Part Two: Fearless in Fallujah
Richard Casper talks really fast as though he can’t get the words out of his mouth fast enough, as though the words he says don’t need to be thought out anymore. They’ve been spoken often enough now that he can just send them out into the air without much effort, like breathing, like breathing when you’ve been running, like breathing when you are running away from your words.
Richard was deployed to Fallujah in Iraq in 2006 just in time for what is now referred to as The Third Battle of Fallujah. Within weeks of his arrival in “Iraq’s Meanest City”, the light-armored Humvee containing Richard and three of his comrades was blown up by an IED (improvised explosive device) buried under the street. The pressure from the explosion blasted into Richard’s lungs, tearing cartilage in his rib cage and chest.
Department of Defense policy states that if a Marine is injured while deployed, they must contact their parents immediately to explain the situation and describe the nature of their injuries. Richard’s mom got a phone call from Richard in the middle of the night in Washburn. A mother’s nightmare…
He was fearless in Fallujah, and combat life continued…
Next month, another truck carrying Richard Casper was hit. Blown up again. More injuries, but not enough to keep him from working. Another phone call to Mom. A mother’s tears and prayers flow freely and painfully…
On December 14th, his gunner and best buddy, Luke Yepsen, was shot and killed in action right next to Richard.
Out on another patrol in January, his was the fourth truck in the patrol caravan. Usually the insurgents target one of the first three trucks on a road, the fourth truck considered not as important as the first three. On this day, they got the fourth truck. As the third humvee backed up to see if the guys in patrol 4 were OK, they ran directly over the top of another IED, a major explosion.
There were severe casualties. Richard is again injured. Another call home to Mom in the middle of the night. How does a mother even go on from day to day knowing that her son is in such danger night and day in Fallujah? Mother Goose has extreme anxiety just writing this story!
Another month of combat duty. Richard is out “past the wire” again. His truck is blown up from underneath and this time it’s a bad hit. Richard himself suffers severe head and back injuries. He calls his mother with the news that he’s been injured again. He stays in Iraq, working in Camp Fallujah, but is not permitted to work “outside the wire” where all of his buddies are going daily, out to the real combat zone.
His mom is thankful that her son is finally injured enough to stay inside the wire.
He’s been blown up four times in four months.
Richard Casper returns to the United States with traumatic brain injuries, his heart smashed with grief at the loss of his best friend, the loss of his own innocence.
The Ballad of Richard Casper continues tomorrow as we learn how Richard found healing — not through medications and counseling, but through the restorative powers of making art. Also, Mother Goose is excited to share with you his vision for helping other disabled veterans. Dear readers, he’s a real life American Hero…