September 03, 2007

Profiles In Courage: Two Colorado Marines

After 5 . . . 5! tours in Iraq, Marine Brad Adams celebrated his birthday, but also mourned the loss of his best friend, and would return to service if not for his injuries (video):
Even with two purple hearts and countless medals in his family room, Adams hesitates to talk about himself or his accomplishments.

"It's the hardest thing because my Marines are still out there and I'm back here," said Adams.

Adams uses medication to sleep at night, but his passion to serve remains strong.

If he wasn't injured, Adams would return to uniform today.

"I could do it right now," said Adams.
His injuries?
The bomb scarred one side of Adams' body and left him with only partial hearing and damage to about 40 percent of the tendons in his left arm. He leans on a cane and relies on a colostomy bag.
But he instead focuses on his best friend, his "brother":
"This is awesome. It's great to be home. This time definitely stands out for me," he said. "Someone was looking out for me because I shouldn't be here.

"It's the best feeling in the world to see all my folks and to give them hugs again. But there's also a large part of me that's missing," he added.

That part would be Stokes, a 24-year-old Marine from Auburn, Calif. The two have been best friends for the last four years. They fought together. They would go abalone fishing off the coast of California. They got tattooed together.

"He's my brother," said Adams, who has three sisters. "He's the closest thing I had to a brother."

"Hand Grenade Joe" Espinosa, 87, of Arvada, talks Sunday about his experience fighting the Japanese in World War II. The former Marine recently received a Purple Heart and other honors for his service more than six decades ago. (Post / John Prieto)

And from the "better late than never" department, an 87-year old Marine, "Hand Grenade Joe" Espinosa finally received his long overdue Purple Heart for his service in WWII (video):
Far below him in the dense jungle of Guadalcanal, Colorado's Joe Espinosa could see the palm leaves stirring.

He couldn't see the Japanese, they were so well-hidden.

But the shaking of the leaves told him they were climbing the ridge to encircle him and his company of Marines, who were 30 to 40 feet behind him.

And that moment, the miner's son from Trinidad took action that earned him his nickname that remains today.

"Hand Grenade Joe" sprung into action.

He had two boxes of grenades with him on the point of the ridge.

In rapid succession, he rained the grenades down the hill - at least 24 of them.

"They retreated. A hand grenade going down a slope like that can cause a lot of damage," Espinosa, 87, recalled Sunday.

At reunions, the guys he fought with always call out: "How you doing, Hand Grenade Joe? and "Hey, Joe, you remember those grenades?"

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