Posted on Sat, Nov. 15, 2003
Pfc. Trueman Muhrer-Irwin, the Florida National Guardsman injured in Baghdad when a bomb exploded near his Humvee, said what happened Wednesday still "hasn't sunk in yet."
"It was weird," Muhrer-Irwin of Tallahassee said Friday from a military hospital in Germany. "When the explosion went off next to us, I never even heard it. All I felt was the concussion. It took me a second to realize what happened."
Muhrer-Irwin, 20, was assistant gunner to 21-year-old Spc. Robert Wise, also from Tallahassee. Wise was killed in the explosion; shrapnel blew through part of Muhrer-Irwin's left foot, and the Humvee's driver, Spc. Matt Moss of Panama City, suffered minor injuries.
But Muhrer-Irwin, who will be flown to the United States for further surgery and rehabilitation, said Wise's death is hitting him hard. A Florida State University spokeswoman said a moment of silence will be observed in honor of Wise at today's homecoming game against North Carolina State.
A graduate of Godby High School, Wise was a student at Tallahassee Community College when he was deployed earlier this year.
"I feel closer to him, in some ways, than anyone else I've ever known," Muhrer-Irwin said of Wise. "I've never met his friends or family, but I've heard all the stories."
Here's what Muhrer-Irwin remembers about Wednesday's explosion: The Guardsmen were on patrol, reportedly going to escort a team that was dealing with a stash of mortar rounds discovered by another Guard unit.
Muhrer-Irwin said he was in the Humvee's gun turret when the bomb went off.
"After a second or two, there was smoke everywhere, then I felt this crushing pain in my foot, like it was in a vise," he said. "Then there was blood on my face, blood everywhere.
"... I climbed out the top and hopped down," he said. Moss "tried to get Wise out on his own; I just hopped to the side of the road and sat down on a rock.
"... Matt started to work on him," he said. "I saw blood flowing from one side of my foot. I passed out screaming, yelling about my foot and yelling about Wise."
Muhrer-Irwin was evacuated to a combat hospital in Baghdad. When he woke up from surgery, the doctors told him Wise didn't make it, he said.
"Throughout the whole deployment, we were together all the time," he said of Wise. "We sat in battle positions, foxholes, trenches. All you have to do is talk, and we spent hundreds of hours together."
Muhrer-Irwin said shrapnel raked his face, thigh and forearm, and an eye doctor even found and removed a tiny piece from his cornea.
"I'm just glad to be alive," he said. Doctors have told him he will need skin and bone grafts but will not lose the foot. Of the ounce of metal that cut through his foot, he said, "I have it in a cup next to my bed to show to people. ... That's my prize souvenir."
Muhrer-Irwin, a Chicago native, moved to Tallahassee a few years ago with friends who were going to school here.
He enrolled at Tallahassee Community College, with the idea of transferring to FSU and studying social work, said Emily Ohlin, his friend and Colony Club Apartments roommate.
"He's a very funny, very sweet guy," said Ohlin, who also went to Chicago's Lincoln Park High School with Muhrer-Irwin.
Ohlin added the most recent post to Muhrer-Irwin's "blog," or online journal, letting their friends know he had survived the attack.
His last journal entry, posted the Saturday before the explosion, talks about his visit to Saddam Hussein's palace and the Baghdad International Airport, where "you can buy everything - snacks, movies, tacky souvenirs."
The last paragraph, however, now reads ominously: "So far so good, life ain't great, but it's much improved. I really hope things keep going this way. Of course, knowing the way the universe works, it's only a matter of time before something comes along and breaks it all down."