Here’s the article that ran in my old local newspaper, the Cape Cod Times:
FALMOUTH – Since the Iraq war began in the March 2003, Carol Bagarella has been reminding people to support the soldiers. Now, she said, one of the troops who needs as much support as any is her son. Last month, Marine Cpl. Peter Bagarella, 21, lost his left foot when he tripped an explosive in the Iraq city of Fallujah, a blast that also cost him, at least temporarily, his vision. Bagarella has already undergone two operations including the amputation of his foot. Relatives say he’ll likely be recuperating at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., for months.
“It’s a miracle he’s alive,” says Carol Bagarella, who has been with her son since Aug. 17 and has no intention of leaving any time soon. “And there are hundreds here just like him or even worse.”
Bagarella, who enlisted in the Marines after graduating from Falmouth High School in 2001, was serving his second tour in Iraq for the 2nd Marine Division out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., when the explosion changed his life. He was on maneuvers with his unit Aug. 12 when he kicked an object the size of a potato, just after his unit had come under enemy fire. The blast knocked him to the ground. “He was sprayed with shrapnel from head to toe, burns all over, fractured his right hand,” his mother said. “And, the foot.”
As of yesterday, 990 U.S. soldiers had been killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom, according to the Associated Press. As of Friday, the last day for which the figures were available, 3,840 were wounded badly enough that they could not return to duty and 3,076 were injured but able to return to duty. Peter Bagarella joined the Marines along with his friends and classmates Ben Lacasse, David Smoller and Keith Sylvia. Lacasse now is stationed in Afghanistan, Sylvia at a Marine base in California. David Smoller is completing his second tour as a vehicle mechanic in Iraq. Over the last few months he’s run into Bagarella several times at the Marine base, according to his father, Kevin Smoller. Kevin Smoller said he has nightmares about a strange car pulling up to the house some time with news about his son.
It’s never far from your mind, he said. He looked out at his backyard swimming pool. “I can just picture those guys horsing around, doing cannonballs. That’s what we’ve really missed these last few summers. “They’re in harm’s way every day over there. Just young kids. But they’re great kids. And doing the right thing for their country.” Carol Bagarella has been trying to remind people for months that the war in Iraq is not over. Soldiers remain in harm’s way every day, she said.
The Falmouth Military Family Support Group she helped form still meets once a week, usually greeting returning soldiers and preparing packages for those still deployed. At Walter Reed, where she is now staying in a room provided by the Marines Corps, she said she is seeing the sacrifices made by so many soldiers. Including her boy. “He’s been so sweet. It’s sad that I have to feed him all his meals,” she said. “But I’ll be staying here for quite a while. “If people come here, they’ll see, there is a war going on. (Injured soldiers) are coming from Iraq four times a week here.”
Pauline Greenberg of Falmouth has known Peter Bagarella for years. He is one of her own son’s best friends. Thinking about him recently, she thought of the guy who loved her chocolate chip cookies. But now she calls him a hero. “He was really proud to be a Marine because of his grandpa,” Greenberg said. “That’s all the kid ever wanted to do. He knew what his passion was.” “It’s awful close to home,” Kevin Smoller said. “We just say our prayers for him. And for all the boys. We just hope they’ll all be back soon.”
(Published: September 7, 2004)
If anyone wants to send letters and cards of support to Peter and his family, you can mail them to this address:
Walter Reed Medical Center
Corporal Peter Bagarella
6900 Georgia Ave
Washington DC 20307