by Lauren Krupar
Cuyahoga Falls -- On Mother's Day, Debbie Malorni received the best present she could -- her oldest son home from Iraq.
"Just having our three kids home, just looking at them all, was the best present I could have," Debbie Malorni said. "Having all my kids here together again was really a true gift."
Marine Lance Cpl. Dan Malorni, 20, is home until June 6, when he expects to return to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. for treatment for wounds he received in an April 13 attack in Habbaniyah, Iraq as he was serving with the 2nd Marine Division, 6th Regiment. It was the second attack in 45 days in which he had been injured.
"I keep looking at him, thinking that I can't believe it," Debbie said. "When I think of where he was a month ago, I am amazed that he's home."
Living in Cuyahoga Falls has required some adjustment, Dan said.
"I'm still kind of jumpy," Dan said. "I still scan for roadside bombs, but now I can sleep at peace without worrying about incoming fire."
Dan joined the Marines a week after graduating from Cuyahoga Falls High School in 2005, surprising his parents.
"I just didn't know what I wanted to do with my life," Dan said. "I knew I wanted to go to college, but I didn't know for what."
"We supported his decision of joining the Marines," Dan's father Tony said. "However, we were concerned about him going because we knew it was a matter of when he was going to Iraq, not if."
Dan was deployed to Iraq four months ago as a member of RCT6 EOD unit, an explosive ordinance disposal team based out of Camp LeJeune, N.C. when stateside, and out of the Habbaniyah base in Iraq. Dan's job with the team is to provide coverage from a machine gun located in a Humvee's turret while his fellow Marines disarm bombs.
"When people find roadside bombs, we go out there and dispose of them," Dan said. "The majority of the calls we go on, we go out there, scan the area, blow up the explosives and head back to the base. It's the summer months that get intense."
On April 13, the EOD unit had found and disarmed seven roadside bombs in 300 yards when they uncovered a bomb in the middle of the road. A wire attached the bomb to a house where more than 100 pounds of explosives were later found.
The team stopped. They called for another team to secure the perimeter so that no one would run out the back door and blow up the bomb. Dan remembers asking his friends in the other team if they wanted his crew to do it but they said no and pulled into position.
Then the bomb exploded.
"The shock wave hit me and felt like 10 punches hit me at once," Dan said, adding he blacked out for a few seconds.
When he came to, Dan said he saw that the force of the bomb had picked up the other Humvee and threw it back 20 feet, blowing out the road and blocking any help from coming to Dan, his friends and the 17 other Humvees.
His friends in the other Humvee were injured. Lance Cpl. Yadiel Sanchez was on the ground, not moving, while Lance Cpl. Anson Roberts was trapped inside the burning Humvee.
"I had been with these guys for more than a year and a half," Dan said. "They're like my brothers."
Dan was 10 to 15 yards behind the blast when a sniper on top of the house started shooting at them.
"All hell broke loose," Dan said. "We started receiving small arms fire from all directions and we had to get our guys out."
Seven other Humvees and a helicopter came to get Dan and the others out. The explosives inside the house were blown up.
In Cuyahoga Falls, Debbie had returned home after a lunch with two other Marine moms and saw that a message had been left on the answering machine.
"I checked the messages and heard Dan's voice saying he had been injured in a blast," Debbie said. "The first thing I said was 'not again' and broke down into tears."
The attack left Dan with a "sheered optic nerve," lost vision, headaches, short term memory loss, scars from where the shrapnel missed his eye by inches and a second Purple Heart. Marines told the Malornis their son had the most severe kind of concussion, a level three.
"He was so lucky," Debbie said. "There were five Marines injured. Dan had the least injuries physically, but had the worst concussion."
Sanchez had multiple broken bones and Roberts had third-degree burns, Dan said. Both are recovering.
Dan said he's been told he will be teaching other EOD technicians how to locate and disarm bombs and will not be going back to Iraq. Doctors have told him that he'll be fully recovered within several months.
When his enlistment is up in June, 2009, Dan said he plans to be a teacher.
Dan said he considers the explosion a "technical difficulty."
"Sometimes, I really do want to go back over there," he said. "I still have buddies over there."