Area parents await word on son, 23, wounded in Iraq

Account by a reporter calls pfc. and 2nd soldier `heroes' for saving his life

War In Iraq

April 08, 2003|By Johnathon E. Briggs | Johnathon E. Briggs,SUN STAFF

For the parents of Pfc. Donald Robert Schafer, it is the cruelest of waits.

It's been a little more than two days since Red Cross officials delivered grim news: Their 23-year-old son, of Northeast Baltimore, was one of two wounded Saturday in the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division Charlie Company 1-64 Task Force as it drove north into the heart of Baghdad and was assaulted by enemy bullets and rocket-propelled grenades.

Schafer suffered multiple gunshot wounds to the chest and a broken arm, the official said. He had been evacuated by helicopter, and was listed in stable condition Saturday night.

It was the kind of news every family with a loved one fighting the war in Iraq dreads. The soldier's parents have been waiting for an update ever since.

But what gives the parents a small measure of comfort is that Schafer, a graduate of Parkville High School, has been credited with saving a life - of a reporter accompanying his division.

Newspaper account

In the hunt for more details, Schaefer's mother, Laura Brune, e-mailed the wife of her son's commanding officer, who told her that The Atlanta Journal-Constitution had an embedded reporter who had witnessed the attack and posted a firsthand account on the newspaper's Web site under the heading, "I owe these heroes my life."

From the account of reporter Ron Martz, Brune and Schafer's father, Donald C. Schafer, learned that their son and another soldier had been in a convoy of armored vehicles when an anti-tank rocket hit their tank, sparking a fire they couldn't extinguish.

After a decision was made to abandon the tank, Schafer and the crew scrambled to salvage weapons, maps and electronics gear and load them into the back of a personnel carrier where Martz was sitting. Schafer and another soldier took up positions next to Martz - one behind, the other, to his left - and took up firing positions on top of the armored vehicle, shooting at bunkers and enemy vehicles.

"Less than 30 minutes after the two soldiers joined me, both were wounded by bullets that could have hit me," Martz wrote. Martz and an assistant medic began fashioning plastic bandages for what Martz described as Schafer's "sucking chest wound."

As Schafer's blood soaked Martz's left leg, Schafer asked Martz to hold his hand.

"Thanks," he said to the reporter. "I think I'm ready to go home now."

Schafer's father cried after reading the article.

He's proud of his son, but wondered if he could he really be in stable condition with a wound of such description. And for a 23-year-old man to ask another man to hold his hand, he said, "my son had to be hurt pretty bad."

"I'm a total wreck," Donald Schafer, 43, said last night from his home in Hamilton. "I'm just waiting for somebody to call me. I have no idea how he is, how he's doing. I'm on pins and needles."

A `scary' situation

"It's scary," said Brune, 42, of Essex. "The whole thing has been scary. My God, he's overseas, he's injured, he's not anywhere near this family. You can only imagine ... ," she said, her voice trailing off.

The younger Schafer, who has four sisters and dreams of becoming a city police officer like his grandfather, joined ROTC in high school and enlisted in the Army after graduation. His time in the Army was to have ended March 22, but he's been in the Persian Gulf since last fall.

"He's my only son and I don't want him over there," his father said. "But when I tried to get him out, he said, `Don't try. I feel like I'm doing the right thing.'"

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