The Iraq War has claimed numerous American lives. Casualties total over 4,400 and more than 32,000 have been wounded in action.
This is the story of one wounded warrior, James Alunni, of Chagrin Falls. Now a Chagrin Falls firefighter, James was deployed in 2005 with the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment to the Al Anbar Province.
Alunni, one of two Corpsman, was assigned to a Scout Sniper Platoon. Their job was primarily surveillance of MSR's, choke points in cities and to oversee Marines pushing through and clearing areas. During those times, major operations included Spear Sword, Quick Strike and River Bridge. In their seven months, the unit suffered heavy casualties. Forty-six Marines and 2 Navy Corpsmen were killed and over 200 were wounded. Due to losses, Alunni was reassigned to a Mobile Assault Platoon (MAP).
During his time with the MAP, they hit 3 IEDs (improvised explosive devices); the third, ultimately, sent him home. "During routine vehicle checks, a suicide bomber with approximately 700 pounds of explosives in his vehicle detonated it as soon as we opened our Humvee doors. The blast killed our company commander, the driver lost an eye and sustained severe leg damage, the turret gunner was blasted upwards and lost an arm, and the blast chewed through civilian vehicles and an armored door before it reached me. I sustained shrapnel blast, burn injuries, lacerations to my trachea, and shrapnel in my lungs, arm and head. My lungs burst and filled with air and blood, making breathing difficult. I just remembered every prayer I learned in Catholic school as an altar boy." The Marines kept Alunni sedated until a helicopter came to evacuate the wounded. Alunni was not sure what happened as his memory didn't account for 4 days. After surgeries in combat hospitals in Iraq, Alunni ended up in Germany and later the Navy Medical Center in Bethesda, MD.
After several weeks, Alunni was sent home. "Bethesda was great. Our entire floor was Navy and Marine Corps patients and the doctors and nurses took great care of us," said Alunni.
"I loved the guys I was with and would do it all over again, even with the horrible pain suffered after my injury. We did our job well and I'm proud of my service, even if the Iraq War ends up as a footnote and a mistake in history," he added.
The Alunni family traces their roots to Caserta in the Campania region of Italy and Pizzone at the base of the Dolomite Mountains.