Third Way in Iraq #13: Miracles Still Happen

May 25th, 2006

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May 25, 2006

Editors’ Note:

Tomorrow, Sean Barney will be discharged from the hospital and will return to Philadelphia to continue his rehabilitation.

All of Sean’s friends and collegues are overjoyed about his miraculous recovery, though we know that he has some tough times ahead to fully recover from his injuries.

Mingled with our joy, however, is awareness that Sean’s unit is still in Fallujah, and 130,000 other Americans remain in harm’s way in Iraq.

Last night, Senator Tom Carper, Sean’s former boss, offered eloquent words on the floor of the Senate about Sean, as well as Marines and a soldier from Delaware who were recently killed in action in Iraq. We provide his statement in its entirety. We hope that you will read it.

Mr. CARPER. I would like to change gears, if I could. I would like to talk about a place in southern Delaware, a place called Seaford. Most people in this Chamber—my guess is most people around the world—have never heard about Seaford, DE, but almost everybody in this country and around the world has heard about a product called nylon. The first nylon plant in the world was built in Seaford, DE, by the DuPont Company, I think roughly 60 years or so ago. It is a plant that is still in operation, though run by a different firm today. There are still close to 1,000 people who work there. So Seaford is really known in our State, and to the extent they are known around the country, as the home of the first nylon plant ever built in the world.

Seaford is a small town. I don’t know exactly how many people live there now, but it is less than 10,000 people—maybe 5,000 or so. There is a lot of pride there, about their heritage with DuPont and a number of other reasons as well. It is in the southwestern part of our State, Sussex County. A number of people in Seaford have gone on to serve in the Armed Forces of our country. This month, two of our young Seaford natives who had gone on to serve in Iraq have given their lives, have lost their lives. A young man named Cory Palmer, earlier in his life, maybe 10 years ago, came up to the Governor’s house. I was hosting the Governors Fall Festival. We kicked off the Governors Fall Festival every year with a 5-kilometer race. I remember Cory and other members of his family running in that race with the rest of us.

Earlier this month, Cory was in a humvee in Fallujah, with his teammates and the humvee exploded. It hit an IED, a big one, and Cory and his team, I think now maybe all six of them, at least five, have lost their lives.

I had the privilege of visiting with Cory Palmer’s parents about 12 days ago. As I sat there in the living room of that home with Cory’s mom and dad, with his grandparents, siblings, I talked about another young man, a fellow who came to my attention—gosh, 6 years ago.

I got a phone call from Bill Bradley, Senator Bill Bradley, who was running for President. Bill Bradley called me to talk about a couple of guys who had worked in his Presidential campaign. He said: I am pulling out of the Presidential campaign. I have several people in my Presidential campaign whom you ought to talk to as you consider your run for the Senate.

One of the names he shared with me that day was that of Sean Barney. Sean Barney came to work for us and ended up being my research director in our campaign for 2001. One of the smartest people I have ever met, he was also one of the hardest working people I have ever met. Sean worked as a research director in our campaign. In the campaign, he came early, he worked late. He didn’t just do it once in a while, he did it every day and every night. I think one of the reasons we were successful in that campaign was because of his hard work and sort of never-say-die attitude.

I got elected, came to the Senate, and I asked Sean if he would join us on my Senate staff and he said that he would be pleased to do that. He came to work in January of 2001, one of the first people we hired. He came on board as a senior legislative aide.

I will not soon forget the day he came into my office and said to me, after 9/11, that he felt the need to do something more to serve our country. He knew that I had served in the Navy. He said he had always respected the service that I had to my country during the Vietnam war and later on in the Cold War. He said he felt the need to do that kind of thing as well

Sean was then in his mid- to late 20s. I said: Sean, you served your country already. You do a great job of serving Delaware, you serve your country, you do it right here in the Senate, and we are lucky that you do. Why don’t you just stay here with us and continue the service you perform and perform so well?

Just like in the campaign where he came early, worked late, in the Senate he was just the same. He had a whole range of issues, from tax policy, budget policy, Social Security, Medicare—he didn’t take the easy issues, he took the tough issues. He came early, worked late. He had a great sense of humor,was a great person to boost the morale of the office, just a terrific team player, a guy we felt lucky to have on our team.

As it turned out, on the Friday that I was sitting in the living room there in Seaford, DE, talking with Cory Palmer’s parents about the loss of his life shortly after he left Fallujah in a Medevac, I told them about Sean Barney who had gone in the Marine Corps. Sean Barney decided he was going to be a marine. Despite my encouragement to the contrary, to stay with us and serve here in the Senate, he elected to go on to active duty. Here is a guy, a college graduate. He could have gone to Quantico, gone through OCS. He didn’t. He decided he was going to enlist and not take the easier route—not that there is an easy route in the Marine Corps, but he said he wanted to go to Paris Island basic training. He finished there with distinction, headed on to finish, after that, his advanced training. After having spent a little less than a year on active duty, he came back to Washington—with shorter hair but with a good spirit—and rejoined my staff. He picked up on the issues he worked on before, and he worked just as hard, came early, worked late, good humor, a great member of our team.

