Local Marine talks about Iraq tour - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Local Marine talks about Iraq tour

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2/19/2005

Albany- Darius Harpe is safe at home in his family's living room, that was not the case, several weeks ago.

"Rockets could land 10 feet from you, or rockets could land 100 feet from you, but either way you didn't know when or how it was going to happen to you so you were constantly on guard," said Harpe.

This was his second tour to Iraq and he says it was harder to go back.

"This time around we got attacked more, more mortar and rocket attacks," claims Harpe.

When the attacks happen, Darius says that's when the adrenaline and training kick in.

"That one day, we had marines that actually got hit. I grabbed a stretcher, grabbed another marine, and took off running, got the marine on the stretcher, got him in a vehicle and got him over to medical," said Harpe.

Attacks were frequent and fierce, and out of the 12 helicopters Darius's unit handled 10 got hit.

"I say the worst months were probably October, November, it was a daily occurrence like clock work," claims Harpe.

It's a danger like this that his family didn't know he was a part of because he couldn't tell them.

"I didn't know where he was, he could never tell me where he was so I just had to go off of assumption, and the only thing that really kept us informed was that he called on the phone," said Leonia Harpe, his wife.

Darius's family planned a surprise party to welcome him home Saturday and they're definitely pleased to have him here in Albany.

"I missed him very much and I kept crying because he was gone," said his daughter, Brionna.

Harpe says, he hopes his unit will not be sent back to Iraq, but if ordered he says he'll go.

"I got thirteen years in, seven more and I can retire, so I'm going to have to do whatever they ask of me until I can retire."

Darius is on an extended stay this weekend. He plans to put in for a 30-day leave when he returns to work so he can spend more time with his family.

posted by jennifer.emert@walb.com