Last week: Waco native Carl Gulebian, 35, joined the Marines and was deployed to Iraq when he was sent out in a sandstorm to deliver a message. He made it back to his vehicle, but later discovered Iraqi tanks had been headed his way. Fortunately, other tanks in the area took care of it.
Stationed at Camp Pendleton in California, Carl Franklin Gulebian, a mortarman, was busy with new training and left the mortars behind as he prepared extensively for his next deployment to Iraq.
Drills included tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel (TRAP), escape and evasion and sapper training. He also became part of the QRF, or Quick Reaction Force, and carried an M-16 with a grenade launcher. He would need it in Iraq, where he would come under major attack.
Gulebian deployed to Japan for two months with the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines before they went to just outside Fallujah, one of the most dangerous cities around.
The firefight he missed in the first deployment was in full force. “What I didn’t get in the first deployment I definitely got in the second,” Gulebian said.
There were bullets whizzing overhead, explosions and sniper rounds hitting close to the troops who were riding in open Humvees with little to no protection.
The 1st Marines pulled back and stayed on the grounds of a small factory. He found out a friend died in a firefight and got emotional. Then he was advised to use it to get angry. So, Gulebian got angry.
At one point, a helicopter was shot down, and since Gulebian was part of TRAP, he and others went to secure the scene and ended up babysitting the helicopter until the morning. Typically, their job was to retrieve what they needed and burn the bird.
“That’s not our job because ambushes happen that way, and that was what happened,” he said.
The enemy was walking in mortars closer and closer to the platoon. The fight was on. They came under light to medium fire. Gulebian got hit in the stomach with an AK-47 round, but it was only a flesh wound, so they kept going.
Suddenly, Gulebian saw two men with grenade launchers, who fired at the vehicle he was riding in, hitting it also with explosive devices. Everyone was knocked unconscious and half the squad was injured. Gulebian, too, was knocked unconscious and was hit with shrapnel. One man died.
“Everybody thought we were dead,” he said.
When Gulebian stood up, he was shaking badly and was bleeding, but didn’t realize it.
Gulebian didn’t stay in a hospital for long, and the more he thought about it, the angrier he became. He wanted revenge. At that point, he had a lot of anger, he said.
When Gulebian returned to his outfit in Fallujah, he was sent to the infirmary for monitoring. He eventually went back to work and there were more firefights and a couple of men were killed. From that point on, nothing else major happened but they did conduct psychological warfare by driving around blaring rock ‘n’ roll.
He turned 21 in Iraq and then left shortly thereafter to return to Camp Pendleton. But when Gulebian returned to the States, he began to suffer from nightmares and flashbacks and decided it was time to get out. He was honorably discharged as a lance corporal after four years and seven months. He still has shrapnel in his right shoulder today.
In addition to a Purple Heart, he earned an Iraq Campaign Medal and a Global War on Terrorism Medal, among others.
Gulebian had a rough time of it after he left the Marines. He returned to Waco but traveled across the country doing odd jobs. He couldn’t find a calling — and he was drinking.
“When you serve in the military, you have a purpose. When I got out, I felt like I lost that purpose,” he said.
Gulebian returned to Waco and went to work for the Baylor Police Department as a dispatcher. He met his wife-to-be, Lindy Latham, and they were married in 2009.
With Lindy’s help, Gulebian began to heal. He joined a ministry, Warrior Heart Ministries, where he serves as a chaplain. It helped him a lot with his PTSD. But it wasn’t enough, so he joined the VFW Post 2148, where he is a service officer. He also joined the Marine Corps League to reach as many people as possible.
“No one is quicker to help another veteran than a veteran,” Gulebian said.
In 2014, Gulebian was diagnosed with a tumor and suffered a stroke while in treatment. He put on a lot of weight but has since lost nearly 100 pounds. He is in remission today and is doing well.
Gulebian has no regrets regarding his military service.
“I truly believe it prepared me for the rest of my life,” he said. “The military sets you up to do the greatest thing you can accomplish.”