Archive for Sunday, April 18, 2010

Iraq veteran carefully plans his next steps

Soldier pursuing medical discharge after being wounded in IED blast

Army SPC. David Conway II, a 2005 graduate of Lawrence High School, talks about the events leading up to his injury from an improvised explosive device on July 12, 2009, while serving in Iraq.

Army SPC. David Conway II, a 2005 graduate of Lawrence High School, talks about the events leading up to his injury from an improvised explosive device on July 12, 2009, while serving in Iraq.

April 18, 2010


A printout of X-ray film from last year showing a nail lodged in his left foot and a certificate noting his Bronze Star sit a few feet away from Army Spc. David Conway II, as he leans back in a recliner at his grandparents’ house in east Lawrence.

The 2005 Lawrence High School graduate has the nail that surgeons removed in one of the several procedures he’s undergone in 10 months. He plans to make it part of a necklace or another piece of jewelry.

Conway, 23, talks a lot about moving forward with his life these days since an improvised explosive device injured him and eight other people on July 12, 2009, as they left a meeting with district government officials outside al-Sharqat in northern Iraq.

“There’s been hard times, but I think definitely I’ve matured over it because of being in the military,” Conway said this week as he visited Lawrence. “I’ve experienced a lot more than I think the average 23-year-old would experience. It’s kind of opened my eyes to the world outside of Lawrence.”

The attack

“It was a mortar. We don’t really know too much on it. It was set behind a Hesco barrier, a big barrier full of dirt. It was hidden behind there. We walked passed it, and that’s the way it happened.”

On that afternoon last July, Conway was 22 years old serving his second deployment in Iraq with the 25th Infantry Division. His duty was to provide security to Army officers and other officials as they helped local Iraqi governments develop their police and military.

Things had improved dramatically compared with his first deployment. American troops had withdrawn from urban centers in Iraq about two weeks earlier.

Conway had noticed how calm things had become 11 months into his second tour. “We were in the same area my first deployment, and my first one, we got hit all the time. It was quite a dramatic improvement as far as Iraq goes,” he said.

But on this day, at a meeting in al-Sharqat, in Salahuddin province, between American officials and district government officials about improving the police system, the calm was shattered.

Conway was with five other troops, an interpreter and two civilians. They were inside an Iraqi police checkpoint walking back to their vehicles.

Then suddenly on the walk back “we got hit,” and the blast itself broke Conway’s tibia and threw him for five feet.

Shrapnel ripped into his calf.

The nail shot through his foot, cut his peroneal tendon and broke his heel. He also suffered a torn right shoulder muscle and a concussion.

Conway said four others also had major injuries, and four were able to return to duty. He was eventually taken to a military hospital in Iraq, then to Germany and back to Hawaii.

Other than the hospital, his last memories of Iraq are the chaos of the explosion. Given the situation, he said he felt his unit and the Army did make strides with the Iraqis. He says the country is moving in the right direction as far democracy and women’s rights.

“I think we did a pretty good job of instilling a solid government over there,” he said.

Road to recovery

“It sucks. ... I’m confident that in the next couple of years I’m going to be back to almost the way it was before.”

Conway sat last week in the east Lawrence living room of his grandparents, Jerry and Betty Conway. He’s had several surgeries in the last 10 months and has spent most of his recovery time stationed at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii.

More surgeries are on the horizon after he returns from his two-week visit to Kansas. His father, David, and stepmother, Kristie Conway, also live in Lawrence.

Conway has started the process for a medical discharge. He walks pretty well — not too fast — but in the infantry you need to be able to do about 12 miles a day.

“I can’t do that any more,” Conway said.

But he has received a fresh start. He’s taking psychology classes at Chaminade University in Hawaii. Once his discharge is finalized, he’s hoping to return to Lawrence and attend Kansas University. He hopes to study criminal justice and use his military background in law enforcement, possibly as a U.S. marshal.

His grandfather says the family is thankful that David has rebounded and they see his future plans coming together.

“I can see that he’s got a new start in life with the opportunities that he has now,” Jerry Conway said.

As he manages his start, David Conway still has reminders, both good and bad, about the past.

He received the Purple Heart and Bronze Star.

“I just did my job out there, and I think a lot of other people did their jobs out there who probably should have got the same recognition as I did.”

He also has the injuries, more surgeries and even treatment for traumatic brain injury.

