Deteriorating Iraq hits close to home for Pinellas marine - Greenville, NC | News | Weather | Sports - WNCT.com

Deteriorating Iraq hits close to home for Pinellas marine

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Michael Delancey in June 2014 Michael Delancey in June 2014
Michael Delancey in July 2006 Michael Delancey in July 2006
Michael Delancey in July 2006 Michael Delancey in July 2006

As the nation scrambles to figure out what to do about the crumbling situation in Iraq, Tampa Bay-area warriors who sacrificed so much there watch with broken hearts.

"It's like a big smack in the face," said marine Michael Delancey, who was paralyzed by sniper fire in Iraq. "Everything I've done, my brothers that have died, our whole goal in everything, is just a big smack in the face. We did everything we could do set that government up for success... and here we are."

An insurgent sniper shot USMC Lance Corporal Delancey in 2006, just two weeks before he was supposed to come home. The bullet damaged three vertebrae in his back and left him a paraplegic.

Delancey tries not to let the image of his wheelchair constantly take him back to that day in Haditha.

"If I did, it wouldn't be a good thing," he said. "I always look at it like this happened for a reason."

But recent events frustrate Delancey. Haditha, for instance, is reportedly one of the Iraqi cities now under the control of the terrorist group ISIS. It's members are advancing through the country with a goal of setting up an Islamic state that would stretch from Iraq into northern Syria.

"If they reach Baghdad, they're pretty much controlling the whole country," Delancey said. "To me, that would be an even bigger smack in the face. It'd be like - we should've never even went over in the first place. The children that we helped; the families that we helped that had no say-so; that were scared for their lives; the good that we did, the media just did not focus on ... is all for nothing."

William Earl Bodette, Jr., a retired 1st Sergeant, is a friend of Delancey's and has served all over the world, including combat in Mogadishu, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

"If you asked me to go back over there, I'd go right back in a second. It's just the way it is," Bodette said. "Do I think we need to go back over there? No. I don't. We've set them up for success enough that it's time for them to do their own thing."

Bodette believes, unlike wars in the past, what's happening now is different.

"We're not fighting a country," he said. "You're fighting an idea. You're fighting an insurgency. The deal with an insurgency is - they don't have to win. They just don't have to lose."

Delancey tries to focus on the future. He's in the process of raising funds for a wounded warrior camp in Pinellas County, where America's service members can have a place of refuge with things like horseback riding.

But Iraq is never far away.

"The more I read, the more it upsets me but I still like to know what's going on," Delancey said. "We've just got to be very careful in what decisions we make."

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