His company got into a firefight in a heavily wooded area, a grenade fragment clipped his right shin, and the medic cleaned and bandaged it. The next morning after sleeping outside Wenk was in great pain, he'd contracted pneumonia and pleurisy.
He was sent to a hospital west of the Rhine and rejoined his detail three weeks later. Most of his comrades had been killed while he was away when they were caught in the open by two German planes.
Zack Choate served as a scout with the Army's 10th Mountain Division in southern Baghdad. He received a Purple Heart after being wounded by a roadside bomb in October 2006.
He was riding in his vehicle on a combat patrol when a roadside bomb detonated, ejecting him from the gunner's turret. After returning to the U.S. for treatment, he was awarded the Purple Heart. He was also diagnosed with PTSD. Out of a sense of "guilt" and other institutional pressures, he returned for a second tour.
Others in the flower-laying group included:
Retired Colonel Ann Wright who had a 29-year career in the U.S. military and also served 16 years in the Foreign Service. She served as Deputy Chief of Mission of U.S. Embassies in Sierra Leone, Micronesia and Afghanistan and resigned in 2003 when the Iraq War began.
There was also retired Marine Captain David C. MacMichael, the former commander of Headquarters Company at Marine Corps Base Quantico, in Virginia, a counter-insurgency expert in South-East Asia for four years who went to the CIA after his military career.
Daniel Ellsberg left Harvard in 1954 to join the Marines and graduated first in a class of almost 1,100 lieutenants at the Marine School in Quantico. He served as a platoon leader and company commander in the Marine 2nd Infantry Division.
In 1959, he began work at RAND, a private military think tank. He served in the Pentagon and reported the Gulf of Tonkin incident to Secretary Robert McNamara. He then served two years in Vietnam as a civilian working for General Edward Lansdale, the famed psy-war expert. Ellsberg is most known for leaking the Pentagon Papers which undermined the rationale for the Vietnam War.
The final member of the group was Elaine Brower, the mother of a Marine recently returned from his third deployment, one in Afghanistan and two in Iraq. She is an activist against the war with the National Steering Committee of World Can't Wait and a member of Military Families Speak Out.
As the flower-laying delegation approached the monument, they were told to stop at a police barrier 20 feet from the memorial. The memorial was too far away to even throw the flowers on to it. The delegation was disappointed.
Jay Wenk told me that "when we came up to the barriers and were told to put our flowers on the ground, that we could go no further because 'that's Federal land' I felt shocked, angry and despairing of what our government is." Zach Choate said he "was furious and hurt."
Ann Wright decided to sit down on the road in protest, Daniel Ellsberg joined her. Then people came out from behind the police barricade and into the streets.
Police showed how much force they were willing to use to prevent vets from laying flowers on a war memorial. Riot police started to march down the hill.
Dressed like Imperial Guards in Star Wars, 30 of them stood shoulder-to-shoulder covering the width of a four-lane road carrying large shields, wearing black helmets with plastic over their face in most cases only the eyes could be seen and many of them were covered by sun glasses, body armor covering their chest and arms, knee pads, shin guards and heavy boots.
Behind them were an equal number of riot police without shields but similarly dressed. There were about a dozen SWAT team troops with large assault rifles, wearing green military-like clothing and also helmets with masks that hid their faces.
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