Monday, October 08, 2007

Graham McMahon remembered

U.S. Army Cpl. Graham McMahon had a way of making things better for people.

As a combat medic in Iraq, he patched up the wounded soldiers in his unit until they could be transported to a base hospital.

McMahon’s sudden death in Iraq last month from a mysterious illness stunned his friends and family, including his wife of less than a year.

“Families every day get that news. It’s really devastating,” said McMahon’s wife, Angelique. “Your whole life changes in one sentence.”

McMahon’s father, Bill, and his wife, Karen, echoed Angelique’s words.

“The world divides into before Sept, 19, 2007, and after Sept. 19, 2007,” Bill McMahon said. “It’s a different world.”

Graham McMahon, 22, deployed to Iraq in April with the soldiers of the 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, Stryker Brigade out of Fort Lewis, Wash. His fellow soldiers called him “Doc.”

After returning to base from a patrol on Sept. 19, McMahon, suddenly became ill. He was confined to bed for several hours where he was checked hourly. But after several hours, he was found unconscious and he died en route to the hospital. The cause has yet to be determined.

Angelique McMahon said her husband was a fun-loving guy with beautiful blue eyes.

“He had a great voice,” she said. “That’s the thing I just constantly hear in my head — youthful and energetic.”

He loved snowboarding and being outdoors.

He was also strong-willed and was his own man, his father said.

“Graham always wanted to do it his way,” he said. “He wanted to make his own mistakes.”

After graduating in 2003 from Corvallis High School, McMahon spent a couple of directionless terms at Oregon State University, his father said. He still hadn’t made up his mind what he wanted to do with his life.

When McMahon enlisted in the Army in 2004, his father said, he was supportive, although very conscious of the fact there was a war on.

“He was OK with that,” Bill McMahon said. “He said he wanted some discipline.”

In the Army, McMahon also found a job he liked — being a medic. He got advanced training in combat medicine at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

McMahon was assigned weekend evenings to watch operations on knife and gunshot wound victims at the hospital, his father said.

“He could handle it,” he said.

McMahon was proud to be called “Doc” by his fellow soldiers, his father said.

And Bill McMahon was proud of his son.

“It’s an important, difficult and dangerous job,” he said.

Angelique McMahon said her husband joined the military to better his own and other peoples’ lives. He hoped to go into sports medicine after completing his stint with the Army.

The last time family members heard from McMahon was about two weeks before his death. His unit would go out on patrol for two weeks at a time, during which period he would be incommunicado. McMahon knew he would be on patrol on his father’s birthday, Sept. 9, so he called home before leaving on patrol.

Bill McMahon remembers that, as a child, his son did not want to be protected but rather wanted to see the world for himself.

“We had a porch swing and I’d try to cuddle with Graham,” he said, “and he’d squirm until he could sit down facing the street. That’s what I did — sit and watch the world. He wanted to do the same thing.”

McMahon was awarded the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Army Service Ribbon.

“He was smart,” Bill McMahon said. “He was a really sharp kid. He was perceptive.” Then he added, “He never got a chance to see what he could do.”

Froom the Corvalis Gazette Times

Related Link:
Graham M. McMahon dies 'from a non-combat related illness'