“You can’t go through the rest of your life without thinking about what you could have done differently or what you could have done better,” he said. “I think about that all the time. I think about my first deployment more than I think about the incident because we experienced a lot in our first deployment.

“I look at it as a learning experience.”


oneeye_wilbur 4 years ago

beatrice for your information. MIchelle is clueless about the veterans. she is too busy trying to figure out how to send fresh food into poor neighborhoods. maybe she should start by taking the booze from those areas and use that money for fresh food. or send all of that fresh food from the White House garden that isn't big enough to do diddly squat with. There is not a city in the United States that does not have fresh food. Ft. Riley has victory gardens that take up more space than the white house. gardens.

Michelle Obama needs to stay at home and deal with problems here. Beatrice, I never said it was michelles fault, read my words. I said and still do that Michelle said she was going to put the Veterans first priority. She knows not and likewise one has to wonder if beatrice is really clueless too.

Journal World, go to any senator or congressman from Kansas and get an interview and ask them why a veteran upon discharge is not enrolled in the VA Healthcare programs. That might be like too much of a story to take on.


jgragg 4 years ago

You're a hero, SPC. Conway! Thank you!


oneeye_wilbur 4 years ago

Mr. Conway, thank you. What disturbs me, as a veteran, is that this soldier needs to start any process. You see, it should have been started for him. This Michelle Obama babbled during the election about how she was going to help veterans. That woman does not have a clue about veterans, nor oe most of the senators and congressmen in DC.

Every veteran upon discharge should automatically be enrolled in the VA healthcare system. They are not.

I wish this man good luck and his presence on Capitol Hill could maybe get those loons thinking. The veterans have not gotten good rep from the VA even since the 2nd World War. There are but a few of those veterans left and they could certainly use some help still.

I wish he had the inclination to stop by Loring Henderson's place and ask those 20 somethings what they plan to do with their life? This young man has experienced more than many his parents age. I admire him for where he has been, for where he will be going and for the time he served. Good luck David Conway.


denak 4 years ago

I agree with you MD.

When I was in the service, they gave me 4 hearing test before I miraculously passed the fourth one. They were hell bent and determined to make sure that I passed that test so that they would not have to give me disability. I severely injured my left leg while I was in,, a problem that still persists today, and they didn't give me anything. I'm not whining that I didn't get anything, there were people much worst off..only illustrating how difficult it is to get disability while you are still in the service or at time of discharge. I can only imagine how hard it is to get now considering what I have heard about the poor service that the VA is giving returning Iraqi vets(especially the women vets).

So, I hope David gets what he needs and I hope that the posters let their representative know how much our Iraqi vets need a system that meets their needs.



md 4 years ago

I am a combat disabled vet from the vietnam war.The thing that concerns me is that when he gets out of the service he is going to have to deal with the v.a.Past war vets have had to some times wait for decades to have a claim resolved.I am told by several docs that I need to quit work as it agitates my wounds.I know if I do I will loose my house,car,and maybe my life.Those of us that say thanks for his service, try doing a little more.Research what happens to vets after the service.Then pressure the government to do something about it.That would be the way to really thank a vet.


yankeevet 4 years ago

Thanks veteran..................I think more of u then these basketball/football players........


Stacy Napier 4 years ago

Why you are an idiot.

It says he hopes to study criminal justice not get a criminal justice degree, which is useless. There are a great number of classes at KU that center about the justice system, Sociology, Psychology, and Public Administration to name a few.


Good work and may you use your experience and strength to build on. We need more like you to build this nation back up just like the greatest generation did after returning from WWII. Thank you.


beatrice 4 years ago

Thank you for your service, and we wish you a full recovery.


WHY 4 years ago

KU doesn't have a criminal justice program so you may need a new plan. good luck.


Deja Coffin 4 years ago

I wish I had the courage and strength to do something as honorable as you. I appreciate you serving this country and keeping myself and my family safe. Wishing you the best in your years ahead.


Ron Holzwarth 4 years ago

I think it's disgusting that there are more comments today about a lost cat than there are thanks for a man who helped make freedom of speech possible in our country.

THANK YOU from me!


missinks 4 years ago

Thank you for your service to our country. I wish you all the best in your recovery and in your future plans!! You have a long life ahead of you and may the Lord bless you and your family!


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