Late last year, he got word that he was going to be activated. I had really had a premonition that this was happening. When he had gone through his basic training and finished that and his unit was overseas—units were based up in New Jersey, the Marine unit—they were overseas, but he was not sent there to join them. They came back, and he continued to train with them in the United States. He had not been activated himself. He learned he was going to be activated late last year and be on active duty, I think this year.

He went through training here in this country and a month or two ago headed over to Iraq. He went to Fallujah. As I was sitting again in Seaford, with the Palmer family, trying to provide some comfort to them, about 12 days ago, I told them about Sean Barney.

Little did I know that just hours before I went to their home, Sean Barney was shot. He was shot in Fallujah, on the streets of Fallujah. He was shot by a sniper, and the bullet struck him in the neck, just missed his Adam’s apple. It severed the carotid artery, apparently nipped the jugular vein, barely missed his spine. Sean ran about half a block, got behind some building or debris, and by a miracle, apparently a humvee that was not too far away was called in by one of Sean’s buddies. I think it had a corpsman, Navy corpsman on board, maybe even a doc. They got to Sean and Sean was still conscious. The last thing he remembered was hearing the corpsman say: Let’s get the tourniquet out and use it. Sean was thinking, with a wound in the neck, where are they going to put the tourniquet? That is Sean, a good sense of humor, maybe in this case gallows humor.

Within 12 minutes, they had Sean in the humvee and into the hospital in Fallujah. They applied first aid en route, got him to Fallujah. There was a doctor there, if I can find his name here, a fellow whose name is Captain Donovan. Captain Donovan, who just happened to be starting a 30-day rotation at Camp Fallujah Hospital, was able to stop the bleeding and put the carotid artery back together again. The fact that Sean is alive today—and he is alive today, he is in Bethesda tonight—is a miracle.

I know a lot of us prayed earnestly for Sean, for his life. He has been spared and returned to be here with his wife Daisy and his parents. He is going to be checking out of Bethesda later this week, we hope, and go on to Philadelphia where his wife is going through a residency in her medical training. She becomes a doctor, too.

That is a happy ending. While he has some problems with his shoulder in terms of ability to use that shoulder now, he is going to get great care and hopefully rehab and maybe someday will be able to regain his full capacity.

There is another young man from Seaford, though, subsequent to the time I visited with the Palmers, who we learned had been shot and killed in Ramadi.

Earlier today, a young man, Rick James, 20 years old, also a marine, was buried in Seaford. And 12 days ago, Cpl Cory Palmer was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Last night, I was back at Seaford visiting the family of Marine Cpl Rick James, trying to comfort them in the funeral home as they got ready to say goodbye to their son, their grandson, their brother, their cousin, and their friend.

It has been a tough month in Delaware. We are a little State. We have had a number of people—maybe a dozen or so—who have lost their lives prior to this month in Iraq and Afghanistan. We lost three last month, which is tough for a little place.

There is another young man whose family doesn’t live in Delaware but he grew up in our State, Steven Snowberger, who went to William Penn High School. I was at his high school in New Castle, DE, last week. At the age of 16, he moved on to complete his education elsewhere and to join the Army. He died at the age of 18, about a week ago. We just said goodbye to Steven this past week.

Those are three causes for great sorrow in our State, the loss of three young men, the oldest being 22 years of age.

I must say that I am encouraged to talk to the families and see how proud they are of their young men, their sons, their grandsons, their brothers, their cousins, their friends.

I have never seen a town that small, Seaford—or, frankly, a larger town—sort of welling up, really with pride, as they have these last couple of weeks, supporting those who have lost their lives and their families as well. It was extraordinary.

One of our colleagues, John McCain, was invited to go to Delaware last weekend by my colleague, Mike Castle, to do a campaign event over on the coast. Senator McCain was good enough, at the urging of Congressman Castle, to swing through Seaford, DE, and stop to make an appearance there and say wonderful, supportive words about our young men—heroes. All of us in Delaware are grateful to him for doing that.

While we mourn the loss of our marines and our Army PFC, we are just grateful that later this week another marine part of our family in the Senate, Sean Barney, is alive. I think he is going to be OK. I do not know that he will ever come back and work with us in the Senate family. He has been accepted to law school at Stanford, and my guess is he will probably—when he recovers enough and is ready to go onto the next part of his life and separate from the Marines—head for points west and pick up his life and his wife.

To those in Seaford, and the Snowberger family down in North Carolina today who lost their son, Steven, our hearts go out to you. To the extent we can be helpful, you know we are there for you, like the whole State is.

To our friend, Sean, we are just glad that miracles still happen and that one of them involved you.

I yield the floor.