Fontana resident returns from two tours in Iraq, one in Afghanistan
November 27, 2008
Fontana — Cpl. David Blizard has seen a lot in his young life.
The 22-year-old recently finished a four-year commitment with the U.S. Marines. During that time, he served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan.
His first tour of Iraq was during its first democratic elections, and his second tour was during the troop surge in 2007.
He saw combat on both Iraq and Afghanistan.
He's been hit four times with improvised explosive devices, which has caused him to suffer from traumatic brain injury and hearing loss in both ears.
Despite this, Blizard has no regrets and believes the experience made him the man that he is today.
"It matured me. I've seen things in my life that a good majority of people will never see," he said.
Now, the 2004 Big Foot High School graduate is just enjoying life. He's a bartender at Gordy's, and is planning to begin his college career in the spring.
Joining the military
Blizard began his basic training at the age of 18 in October 2004, and finished advanced training by April 2005.
He was based in Camp Pendleton, which is north of Oceanside, Calif., and is known for its desert climate.
"Basically, when I went in, my whole world closed off. When you go in you put your life on pause," he said. "All you're concerned about is doing your job, accomplishing the mission and troop welfare."
His first seven-month tour of Iraq began in July 2005 when he was located in downtown Fallujah.
"We relieved one of the units that was part of the second big pushes through Fallujah," he said.
His second tour of Iraq was in 2007, which lasted another seven months. He was again located near Fallujah.
He then served a five-and-a-half month tour in Afghanistan before returning home.
"It's kind of unusual to do three deployments in four years, but Camp Pendleton makes us the most adept to deploy to the desert. It's basically desert to desert to desert," he said.
In Iraq, his main missions were counter-insurgency operations, he also conducted searches and gathered intelligence.
"All missions had one of two goals — to capture and kill insurgent forces or deny insurgents the freedom of movement," he said. "We would catch them or prevent them from doing what they needed to do."
During his first tour, Blizard said he saw more gunfire than he did in his second. In his second tour he saw more explosions.
He said both tours were marked with different challenges, and the strategy to combat the insurgency also changed between tours.
"In Iraq, it wasn't that the insurgents became smarter (during the second tour), it was that all the dumb ones got killed," Blizard said.
In Afghanistan, Blizard said his battalion was responsible for an area that was about the size of Vermont.
In his five and a half months, he saw several dozen gun battles.
He said these fights would often go until the last man was no longer standing.
Other times, the Afghanistan insurgency would run at night because they had inferior weapons.
"If it didn't cut out a night, you could count on it going until the last man standing (was killed)," he said.
His official mission in Afghanistan was to train and support the Afghan National Police. However, he said, he spent more time gathering intelligence and fighting the insurgents.
The size of the area he covered in Afghanistan provided a major challenge to Blizard's battalion.
"We operated by ourselves for the most part," Blizard said.
Although he hated the insurgency, Blizard said he had respect for those he was fighting.
"I hated them because they wanted to kill me and my brothers, but at the same time they had a goal and they fought until the very end toward that goal even if they were outgunned and outmanned," he said.
"I've been blown up a total of four times," he said.
During his second deployment he suffered hearing loss and a serious concussion after being hit with an IED. He said he has gotten used to the injuries and it doesn't affect his daily life.
He said the injury has created short-term memory loss problems and problems with his digestive system. It also has created problems with anxiety and moodswings.
"I function around it," he said. "If I can't hear what someone says I can generally look right at them and read their lips."
He said he has troubling hearing high and low pitched sounds, but everything in the middle he can hear fine.
This Veterans Day, Blizard was asked to speak at both Fontana and Walworth elementary schools.
The students at the schools gave him a standing ovation, which Blizard described as a weird experience.
He's surprised when people recognize him for his service. At Gordy's, two boaters tipped him $100 on a $37 bill when they found out he served in the military.
"I talked to them for an hour and out of that only five minutes was about the military," he said. "You don't give people money just because they served in the military."
He said he has no problem discussing his time in the service with customers at the bars or other people he meets, but he does have one rule.
"My general rule is I have no problem talking about my military service or combat operations, but I won't talk about my guys dying," he said.