Jason was a Marine infantryman, and a damn good one at that. Jason knew Lindsey was special the moment he met her at his cousin’s wedding. This was a girl he wanted to be around. By the summer of 2004, Jason began to think that Lindsey might be the woman that he wanted to marry. Lindsey kept reminding herself that Jason was a Marine and that he would soon have to go back to war. But that did not seem to make a difference, Lindsey was smitten too. She couldn’t help herself from falling in love.
Jason flew back to Iraq on September 11, 2004. Difficult as it was, Lindsey knew that Jason had a job to do and Jason was eager to get back into the fight. But this deployment was different. This time Jason couldn’t wait to get back home and ask Lindsey to be his wife.
Forced to endure a second wartime separation, they turned their attention to their work. Jason worked hard to prepare his Marines for the coming fight and Lindsey dove into her job, working 12-hour days. Jason’s Marines became entangled in the largest urban fight since Vietnam – the fight to free Fallujah – and on December 12th, 2004, Jason ended up in the bloodiest battle of the fight. He found himself on the second floor of an enemy stronghold with a live grenade cooking off at his feet. His first thought was to warn his fellow Marines. “GRENADE!” he shouted, just as he was showered with shrapnel and debris. Jason was thrown to the floor, bleeding badly.
It was a crisp cool Sunday half-a-world away in Kansas City. Lindsey’s day began just like every day. Her morning prayer for Jason always renewed her strength, but today, her heart was heavy – she hadn’t heard from Jason in over a week. She hoped she would hear from him today. He almost always called on Sunday. She thought about Jason all day but the call never came and Lindsey fell asleep with her phone at her side.
Monday was a busy day at work. Lindsey kept busy with constant phone calls and chaos. She was so busy that she ignored her cell phone when it first rang. When it kept ringing she looked at the number and didn’t recognize the area code, Lindsey didn’t answer. Then, the phone started ringing again. It was the same area code, but a different telephone number. “What in the world?” Lindsey thought “Who was calling? Maybe they would leave a message.” Lindsey shoved the phone into her desk drawer to muffle the sound and then resumed her typing. Today was just not the day for extra interruptions.
When Lindsey stood to go to the restroom, she felt the dog tags clink around her neck. She gently rested her hand upon them and grinned, wondering where he was today. Then she prayed, “Lord, please be with him today and strengthen him, send your angels to protect him.” She returned to her desk to hear that muffled ring tone again. This was beginning to get a little creepy. Nobody called her this often. The fifth time around panic struck.
Lindsey flung the desk drawer open. She read the name lit up in bright blue letters – Jaime. Suddenly it all made sense. “All this time, how could she have been so ignorant?” Fear slapped her. All of the calls were from New Mexico – Jason’s family. It was the moment she had prayed would never come. Her heart stood still as the realization sank in. Staring at the phone wide eyed, she nervously bit at her fingers. “No. Not now. How could this be happening?”
The fear of the unknown was paralyzing. She didn’t want to know. “This couldn’t happen. It wasn’t supposed to go like this. It was never supposed to happen this way.” But, she needed to know what was going on. She had to know what happened! She grabbed the phone so quickly it slipped and fell to the floor. As she bent to retrieve the telephone, Jason’s tags jingled and she wrapped her fingers around them tightly. She had to know everything, no matter how hard it might be. She dialed as quickly as she could.
Lindsey’s heart raced. Jaime’s voice was calm and collected as she answered the phone with a simple question. “Have you heard?”
The lump crawling up in Lindsey’s throat almost gagged her. “No. Tell me.”
“Jason has been shot” Jamie said. “I don’t know the details; just that he has been shot.”
Lindsey’s heart dropped into her stomach and she lost all composure. Her words were jumbled as she stuttered and stumbled through them before quickly hanging up the phone with the promise to relay important information. Fingers shaking, Lindsey dialed Jason’s mother. Two rings, three rings – no answer. She tried his brother. Three rings, four rings – no answer. “Why weren’t they answering their phones?” “Where were they?” She dialed Jason’s father. Four rings, five rings – no answer. This was not possible. She dialed his brother again. Five rings, six rings – no answer. She couldn’t be left hanging like this. “What was she supposed to do?” She could barely sit still with her knees and hands shaking. She pressed against the tags and tried to breathe. “What was his mother doing?” Lindsey thought. “Why wasn’t she answering?” This was all crazy! She dialed Jason’s mother one more time and there still was no answer.
