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Old 05-06-2007, 02:49 AM
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Corpsman Shares Experience of Serving in Iraq

Posted May 6, 2007

Sheriff's deputy shares experience of serving in Iraq

Steve Wimmer captured his time in war through online journaling

By Bob Petrie
Sheboygan Press staff

As Steve Wimmer moved through his 7-month tour in Iraq as a Navy corpsman for a Marine Reserve unit in Fallujah, he wanted to make sure he'd remember his time in war, and that others know what he and other members of the military are fighting for.

So Wimmer, 35, of Sheboygan, kept an electronic journal of his daily life while overseas, chronicling the skirmishes his unit was involved in, interaction with the Iraqi people and soldiers, and bringing family and friends back home up close and personal to what's going on at the front.

"It's just one corpsman's view of what he was witnessing and what he was going through," said Wimmer, a Sheboygan County sheriff's deputy who returned to Wisconsin from Iraq last week to a large rally of friends and family, including his wife, Tisha, and three sons.

All told, Wimmer sent 11 journals from overseas by e-mail to select family members and people he worked with at the sheriff's department, who in turn forwarded them to people he didn't even know.

"It just exploded on me," said Wimmer of the journals. "I had no idea how many people were getting that thing."

The journals were prolific, averaging about 10 pages each, including some coarse language and graphic details, describing mortar fire and his views on the war, which carry a strong flavor to stay the course in Iraq.

"All I was trying to do was paint a picture of what we were going through," he said. "And I felt there was not a better way to do that than describe an event that was happening to us."

Wimmer's last installment, sent shortly before he returned to the U.S., included the following passage:

"This experience has affected and changed me in ways that I never thought was possible. I will never regret all that I went through or the sacrifices I made to spend this year preparing and ultimately fighting for my country. I have a deep respect for the Iraqi people. They have been through so much and yet most of them have not given up on the promise of freedom. We must stick with this and continue to help them toward that goal."

Wimmer is assigned to the Navy Marine Corps Operational Center in Green Bay. He was serving as a corpsman with 1st Marine Division, 24th Battalion, starting last September.

Wimmer said the journals were cleared by his superiors before they were sent, and do not include any information that compromises security.

Sheboygan County Sheriff Mike Helmke, among those who received Wimmer's reports, said he found them very informative and well written.

"He was really right in on the action, so in terms of some of the things that were going on over there with the war, he definitely had some perspective and insight on that," Helmke said.

Tisha Wimmer, 34, said she was able to talk with her husband at least once a week while he was overseas, said his journals caused her to shed "many, many tears … they were very emotional."

Steve Wimmer, who was in active duty from 1990 to 1994, re-enlisted in the Navy Reserve shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center towers in New York City. While in Iraq, he had the rank of HM3, a petty officer first class.

"He had to do this," Tisha Wimmer said. "And I said, 'Go ahead and do it.' So I supported him from the time that he re-enlisted."

Steve Wimmer's job took him to Fallujah, where he was involved in more than 200 combat missions in his seven months, mostly in an urban setting. He had two days off during his tour.

"A lot of times we'd do multiple missions, we would do 24-, 36-hour missions where we'd stay out in our vehicles fully geared up and waiting for the call to come," he said.

As corpsman, he was called on to assist wounded Marines in the field, performed minor surgical procedures, and carried the nickname "Doc." He also detained enemy soldiers in the field and wrote reports, where his law enforcement training helped.

"Marines really trust their docs. I was very honored to be their doc," said Wimmer, who went through extensive combat trauma training before being shipped overseas.

While away, Wimmer missed Christmas and the couple's 10th wedding anniversary in March, though he was able to call home to talk with Tisha. The three Wimmer boys — Packer, Bay and Favre — because of Steve Wimmer's love for the Green Bay Packers, dressed as Marines for this year's school pictures at Cooper Elementary.

"We prayed for him every single time we sat at the (dinner) table," said Packer, who is 9. "He made it back, that's a great thing and I'm proud that he's serving his country."

The unit Steve Wimmer was stationed with lost 22 men and numerous others were wounded during his time in Iraq, but he said the military has made great strides in the war. He enjoyed working with Iraqi Army soldiers and said many Iraqi citizens support the troops.

Wimmer found writing to be a way to release his emotions about the war, and wanted to have a record to share with his children and grandchildren, but isn't sure what else he'll do with his journals.

"It was more of an outlet for me. Kind of a historical thing for me," he said. "You forget things, you forget how things were when you were there. Twenty years from now my views might be different on things, and I felt it would be a good opportunity for me to put my views on how things were affecting me and how I was seeing things."

Wimmer, on leave from his sheriff's deputy position until the end of May, plans to relax a bit with his family.

"The welcome home is continuing, I'm getting phone calls like crazy," he said. "Everyone's glad. People I don't even know are hugging me … thanking me for what I did for them. And I appreciate that. Sheboygan's a great city. People here have been wonderful."

While Wimmer promised his wife he would not volunteer to return to Iraq, he said he would serve there again if called back.

"I say it time and time again. I've had the two best jobs in the world, a Navy corpsman in the Marines and a Sheboygan County sheriff's deputy," Wimmer said. "I'm very proud to be both."

Last edited by cmyr; 12-25-2008 at 12:48 PM.
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