09/05/04 — A tale of two soldiers -- Larry Carr

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A tale of two soldiers -- Larry Carr

By Sam Atkins
Published in News on September 5, 2004 9:00 AM

A convoy of four U.S. Army National Guard soldiers travels through the open desert in northern Iraq. They had just started a four-hour trip to another base to see if other soldiers in the brigade needed anything. The 140-degree July heat inside the vehicle feels even hotter because the men wear their protective vests and helmets.

Suddenly, a roadside bomb explodes. A cloud of sand and rock bombard the vehicle, blinding everyone inside for a few seconds.

Sgt. Larry Carr of Wayne County was riding behind the driver. The blast threw him to the side. His ears began to ring, and a chunk was blown off his helmet.

He did not feel any pain initially, but then noticed blood running from his face into his hands. As he started to sit up, the brigade's command sergeant major, who was sitting in the front passenger seat, ordered him to stay down.

After a few minutes of silence, the gunner rushed to Carr's aid, wrapping his head and the left side of his face with gauze and a dressing. The sergeant major aided the specialist in the vehicle, who had suffered a skull fracture.

Carr suffered a ruptured eardrum, torn retina, and shrapnel wounds to his forehead, the side of his head, behind his ear and down his face.

He was quickly transported by helicopter to a military post in Ballad. Medics removed a rock almost the size of a dime from his face and pulled other shrapnel from his forehead, both corners of his left eye and side of his nose. They packed the holes caused by the shrapnel with gauze.

He said the bomb had been hidden in a mound of dirt by the road and was detonated by remote by someone in a nearby village. It happened so quickly, they could not see the culprit.

Carr, 33, lives at Rosewood and is part of the Headquarters Company of the 30th Heavy Separate Brigade, based out of Clinton with armories spanning from Wilmington to Charlotte.

Nearly 5,000 soldiers were deployed, which is the largest call-up of N.C. National Guard soldiers since World War II. The brigade was the first full National Guard combat brigade activated and deployed for service in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Carr was stationed at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base for four years before entering the National Guard in 1995. He deployed for the third time to the Middle East in February. He was supposed to be there for a year, but returned home early because of his injuries. Carr provided medical support for the company and dealt mainly with cases of dehydration and heat exhaustion.

He had protocol for treating injured Iraqis and would help them if they were in danger of losing their life, limb or sight.

The company's headquarters was miles away from any big cities, and Carr traveled in convoys to different areas to help injured soldiers. During his trips, he encountered many Iraqi children in villages and on the side of the road. He gave them candy, toothbrushes, toothpaste and Beanie Babies stuffed animals.

After receiving medical attention in Ballad, Carr was transported to Baghdad, then back to Ballad and then to a German hospital. Then he came back to the United States, to Andrews Air Force Base and then to Pope Air Force Base.

Carr has tried to stay calm about everything and remain focused on healing. He returned back to Rosewood a month ago and is still traveling to Fort Bragg for medical attention.

He sees flashes of light in his left eye and is waiting to see if his retina will heal before having surgery. His ruptured eardrum makes it sound as if he is talking through a tunnel. His scars from the shrapnel are beginning to heal.

Carr feels lucky because the attack could have been fatal. The shrapnel was close to hitting his jugular vein. If the sand and rock had hit an eighth of an inch farther left on his face, he would be blind in his left eye.

"I've used up all of my luck for this year, because it could have been a lot worse," he said.

He is now being voluntarily extended until his company returns home. He will then have 90 days to get out of the National Guard, which he has decided to do.

Carr said he wants to find a regular job and spend more time with his wife, Paula, and children Christopher, 10, Hunter, 7, and Alexis, 3.

The recent deployment was the longest one of his military career, and he has been gone at least a month every year since he entered the military. Carr feels he has served his country and wants to take his family on trips to different parts of the world.

"I need to find a different travel agent," he said.