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McCall.jpg (43317 bytes)Marine Cpl. Joshua C. McCall is dedicating his Bronze Star to his father, Larry Bean, who served in the Navy in Vietnam on a gunboat.

(Reprint from the Buffalo News, February 14, 2004)

Marine is honored for courage under fire
News Staff Reporter

Marine Cpl. Joshua C. McCall took time off from his job as a weapons instructor in Buffalo on Friday to be officially pinned a hero.

Standing straight and tall, the black-haired, brush-cut, 22-year-old North Carolinian stationed in Buffalo listened attentively as his superior read a citation detailing why he was receiving a Bronze Star medal with a special "V" for valor.

As his unit moved through Nasiriyah during a battle in March that would claim the life of Buffalo resident Lance Cpl. Tomorio D. Burkett, McCall destroyed five Iraqi tanks and two bunkers.

This initial phase of the nine-hour battle for control of bridges on the outskirts of the Iraqi city lasted only minutes, but it is forever etched in the mind of McCall, whose crisp, military image belies the inward impression war has left.

"It's different, and I don't like to talk about it too much, but I do think about it all the time," he said after the ceremony in the Navy and Marine Corps Reserve Center on Porter Avenue.

What he will say is that any Marine in his position would have done the same.

"I didn't think about it at the time. I just reacted. It was very loud and, honestly, I had an adrenaline rush. You don't get scared until afterward," McCall said.

The battle occurred on March 23. McCall's unit was headed for a place called Ambush Alley, a dangerous stretch separating the Marines from the bridges.

From his turret atop a Humvee, McCall spotted a machine gun bunker that threatened the lives of fellow Marines. As he prepared to engage it, an even bigger threat emerged - a tank.

"Without regard for his personal safety," the citation read, "he exposed himself to enemy small arms fire in order to destroy the enemy tank with an anti-armor missile. As he reloaded, another enemy tank was spotted west.

"Again he moved into position, exposing himself to small arms fire as he destroyed the second tank."

At that point, he spotted a second bunker, where Iraqis were armed with rocket-propelled grenade launchers. But a third tank appeared, and he again reloaded and destroyed it before taking out both bunkers.

His work was not over.

He fired missiles and destroyed two more tanks.

"It takes about a minute to fire two shots," McCall said, giving an idea of how quick things happened.

With the heavy enemy artillery out of the way, Marines were able to move into Ambush Alley, a four-lane road with many buildings on either side to provide cover for the enemy. There they engaged in small-arms battles.

"Once you're in there, you either go through to the bridges or you retreat," he said.

The Americans did not retreat. But they would pay dearly. Near one of the bridges, the 21-year-old Burkett, who met McCall for the first time two days earlier, would be killed.