Name: Cpl. Tim Power
Hometown: Bloomington, Ill.
Job: Member of supply/headquarters squad
EAST OF NASIRIYAH, Iraq—Driving a Humvee down a highway through the Iraqi desert, Cpl. Tim Power takes off his helmet and wipes sweat from his forehead.
A thick cloud of dust blinds him for a split second, and he doesn't see the other Humvees in the convoy slam on their brakes. He hears a bang as he plows into the back end of another Humvee, going about 45 mph. He sees a bright, white flash, as his jaw hits the steering wheel.
Maj. Michael McCarthy, who is sitting in the passenger seat, flies forward, his head striking the dashboard. Power sees him go limp and fall out the door.
Now the Humvee is heading into a ditch, right where Power thinks McCarthy has landed. He wrenches the steering wheel to the left, hoping the Humvee doesn't run over the major. It comes to a stop and Power stumbles out.
Power thinks: I killed the major. He walks over to him.
"I'm so sorry," Power says, over and over.
McCarthy has a nasty cut above his forehead, down to the bone. He is incoherent for about five minutes. Power's face is covered with blood.
"The major wasn't in good shape at all," Power says later. "It took him about five minutes to come to and realize what happened and where he was."
McCarthy, who is in charge of Charlie Company, 6th Engineer Support Battalion, gets stitches on his forehead; he'll be fine.
Thirteen Marines are injured in the recent chain-reaction accident, with most sustaining cuts and bruises. McCarthy and several other Marines are sent to an Army Area Support Medical Company, east of Nasiriyah.
Gunnery Sgt. Michael Stein, 37, of East Peoria, Ill., has bruised ribs on his left side. He was sitting in the back of a Humvee, across from Master Sgt. Garland Powell, 40, of Sardis, Ohio. Powell has bruised ribs on his right side.
The first batch of X-rays comes back and suggests that Power, 25, of Bloomington, Ill., might have a broken jaw. Also, he receives a few stitches in the corner of his mouth.
Power joined the Marine reserves after the worst day of his life.
"It's a long story," he says. "But since you asked, I'll tell you. I was 19 and I was doing real good in college. But I just figured out I couldn't afford school that semester. I couldn't pay for it, and I had to pick up a second job. I wanted to go to school, but I was working. I woke up and my car got towed, because it was in a tow-away zone in the morning, and I was late for work. I came home from work and I was kinda depressed and I called my girlfriend at the time. We had been dating for two or three years and we broke up. I was pretty broken up. I drove home and I was going to Bloomington, where my brother lived. My car broke down in the middle of the night. It was January or February. I walked a couple of miles to a gas station and couldn't get a hold of anybody. I stayed at the gas station for a couple of hours. I finally got hold of my brother at 5 or 6 in the morning and he came and picked me up. I was sitting there, collecting my thoughts, and I decided to join the military. I had nothing else going. I wasn't going to work two jobs being a deadbeat."
A couple of days later, he went to see a recruiter. "My brother went with me and he talked me out of going active," he says.
Now he's part of the supply/headquarters squad for Charlie Company. "I help the company gunny with the beans, bullets and bandages," Power says.
Shortly after the accident, another doctor reads the X-rays, but they are inconclusive. Power is sent back to his base camp, Camp Viper, with the other Marines. The next day, he is sent to Kuwait City, where he gets more treatment.
It is unclear if Power will return to Charlie Company or if he will be sent home to the United States; he has married since that day he joined the reserves.
"If I got to go home, it would be bittersweet," he says. "I'd be upset that I came over here and didn't finish it out. Then again, once I went home and saw my wife and family, I'd probably forget all about it, so it's bittersweet."
A few days later, Charlie Company learns that Power has been sent home. His jaw will be wired shut.
(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.
ILLUSTRATION (from KRT Illustration Bank, 202-383-6064): IRAQFACES+POWER