Back from the desert Lobley earns Bronze Star for combat in Afghanistan

By on January 25, 2012

By: STEPHEN SEEBER Record Express Staff, Staff Writer

Cpl. Eddie Lobley (right) tends to the gunshot wound of Staff Sgt. Gonzales in this battlefield photo from Afghanistan. Lobley, a 2006 Warwick grad, was awarded a Bronze Star with Valor for his actions.Cpl. Eddie Lobley (right) tends to the gunshot wound of Staff Sgt. Gonzales in this battlefield photo from Afghanistan. Lobley, a 2006 Warwick grad, was awarded a Bronze Star with Valor for his actions.

"It was the most fun I never want to have again."

That’s how Corporal Edgar H. Lobley III describes his service as a Marine in Afghanistan.

The 2006 Warwick grad, known to his friends as Eddie, returned to Lititz in November after four years of combat in a Middle East war that President Barack Obama recently ended.

Lobley’s time in a hostile foreign desert was nothing like his years spent playing high school lacrosse in Lititz. A little more than a year ago, he was pulling a wounded Marine to safety amid enemy fire.

"That’s me right there, and that’s Staff Sgt. Gonzales after he had been shot," he said, describing a photo taken during the attack. "This is after I dragged him out of the alley."

Gonzales, of California, is what Marines call an "Old Head," someone who has been in the Corps for a long time. In this case, 18 years.

"I was in there with him for a while," he recalled. "Once fire died down, we got some other corpsmen in there to help him."

Lobley’s actions earned him a Bronze Star with Valor, which was presented last month during a reserve base ceremony in Allentown.

While in Afghanistan, he was the squad leader for Company B, 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, Regimental Combat Team 2, I Marine Expeditionary Force Forward from September 2010 to March 2011 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. He led more than 170 dismounted patrols, confirmed 17 improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and detained 10 enemy personnel. He also assisted in the medical evacuation of five Marines and one soldier of the Afghan National Army (ANA).

On Nov. 8, an ANA soldier stepped on an IED while on patrol, and a Marine was wounded by a secondary IED while attempting to clear the area. Lobley led dismounted reinforcements to assist, and he transported the casualties to a landing zone that he helped to secure.

On Dec. 20, his squad traveled across the Musa Qa’leh Wadi to conduct an ambush patrol along a known enemy avenue. After detaining nine suspicious individuals, they began receiving significant machinegun and small arms fire from three enemy positions. Lobley moved with another Marine, Staff Sgt. Gonzales, to a more exposed position in order to locate the enemy. While sending in a situation report, Lobley’s partner was struck. Lobley pushed farther into the enemy engagement area, toward the downed Marine, and dragged him 15 meters to cover while exposing himself to a barrage of fire. He immediately began treating the gunshot wound while directing the nearest Marines to provide security. Once the on-scene corpsman arrived, Lobley assisted in applying pressure dressing and then promptly returned to lead his squad in repelling the enemy attack.

On Jan. 21, he led his heavily-laden squad on a night infiltration during Operation Nall Zen (Horseshoe Bend). When one of his squad members began to falter, Lobley took an M2 .50cal receiver and barrel, in addition to his own combat load, while leading the squad through the fields and canals of the last 2.5 kilometers of the infiltration. Once they arrived at their objective, a Marine was severely wounded by an IED blast and the platoon sergeant was incapacitated by a concussion. Lobley coordinated transport for the wounded Marine and continued getting his squad into defensive positions.

On Jan. 23, they were attacked by heavy machinegun and rocket-propelled grenade fire. Lobley organized and led an ammunition resupply, crossing 50 meters of open terrain under enemy fire. He was able to identify the enemy firing position and increase his squad’s rate of fire, allowing an anti-armor missileman to destroy the enemy position.

In applying for the distinguished honor, his commanding officer referred to his brave actions and composed decision making.

"His superior performance greatly contributed to the platoon’s success in destroying the enemy and in ensuring Marine casualties arrived at a higher echelon of care," he said in summary. "His heroic actions reflect a great deal of maturity and dedication to duty and to his fellow Marines, and he is hereby enthusiastically recommended for the Bronze Star with Combat V."

Friends and family joined him at the Dec. 29 medal presentation in Allentown. Among those attending was fellow WHS Class of 2006 grad, and best friend, Nick Ruscigno, who is an Iraq combat veteran currently living in Manheim.

When asked about the honor and what it means to him, Lobley didn’t have much to say. He’s a humble man, and talking about the experience with strangers, such as a newspaper reporter, is a bit uncomfortable. Many soldiers, like Lobley, don’t want a lot of attention, and the average citizen can’t comprehend war unless they’ve been in one.

But today he’s here, back in his hometown. And while returning from the uncertain sands of Afghanistan to the relative calm of Amish country is a drastic change of pace, it’s a welcome one.

"It’s nice to be home with friends and family, but it’s a different set of friends than what you have in the military. It’s two completely different lives, but I’m all right. I don’t think the transition is too hard," he said. "I have so many good memories. I mean, there are some bad ones, but I had a lot more good times than bad times. I wouldn’t trade it for the world."

For now, he’s happy to be home, living in Brunnerville with his brother Jason and going to college at HACC, which is fully covered through the G.I. Bill. His parents, Edgar and Annette, still live in the area and he recently joined the Lititz VFW, where he’s received a warm welcome from the older veterans.

His next objective is to earn enough college credits to transfer to a university and eventually find a career in federal law enforcement.

Cpl. Edgar H. Lobley III will celebrate his 24th birthday on Feb. 3. Welcome home, Eddie, and thank you. More BRONZE STAR, page A14

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