On June 29, 2007, Marine Cpl. Gareth Hawkins was driving a truck north of Baghdad on a routine mission to transport food, water, and supplies to a Marine outpost. He was just 20 days into his 3rddeployment to Iraq. A roadside bomb exploded underneath his truck, tearing apart the 7-ton vehicle and severely injuring the 23-year-old machine gunner.
Hawkins, who was the convoy commander, says everything went black. He heard people around him asking, “Are you ok?” His heel was shattered in the blast.
Hawkins was laid up in a field hospital in Iraq following the explosion. He was about to be transported to the Al-Taqaddum Air Base for his initial surgery, but Cpl. Hawkins demanded to re-enlist before being medically evacuated.
There was no time for the usual formalities. They did the short version of the re-enlistment ceremony. Someone found a copy of the oath and while lying down on a stretcher with his leg propped up, Hawkins raised his right hand. 1st Lt. Warren A. Frank, his platoon commander, was called in to read the words that needed to be spoken.
Hawkins had officially reenlisted for another 4-year hitch, the LA Times reported back in July 2007, and the picture of the makeshift ceremony “assumed iconic status.” Hawkins received a $41,000 bonus for reenlisting in a war zone.
At the time, Marine leaders were hoping the dramatic photo of the oath-taking ceremony would persuade other combat vets to stay in service, the Times reported.
“It just motivates all the Marines… They see that Marine on a stretcher with his hand in the air and they say, ‘Check out that hard dog,’” Master Sgt. William Canfield said.
Hawkins would later be transferred to hospitals in Germany and California to undergo more surgeries– but all he wanted was to be back with his 3rd Battalion, 1st Regiment squad.
As for his re-enlistment in the middle of a war zone, following such a serious injury, Hawkins said: “It’s no big deal…Lots of other Marines have made bigger sacrifices.”
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