley Jenkins
star staff
jfann@starhq.com

   The dreaded door bell ring with a U.S. Military officer on the other side is the worst fear for anyone with a family member in the military. A personal visit from the military usually means your son or daughter .
   Elizabethton resident, Lisa Morrow, can't be thankful enough that she was contacted by telephone informing her that her son, Lance Corporal Nathan Morrow, 22, suffered severe injuries to the upper body when the Humvee he was riding in struck a homemade bomb.
   Morrow was the head gunman on the first vehicle leading a convoy of Army and Marine vehicles. The first bomb struck to the right of Morrow. When he turned to see where the blast originated from, another bomb struck to the left side of him, causing the majority of his injuries to the left side of his upper body which was exposed because as the gunman he stands in front of the Humvee.
   Officials and doctors treating Morrow said if he had not been wearing his body armor, he would not be alive.
   Morrow serves in the 3rd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, Lima Company, based in Gray, Tenn.
   His mother received the call on Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. saying, "He is alive but he has been injured." She and her husband, Lee, were told Nathan was in surgery and that they would be contacted at 6 a.m. the following morning.
   The family worried and waited until they received the much anticipated phone call, but instead of a military official on the other line, it was Nathan.
   Morrow learned her son had suffered injuries to his head, neck, face, arm, ears, eyes, and his upper body. He is deaf in his left ear and is experiencing impaired vision related to shrapnel in his left eye.
   When she was able to speak to him on the phone, she was relieved that he was able to speak coherently and understood what happened to him.
   Nathan spoke to his family again on Monday before noon prior to flying to Ramstein Air Base for treatment at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.
   "He was very upbeat about the whole thing and very optimistic," his mother said. "It makes me sick to be without him during his surgery."
   Lisa is working to renew her passport to make the trip to Germany, but she said everything is contingent on how successful Monday's surgery is to repair damage due to lacerations down the left side of Nathan's face and shoulder. Luckily, the laceration to the left shoulder did not effect the nerves.
   When the Colonel of the Marine Corp told him he had served his country well and that he would be going home, Morrow replied, "I choose not to go home"
   This valiant display of courage fired up the rest of the troops, according to Sgt. Andy Wetzel. Officials said he will be able to come home in 10 to 14 days, which will be a belated birthday present. Nathan will turn 23 years old on March 21.
   Phone calls poured into the Morrow home over the weekend from Major Pete Gill, Wetzel, and three state representatives.
   "He is alive and that is the main thing," his mother said.
   Morrow graduated from Elizabethton High School in 2000 and enrolled in the Marines shortly thereafter. He is a junior at East Tennessee State University. Before deploying to Iraq, he worked at Doe River Gorge as an outdoor activity leader and played in two bands. The bands play at Grace Fellowship Baptist Church and at the Well in Johnson City.
   Nathan entered the Marines to become a pilot but now is studying to become a youth minister.
   Lima Company departed out of Gray, Tenn. on Jan. 14 to Camp Pendleton, Calif. for training before leaving for Iraq on Feb. 20.
   The last time Lima Company was called to active duty was during Operation Desert Storm in 1991.
   "The Marine Reserves have the exact same mission as the Marines Active Duty. It is the same make up, same table organizations, same equipment, same mission. There is no difference," Gill said.
   "They are a Marine Infantry Company. They are trained to locate and close with and destroy the enemy by fire maneuver or repel the enemy's attack by fire in close contact. They are a line grunt infantry."
   Sources from Camp Pendleton are attempting to gain more information from U.S. Military officials in Iraq. Because of time zone differences, Captain Jeff Pool expects a response on Tuesday.
   Lisa is employed at Hampton Elementary School as a 6th grade teacher. Lee is employed by ETSU as the Buccaneers' strength training coach. They have two daughters, Lindsey, a freshman at ETSU, and Lydia, a sophomore at Hampton High School.