So how does a young man from Tonganoxie, in the prime of life and gainfully employed, decide to make a career change and go to work for the First Marine Division, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment in Ar Ramadi, Iraq?
"I don't want to sound corny," Lance Cpl. Tyler Wise said, "but the 9-11 thing really stuck in my craw. I didn't do anything right away ... went to K-State for a year ... had a good job at Federal Express....But I thought joining the Marine Corps was what a lot of red-blooded Americans might want to do."
|Latest Photo gallery: Back from Iraq Our troops at war pictures from Iraq and Afghanistan|
Coming from the 22-year-old Wise, it didn't sound corny.
He talked enthusiastically about his job in Iraq. He gestured with his hands and talked with eyes wide when he described his recent adventures.
"Ar Ramadi is about the size of Kansas City ... it's huge ... paved streets ... palm trees everywhere," said Wise, who earned the Purple Heart for catching a piece of shrapnel with his face. "When we weren't on patrol or escort duty, one of our jobs was to find insurgent suspects and bring them back to headquarters."
Many times Wise's day would begin in the dark, at 2 or 3 a.m.
His job was to study a map of the area and decide which route to take to the suspect's home and to find another way to exit the area. The platoon tried never to travel the same route twice.
Wise, a 2000 Tonganoxie High graduate who won some cross country and pole vault ribbons, described a recent mission where he was the point man, leading the patrol.
"We found the house at about 4 (a.m.), kicked in the front door and stormed the rooms," Wise said calmly. "There were three adult males, all with the same last names, and one woman."
They found AK-47s, Mujahideen face covers (like ski masks) and "books and computer programs they shouldn't have had," Wise said.
He said the woman was sitting on the pavement in front of the house pounding her fists as they led the suspects away, with their computer, in the darkness.
On the day he was wounded, his platoon was setting up security for a convoy of trucks where they had a good view of the main road.
"We dismounted trucks and when we got on foot the insurgents set off a daisy chain of 155 (artillery) rounds and the first blast took out 15 (over half), of our platoon, including myself," he said.
They ran into a housing compound surrounded by low walls.
"The bad guys opened up with small-arms fire and rocket grenades, and after I was hit in the face (near his right eye) I was combat ineffective," he said.
He said his team leader, Cpl. William Godwin, looked at his face, said, "Oh ____," handed him a compression dressing and asked him if he could make it to the Humvee.
"I got in the Humvee with bullets zinging off the sides just as an RPG (grenade launcher shell) hit the ammo box on top of the vehicle causing some of the 50 caliber (rounds) to explode inside," he recounted.
The gunner broke the ammo belt to stop the chain reaction.
"He got back up, started cooking off rounds again, laying down suppressant fire and we 'didied' out of there with all of our troops," he said, looking pleased.
Wise was wounded at about 5 p.m., and by 5 a.m. the next day his plane landed in Germany and he was soon in a U.S. military hospital.
Wise is on a 30-day leave visiting his father, Scott, Tonganoxie, grandparents John and Carolyn Wise of Linwood and his mother, Kristi Nyberg, of Cary, N.C.
He'll report to Camp Pendleton, Calif., next month where he hopes to go to sniper school.
"It's something that appeals to me but if I find I'm not really good at it I won't pursue it," he said. "Being good is being Gunny Sgt. Carlos Hathcock good."
Hathcock, a legendary Marine sniper and marksman who fought in Vietnam, died in 1999.
If the Middle East remains status quo, and Wise remains in the Marine Corps, he said he expects he will eventually return to Iraq.
"It's not my favorite place to be, but if I go back I'll have some good friends who'll be there with me," he said.