Sam Dean | The Roanoke Times
In late January, Jordan scores lower than he used to on the firing range, but he still requalifies as a marksman. That leaves his medical review and fitness test as the last hurdles for returning to full duty.
Meanwhile, his three dozen fellow combat cameramen start shipping out again to Iraq. In the unit's office, there's a large Purple Heart-shaped plaque with the names of their six brethren who have been killed or wounded in Iraq. Jordan's name is the only one listed twice. The plaque has space for many more names.
With the 1st Marine Division shipping out, there isn't much for Jordan to do on base, no promotions or changes of command or other ceremonies to photograph: "I'm the senior man in the office," he jokes. "Actually, I'm the only man."
He'll spend the next year providing support services to his fellow combat cameramen in Iraq, and learning everything he can about multimedia before he takes off his uniform for the last time.
In his quiet moments, lying in his bunk, driving back roads, sitting on a bench in the winter sun, Jordan is conflicted about his time in the military. He's proud of his service, thankful to the Marines, but disillusioned with a system he believes has failed him.
It's a marked difference -- not only from when he enlisted as a gung-ho teenager nearly three years ago, but also from just a few months ago when he returned to Camp Pendleton full of hope.
He's proud of his service, thankful to the Marines, but disillusioned with a system he believes has failed him.
In the end, the frequent deployments, being wounded, the medical bureaucracy, being apart from his new wife, who may face an Iraq deployment of her own -- it's all too much for Jordan.
"It's a lot for us to deal with," he says.
In February and March, Jordan gets good news. Randi's request to be transferred to Camp Pendleton is tentatively approved for this summer. He has more surgery on his hand. And his leg suddenly starts feeling better, so he's put in a "return to readiness" program, the last step before his medical review. When he runs on a treadmill, his knee and ankle crackle like an old man's joints, but his spirit is buoyed: He's running for the first time since the roadside bomb tore into him.
Jordan is hopeful but realistic.
"Since April of last year, I've been saying it's going to be next month, it's going to be next month. But I've learned the body doesn't heal as fast as the mind does, I guess."