By Patrick Winderl/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
The Havre soldier injured in Iraq said today he is honored by the number of people who have come to see him in the hospital.
Politicians, rock stars, family members and fellow soldiers have all visited Pfc. Adam McLain as he recovers in Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., McLain said during an interview this morning.
"I met President Bush and Conrad Burns," McLain said. "Yesterday I met Steven Stills of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. My parents got here Tuesday. The air guard from Montana stopped in. It's been awesome."
Montana Senator Conrad Burns dropped in Wednesday, and President Bush on Thursday. McLain said he was thrilled at the president's visit, but did not really remember it.
"To tell you the truth, I was pretty out of it," he said. "I know he was here because he signed my cast."
Even better than a visit from President Bush was one from his parents - whom he hadn't seen in months, McLain said. Bruce and Mary McLain of Havre were flown to the nation's capital last week to visit their son.
The reunion was one he will never forget, Pfc. McLain said.
"It was great," he said. "Absolutely great."
McLain suffered a broken right leg and ankle and a fractured skull on Sept. 5, when he was struck from behind by a 6,000-pound Humvee.
McLain said he can only vaguely recall the accident.
"I remember getting bumped in the back," he said. "I remember being shocked that someone was running me over. I felt the tires on my head and then it was lights out. The next thing I remember was waking up in the hospital in Baghdad."
From Baghdad he was taken to a military hospital in Germany, then airlifted to Walter Reed.
McLain suffered nerve damage when he was injured.
"I can't move my face really," he said. "I can't smile or move my mouth, but I think it's getting better."
Despite being laid up in the hospital, the glass is half full for McLain.
"I have a really good poker face now," he joked.
McLain, a 1999 graduate of Havre High School, said he is not sure if he will be allowed to remain in the military. Until last fall he was an accounting major at University of Montana in Missoula. He was entering his senior year when he joined the army.
"I got run over by a truck in Iraq," he said. "I don't think there's too many accountants that can say that."
McLain was assigned to the 143rd Military Police Detachment, based in Bozeman. The unit was deployed to Kuwait in May, then sent to Baghdad a month later.
The unit was stationed in a cement compound formerly occupied by Baath Party officials and Saddam loyalists, McLain said.
"It's right across from downtown Baghdad," he said. "I could actually see the Tigris River from the compound."
Life as a soldier in Baghdad revolved around routine, he said.
"You basically get up in the morning and put your gear on. It's hot, pretty much hot all the time. One good thing is that you get three meals a day. Two hot meals and one MRE," he said, referring to one of the Army's pre-packaged "meals ready to eat."
Although all soldiers in Iraq must endure heat and constant attacks, each unit has a specific role in the occupation, McLain said.
"It's different for everyone there," he said "You have different missions depending on your unit. We were basically training Iraqi police forces and doing security detail."
The 143rd taught tactics to Iraqi police and was responsible for distributing weapons and badges to the Iraqi police force, he said, adding that it was necessary to use an interpreter to communicate with the Iraqis.
McLain said his experience with the Iraqi people was positive - for the most part.
"You really enjoy the kids," he said. "They're always giving you the thumbs up and smiling. There's a few people you have to worry about and keep alert. I think for the most part we were pretty well accepted, but it's just that five percent that doesn't like us."