Navy nurse, hurt in war, frets at home

Lieutenant rests at house of family in Balto. County

War in Iraq

April 03, 2003|By Sara Neufeld | Sara Neufeld,SUN STAFF

Steven Soares went to Iraq to take care of others - whether Marines, civilians or prisoners of war.

So the 34-year old Baltimore County native is frustrated now that the tables have turned, and others are taking care of him.

Soares, a Navy lieutenant and a trauma nurse with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, was trying to get to wounded Americans somewhere around Nasiriyah at 2 a.m. last Tuesday when the truck he was in toppled 30 feet into a ditch.

`Forced' to go home

He doesn't know whether the bullets pounding the truck sent it over the edge, or whether the driver didn't see the road end. He just knows that he wishes there weren't such a fuss over him.

"They really forced me to come home," he said yesterday from the living room of the Baltimore Highlands house where he grew up. "I wanted them to drain my knee and just wrap it up."

Soares arrived at his parents' home Tuesday night after his release from the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda.

With 60 stitches just above his chin and a fractured sinus bone, he hobbled on crutches yesterday as he visited with his parents and the high school buddy with whom he enlisted nearly 16 years ago.

Today, he is scheduled to fly to his own home in Jacksonville, Fla., where he will be reunited with his wife, Lisa, and two sons, Gannon, 9, and Alec, 4. There he will have arthroscopic knee surgery.

It's not that Soares doesn't want to be with his family, or that he likes spending time in Iraq, a place he calls "a living hell." He just wants to be where he's needed.

"We were doing good things. We were saving Marines. We were helping out," Soares said.

Shock Trauma Platoons

His help was needed last week when a sandstorm left even the most severely wounded Marines unable to fly out of the country to safety. It was among the first tests of the military's Shock Trauma Platoons, units formed after the 1991 Persian Gulf war to help soldiers in such situations.

Soares is one of 22 members of Platoon No. 4. At the time of his injury, he was in a 7-ton truck with two other men, a driver and a physician's assistant, trying to deliver medicine and care.

Neither of the other two was injured seriously enough to be sent home.

Soares didn't even realize the truck was being shot at, he said, because the sound of explosions was so constant.

"The only thing I remember is a big flash," he said.

He blacked out momentarily during the fall, then awoke to find the truck nose-down, his face covered in blood and a gash below his lower lip so deep that he could stick his tongue through it.

Mom glad he's home

Soares' mother, for one, couldn't be more grateful for what happened. From the time the war began, she had spent every waking moment watching television, panicking every time she heard about a casualty, worried that it might be her son.

Pat Soares said she thought she was prepared for Steven to go to war, after seeing him through 13 or 14 deployments over the years, several on a submarine.

"It wasn't even close," she said.

After her daughter-in-law called Friday with the news that he had been hurt, Pat Soares thought she saw her son on television on a stretcher.

"I was upset that he was injured," she said, "but I was happy he was coming home."

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