CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- He was the first Marine with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit injured in Afghanistan, and he wanted nothing more than to be with his fellow Marines as they returned to Camp Lejeune.
Corporal Daniel Lasko, a motor transport operator from Easton, Penn., welcomed the Marines and sailors from MEU Service Support Group 22 as they unloaded their gear from ships and greeted families and friends. It was the first time he had seen many of them since the attack that cost him his left foot.
The mission started much like many of the other convoys Lasko had participated in - long, slow and without any enemy contact. While driving on a reconnaissance patrol through a treacherous mountain pass in April, Lasko's truck
"Up until that point it was just reconnaissance," said Sgt. Tamarr McKay, another MSSG-22 motor transport operator, who was in the truck with Lasko when the IED exploded. There had been little interaction with the enemy, prompting McKay and Lasko to joke that there were no mines in Afghanistan. Still, the nature of the mission prompted both of them to volunteer to drive for it.
"We were hoping to see something that someone else wouldn't," said McKay. It was an unfortunate case of getting what they wished for.
Two explosions rocked the truck, cracking the windshield. An IED blasted through the floorboards and ripped through Lasko's left foot. Though McKay escaped relatively unharmed, Lasko would later have his foot amputated.
"It was slow motion when it happened," said Lasko. "I tried to get up, but couldn't. I was covered in JP5 and blood."
Marines raced Lasko out of the pass to an open spot where a helicopter could land and take him to a medical clinic at Kandahar Air Field. After stabilized, he was flown to Germany where he underwent two more surgeries. Later he was transferred to Bethesda Naval Medical Center in Maryland to continue his recuperation. He now conducts routine physical therapy at Walter Reed Army Hospital.
"It's my new MOS," Lasko said with a smile, referring to his recovery efforts.
Today, Lasko is doing well, having reached a point where he can jog on a treadmill with the aid of a prosthetic foot. His spirits are also high, jokingly referring to his new foot as his "souvenir."
His future looks bright, although his military future is pending the results of a medical review board. He is comforted with the fact that numerous Marines with similar prosthetics have been able to continue careers in the Corps. He and his fiancée are planning on getting married as soon as she graduates college. And, as important as his recovery is, Lasko rescheduled a medical appointment in order be in Camp Lejeune for the return of MSSG-22.
"This is more important," said Lasko. "I wish I came off (the ship) with these guys. I was happy that everyone from the MSSG came back safely. This is part of my family."
Lasko was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal during a brief ceremony outside the unit's headquarters at Camp Lejeune. Lasko previously received the Purple Heart while he was in the hospital following the attack.
In addition to MSSG-22, 22nd MEU (SOC) consists of its Command Element, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, and Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 266 (Rein.).
For more information on the 22nd MEU (SOC), visit the unit's web site at http://www.22meu.usmc.mil.