‘A living testimony to God’s power’

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 2, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

Amid the death and destruction that was necessary to liberate Iraq from the iron grip of tyranny, Marine Cpl. Lameen Witter was grateful for the opportunity the experience gave him to &uot;start anew with God.&uot;

Witter, of Brooklyn, N.Y., was a Marine Combat Correspondent filming a movie of the Iraqi Freedom operation. Speaking Thursday morning at the 19th Annual Suffolk Leadership Prayer Breakfast, Witter recounted his experiences before a capacity crowd of more than 500 people at the National Guard Armory.

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Witter said religion was an important part of his home life growing up, but that he had strayed from the Lord as he grew older.

&uot;Being out there in Iraq with a tank unit to film a movie, I found myself closer to the Lord than every before,&uot; he said.

The corporal noted that the fighting seemed almost surreal to him until he saw people get caught in a crossfire and several were killed.

&uot;I realized then, ‘This is real,’&uot; he said.

He said he immediately stopped, put his head down, and asked the Lord, &uot;to help me; to guide me; to bring me home.&uot;

Witter was joined in recounting war experiences by flow Marines, Cpl. Nicholas Elliott of New Castle, Del., and Cpl. Samuel Velazquez of Vancouver, Wash.

Elliott and Velazquez met aboard ship and were drawn together by their shared faith in God.

Both Marines were Amphibious Assault Crew Chief Commanders, earned Purple Hearts and came near death on the battlefields of Iraq.

Both also noted that they prayed aboard ship that God would lead them to someone who would support them in prayer.

&uot;God answered my prayer,&uot; said Elliott. &uot;I asked him to bring people into my life and then and there we started talking about God.

The pair started a devotional group that met each evening to read the Bible and discuss God, which eventually attracted four other Marines.

&uot;That’s pretty big for the Marine Corps,&uot; Elliott said.

Elliott said his transport was ambushed in Nasyriha. He caught shrapnel in his neck.

&uot;I thought that was it and I was going to die,&uot; he said. &uot;I sat down and applied a dressing to my next, made my peace with God. I was ready to die.&uot;

But it wasn’t meant to be. The wound in his neck stopped bleeding.

&uot;Daniel chapter 3 came to my head and a calmness took over me. I quit worrying about my wound.&uot;

But Elliott and his platoon were far from safety. He helped gather up seven wounded and two dead soldiers and load them on his vehicle. Then the vehicle was hit again. Everyone he just helped load was killed. Only he and the driver survived. He told the driver to run to a house he had heard the Marines had secured. When he tried to run he realized that he had been hit again.

&uot;It was then I realized I didn’t have no ankle – my whole Achilles tendon was blown off.&uot;

Somehow, he made it to the house and when Marines there saw his condition they asked him how he made it.

&uot;It’s amazing what God can do,&uot; Elliott said, &uot;and bullets fueling you.&uot;

While Velazquez’s tale was not quite has harrowing, he too suffered wounds to his neck and ankle in a similar incident. His 26-ton armored personnel carrier took seven mortars.

&uot;God will deliver you from pretty much anything,&uot; Velasquez said. &uot;Never did I dream…that I would be a living testimony to God’s power through the power of prayer.&uot;