“Lord, please let someone answer!” Lindsey prayed. She dialed Jason’s father again and decided to leave a message. “Danny, this is Lindsey. I just got a phone call and I would love to talk to you and find out more about what’s going on.” Then, she hung up and sat alone in her small bare office, staring at the wall.
Lindsey sat there in silence and shock. “Was this even real? Was it a dream? How could this be happening? Breathe Lindsey, breathe.” Blood was coursing through her body and heat began to rise up her neck. Small beads of sweat broke on her forehead. There was nothing to do but sit and wait. Her heart began to race faster and faster and it echoed in her ears.
The ring briefly stopped her heart. It was Jason’s stepmother, Trudy. She verified Jaime’s news. Jason had in fact been shot, probably in the leg. Nobody knew if he was alive, dead, or dying. Lindsey could only imagine the graphic details. Snapping the phone shut, she tossed it onto her desk and dropped her head into her hands. Tears erupted from the depths of her soul and flooded her flushed face. Lindsey’s mind raced. “How? Where? When? Would he survive? Would he lose any limbs? Would he be paralyzed? Was he being taken care of? Was he in pain? Was he conscious?” Minutes went by. Lindsey sat there barely breathing – sobbing and crying.
The ring of her cell phone startled her again. The voice on the other end brought more grief. “We just found out he wasn’t shot. He was actually hit with a grenade. They are taking him to Germany and that is all that I know.”
In complete shock, Lindsey tossed her phone into her purse, grabbed her keys and left her office. Her large dark sunglasses couldn’t hide the black streaks running down her cheeks and neck. She jumped into her car and began driving, with tears and mascara clouding her sight. She raced around the corner into the Hy-Vee grocery store parking lot and threw the car into park. All alone and with nobody in sight, she wept. The truth was just too much to handle.
Jason and Lindsey both knew that there was a good possibility of injury or death and still nothing could have prepared her for today’s news. Their last face-to-face conversation had been in the airport terminal, three days before Jason had to leave for Iraq. He had embraced her with tears in his eyes and had drawn her in close. “Whatever happens over there, just know that I will always be with you, watching over you.” Jason whispered.
Jason’s words replayed in her mind and she hit the steering wheel. Overcome with grief she sat alone in her car and cried out to God at the top of her lungs, “Jesus!” “Lord we need you!” All else was silent above her gasps for breath. “Lord God, Please!” Her head dropped to the steering wheel as her burdened heart grew weak. It was just too much to take in at once. “Jesus!”
An hour went by and still no word. Rolling the windows down, the cool December air felt fresh on her red hot face. She needed to start a prayer chain. When there was a need there was one person she knew to call. Quickly she dialed the phone.
Her mother immediately recognized the panic in Lindsey’s voice. “What?”
“I need you to pray.” Tears exploded again and the words seemed jumbled. “It’s Jason…He’s been hit with a grenade.” They prayed together and as always Lindsey was buoyed by her mother’s faith. Lindsey kept trying all evening to get in touch with Jason’s family and around 10 P.M. she finally spoke with his mother. The two cried together and promised to pray and stay in touch. There still had been no word. Exhausted and emotionally drained, Lindsey fell asleep just after midnight.
At 6:00 A.M. the phone startled her into consciousness. She knew the call had to be important. Good or bad, she had to know. She flipped the light on… “Hello?” It was the sweetest sound she could have possibly imagined. Somehow from the other side of the world Jason whispered back, “Hello.”
A wave of relief swept over Lindsey. He was alive. That was all that mattered. He was alive and he was able to talk and she immediately thanked the Lord.
It would be three weeks, several surgeries and many plane flights before the two would see each other. Jason had been hit by a grenade and had received shrapnel wounds throughout his body; some had barely missed his jugular vein. He had also been shot in the groin. The bullet barely missed his femoral artery, bones and joints. He is often told how lucky he was to have survived, Jason is quick to say that luck had nothing to do with it, he is blessed. The Lord really does work in mysterious ways.
Having bravely served his country and having brought his entire squad through the fight in Fallujah, Jason left the Marine Corps and married Lindsey. The Lord has more plans for Jason. Today Jason and Lindsey have two beautiful children and are living happily ever after.
Jason and Lindsey Arellano
Jason was wounded in the bloodiest fight of Operation Phantom Fury. Five Marines were killed in, and around, the house where he was seriously wounded. Jason’s story, along with many other heroes who fought in Fallujah, is told in Richard S. Lowry’s newest book – New Dawn: The Battles for Fallujah – available in bookstores in May, 2010.
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