My story as a Marine started in 1998 when I enlisted as a field artilleryman in Melbourne, Florida. I arrived at Parris Island, South Carolina on December 17, 1998 and quickly learned I had made a difficult but important decision to join the Marine Corps. The next 13 weeks proved difficult and taught me more about honor, courage and commitment than I ever thought possible. The day my senior drill instructor placed my Eagle, Globe and Anchor (EGA) in my hand I was overwhelmed with feelings of pride and like everyone else in my battalion had tears in my eyes, it was then I decided I would proudly serve my country until I was told I had to retire.
Though I entered service during a time of peace I always knew there was a possibility I would find myself in a combat zone during my career. By the time 9/11 occurred I had risen to the rank of Corporal and was considered a junior leader of Marines. On the morning of September 9, 2011, I was deployed on a training exercise in Mount Fuji, Japan with 12th Marine Regiment. I remember that we had been pulled out of the field due to an impending typhoon headed in our direction. As we sat around the recreation room watching TV, we were informed that a plane had struck the World Trade Center and quickly switched to the news channel in time to watch the second plane strike the second tower in real time. I will never forget the silence in that room, we all knew we had been attacked and were likely headed to war. Within minutes we found our base in complete lockdown and many of us tasked with physical security of the base.
As I approached my reenlistment deadline, I found myself wanting to change from field artillery to a aviation career. This change was due to my lifelong dream of being a combat aviator; however the Marine Corps would not let me fly due to the retained hardware in my left ankle. The retained hardware was a 4.5 inch plate and nine screws that were the result of the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP). I had been assigned to a teach a MCMAP course as a green belt instructor and during the class a student attempted to perform a move but had accidently stepped on my left foot prior to throwing me. The result of this accident was a triple tibia/fibula fracture just above my left ankle. I spent the next 18 months healing and fighting to stay on active duty. By November 2002 I was promoted to Sergeant and by March 2003 I had healed and returned to active duty despite the recommendations from my doctors to be medically discharged.
On March 15, 2003 I left the Marine Corps to accept a Warrant Officer appointment to be a rotary wing (helicopter) pilot in the US Army. I reported to the Army Warrant Officer School in Fort Rucker, AL in March of 2003 to begin my new career as an Army Aviator. During my training, it became apparent that my ankle had not fully healed and that my gall bladder rupture was not going to allow me to complete the training as scheduled. The Army decided that I should return to my primary enlisted job, and I was transferred to Germany to accept my new assignment with 1st Battalion 94th Field Artillery. The Army told me they intended for me to get the medical attention I needed to properly heal my ankle and then have me return to Fort Rucker to finish my training. Instead I found myself deployed back to Iraq and assigned as a section chief for a radar section.
Over the course of the next few months I found myself engaged in combat operations which did more harm to my ankle and ultimately lead to the damage of my right ankle as well. On February 14, 2004 I returned from Iraq aboard an Air Force C-141 medical transport to Germany to receive urgent surgical procedures to repair damages to both my ankles, left shoulder and left wrist. Over the next 15 months I spent more time going back and forth to the hospital attending physical and occupational therapy. The Army medically discharged my with 30% service connected disability on May 25, 2005, which has since been increased by the Department of Veterans Affairs to 100%.
My military service has profoundly changed my life for the better and with all the injuries and disabilities I still want to serve my country. The Marine Corps and the Army instilled in me the desire to always work to improve and be productive. As a disabled veteran I want to get back to work and I feel that despite my disabilities I still have the ability to serve in one capacity or another. The military showed me how to be a leader and has helped me in setting the example of great citizenship for my children. It is my hope that through continued education and generous help from programs such as the Disabled Veterans Scholarship from The Feldman Law Firm will help me reach my educational goals.
William Dove SGT, USMC 1998-2003 SGT, US Army 2003-2005 100% Service-Connected Disabled Veteran