Marine skates through danger, and is awarded the Purple Heart


Marine Jorge Jerez of Company “C” (Charlie), First Battalion, Third Marines, was back in Loisaida recently, where he lived on Avenue D at 10th St. and was a big skateboarder before joining the military.

Jerez was honored with a Purple Heart after being wounded in Iraq by a grenade explosion in which he was hit by two pieces of shrapnel. He is recovered and doing well.

In another brush with death, Jerez was ordered to go into one helicopter, then told to go into a second one. The two helicopters were flying back to base near Fallujah. Flying conditions were bad because of a sandstorm and they were flying close to the ground in a part of the dessert with elevated electrical lines. Five minutes from base camp, the marines in Jerez’s helicopter saw a bright glowing light behind them, like a flare exploding. It turned out all the marines in that helicopter had been killed. The incident received national news coverage.

Jerez says the weather is very cold in Iraq at this time of year and that, in general, it’s a difficult life for the marines. There really is no place for them to go for rest and relaxation. While the Army gets entertained by the U.S.O., the marines don’t get anything, according to Jerez.

As for the Iraqi people, not all are hostile, Jerez says, but most at least keep their distance and are wary of the American troops. He is disappointed there was no chance to try out different foods or penetrate into society to experience the real Iraq. The marines are basically confined to base and everything is military business.

Jerez said the hardest part of the war for him has been the loss of his close friends and fellow marines.

Because he was wounded and did his year in Iraq and is the only son in the family, Jerez is not being sent back into action. After enjoying his two weeks on the Lower East Side, he was transferred to Kaneole Bay, Hawaii, to train the next group of marines going to Iraq.

Photographer Clayton Patterson said he has photos of Jerez and his friends skateboarding in the neighborhood from over the years.