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Corporal Jonathan Dowdell received the Navy Marine Corps Achievement Medal with Combat distinguishing Device in front of his former unit, Company K, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Jan. 7, 2011.

Photo by Cpl. Andrew S. Avitt

Wounded warrior honored in front of Marine family

14 Jan 2011 | Cpl. Andrew S. Avitt

Although Cpl. Jonathan Dowdell was confined to a wheelchair, it was his bravery and relentless optimism that made him stand out among the Marines and sailors of his former unit, Company K, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, as he accepted his Navy Marine Corps Achievement Medal with Combat Distinguishing Device Jan. 7, 2011.

While conducting clearing operations in support of Operation Enduring Freedom June 23rd 2010, Dowdell stepped on an improvised explosive device while trying to gain access to a suspected bomb manufacturing facility causing the loss of both legs and nearly his life, his citation read.

“I remember most of it,” said the 24-year-old Decatur, Ill., native, after the ceremony at the 3/7 barracks. “I remember the blast and the quick response of all the guys around me. They did what they needed to do, put tourniquets on me and got me out of there.”

Despite the quick reaction of his comrades, the loss of blood was so great that Dowdell required two massive blood transfusions during his medical evacuation.

“There’s no question that they saved my life,” he said. “I feel blessed. The fact that I am here, it could have gone either way.”

The trip from the Wounded Warrior Battalion in San Diego to his former unit aboard the Combat Center was well worth the trip, said Dowdell.

Having the very same Marines and sailors who saved his life at the ceremony made the day just that much sweeter, he said.

“It was nice to see everyone again,” he said. “It’s tough being in San Diego, to be away from everyone. 3/7 just has a lot of camaraderie. We forged a tight bond over there.”

“Once in Kilo, always in Kilo,” said Capt. James Lindler, the company commander of Co. K after pinning the green and orange medal to Dowdell’s chest. “It is a great honor to have him with us today. From Bethesda to the Wounded Warrior Battalion, observers have noted his determination, his positive attitude and the way he tries to inspire other wounded Marines to stay in the fight.”

After the brief ceremony, his former unit gathered around to offer their congratulations, but more so to catch up, exchange a few jokes and remember the times they had together. Dowdell stated proudly that he will always be a part of Co. K.

For now, Dowdell is continuing his rehabilitation in San Diego, where he is learning to walk again using two new prosthetic limbs.

“Being positive is the only way to be. You’re not going to get anywhere by kicking yourself in the head,” he said.

For some, Dowdell’s injuries might have embittered them towards the Marine Corps, but Dowdell said his outlook has actually improved.

“Every person I’ve met, either prior service or active duty, gives me a phone number and tells me if I need anything to give them a call,” he said. “Everyone has been willing to help wherever they can.”

It’s that caring family attitude from others and his positive outlook that keeps the smile on his face today. Dowdell said it is that same optimism that will strengthen his steps so one day he might be returned to active duty.


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