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Scott Erwin

 

Scott Erwin is home now, but as described in the article reproduced below that ran in the Richmond, Virginia Times-Dispatch in September, he almost didnít make it. He had taken a year off to work for the Coalition Provisional Authority located in Baghdad. He was seriously wounded there in a June 2, 2004 ambush, but happily his injuries are on the mend and he has resumed his studies at the University of Richmond at Richmond, Virginia.

Scott is also making public appearances, between classes, with Ahood al Fadhal, one of the first women elected to public office in Iraq. Ahood is in this country to describe and enlighten the American public on conditions in present-day Iraq, which, she says, have been grossly distorted by the media. She serves on the Al-tahsinniyya District Council in Basra, and publishes a bi-weekly newsletter on womenís affairs. She also co-founded the Al Ata Society which helps to educate women in rural areas.

Scott Erwin (right in photo) received the Defense of Freedom medal in the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes on  December 3 in Washington, D.C., which is the civilian equivalent to the militaryís Purple Heart. It was presented by Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III.

Scott said that he accepted the award "with great humility," adding that his sacrifice seems "insignificant" when compared to those of families who have accepted the same award on behalf of deceased loved ones, as well as to the military men and women who have died "in the cause of freedom."

Scot Erwin is the son of Robert, Jr. and Karen Erwin of Kansas City, Missouri, and the grandson of Robert (deceased) and Vilma Erwin of Wichita, Kansas.                             -Ed.

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From the Times-Dispatch:

Scott Erwin returned to UR about two weeks ago at the start of fall classes.
He says he can hardly walk across campus without meeting someone
who wants to shake his hand or thank him for his service in Iraq.

Back to school

UR senior returns after a dangerous time in Iraq

BY GARY ROBERTSON

Times-Dispatch Staff Writer

 

Ask Scott Erwin to pull up his shirt. That's when you'll see the tattoos of war.

Erwin, who postponed his senior year at the University of Richmond to work for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad, is back from Iraq. And he's got a bullet hole in his stomach to prove it. The hole is deep enough to put in the tip of your pinkie finger. It's beside the shiny scar that nearly runs the length of his abdomen.

The scar marks the opening that surgeons entered after a bullet from an AK-47 assault rifle ruptured his spleen and pierced his liver and small intestine. During a June 2 ambush in Baghdad, Erwin was shot four times: twice in the right arm, once in the stomach, once in the left arm.

A bullet fired into his chest missed his heart when it ricocheted off a battery that was behind the ID pouch he was wearing around his neck. The AAA battery was a spare Erwin carried, because his MP3 player was always going dead on his morning jog around the heavily guarded Green Zone.

The Green Zone is the headquarters of the United States-led coalition, where Erwin worked as a policy analyst. On his own time, he would venture out to teach classes about democracy to Iraqi university students who, in turn, would teach others. Some of Saddam Hussein's former associates, and others, didn't like the classes. Erwin believes the idea was that if they killed him, the classes would be canceled. So far, the classes are still going.

Erwin's parents, both school teachers, keep the dented battery from the ambush prominently displayed in their home in Kansas City, Mo., along with the ID badge, which has a bullet hole in one corner.

A few weeks ago, Erwin had what he hopes will be his final surgery, to return movement to his left hand. His hand went limp when the bul≠let that ricocheted off the battery dug a furrow under his pectoral muscle  and shattered his left arm, shredding nerves.Erwin is left-handed so he's had to train his right hand to do what his left hand did before.He says he's become a pretty good one-finger typist.He also has lost thirty pounds since he was shot. Some days, when his energy is down, he feels like he's forty instead of twenty-two.

Considering his triple majors in political science, public economic analysis and classical civilization, Erwin is taking a relatively light load of thirteen hours  at the University of Richmond this semester to complete the requirements for graduation. Erwin, who is on an academic scholarship at the University of Richmond, is thinking about the rest of his life: maybe a master's degree in international relations or national security, maybe a law degree, maybe politics.

What Erwin is not doing is dwelling on why he was shot, although he frequently thinks about the two Iraqi police officers who were killed during the attack and the hardships on their families.He also reflects on the Iraqi translator who saved his life by pulling him out of the bullet-riddled Nissan SUV they were riding in until Iraqi police could drive off the assailants. He was returning from a teaching assignment when the SUV was blocked at an intersection by one car, while gunmen in another car roared up with weapons blazing. On the wild ride back to the Green Zone and medical care, Erwin wouldn't permit himself to think about dying. He focused on remaining calm, and tried to fight off shock.

A few days later, when he arrived at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington for advanced treatment, his fraternity brothers at Sigma Phi Epsilon, faculty members and friends from all over began showing up to give him support.

Erwin has strong Republican connections, having interned in the offices of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, and Vice President Dick Cheney. It was through those connections that he eventually received an offer to go to Iraq and help in the transition after Saddam's forces were defeated. He believes that the Iraqis eventually will find a form of democracy that best reflects their culture d their laws. Erwin also believes that history will look favorably on President Bush's decision to invade Iraq, although American opinion is sharply divided on that issue now.

During rehab at Walter Reed, Erwin drew inspiration from the positive outlook of the wounded soldiers he met there.

He returned to UR about two weeks ago at the start of fall classes. He says he can hardly walk across campus without meeting someone who wants to shake his hand or thank him for his service in Iraq. Erwin has found peace in the rhythm of academic life, and in the affection of those who are happy to see him on the grounds again.

Fiona McCarthy is a close friend of Erwin's, and what she has found so amazing is that his experiences have not lessened his optimism or sense of humor.

McCarthy, a senior from Bergen County, N.J., said the first thing that old friends notice about Erwin is how much he hasn't changed.While he was in the hospital, he always joked with those who came to see him, lifting their spirits, McCarthy said.

While he was in the hospital, a friend of Erwin's took him an audio biography of Lance Arm≠strong, the American who won the Tour de France six times after rebounding from cancer. He listened to the biography in the hospital and while riding in the car with his mother as they drove around.

Another friend gave Erwin a wristband that the Lance Armstrong Foundation is selling to raise money for cancer research and to support cancer victims. He wears the yellow wristband everywhere now. The inscription on it struck an emotional chord.

It says, "LIVESTRONG."

Gary Robertson can be reached at: (804) 649-6346 or grobertson@umesdispatch.com

Copyright Richmond Times-Dispatch, used with permission.

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