April 3, 2006
Marine from Valdosta wounded in Iraq
VALDOSTA — Fourteen days ago Cody Finniessee endured a
sleepless night. He strapped on gear and headed out on a routine patrol in
Like most nights, Finniessee, a Valdosta native and corporal
with the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines, was alert and focused on the mission at
Minutes after the clock struck 10 p.m. Finniessee’s view on
the reality of war changed.
He was team leader in a convoy of six — four men in the back
seat with a driver and passenger in the front. The vehicle was en route to
Fallujah and had just passed a mosque when a loud explosion rocked the convoy
and thrust Finniessee toward the front.
“I was forced to the front and tried to get up when I
realized my face had blood on it,” Finniessee said. “I told the team I was hit.”
His team members panicked, but Finniessee remained calm and
told them to find his field dressing. He put a bandage on the wound and applied
“I would stay calm and give orders,” he said.
The convoy proceeded to a medical center in Fallujah where
Finniessee was taken by helicopter to a larger hospital.
Surgeons cleaned out shrapnel and packed the wound, which
stretched across the left side of his face. His jaw was fractured.
Shrapnel from the explosion, caused by an improvised
explosive device, hit Finniessee’s helmet and shattered the microphone on the
side of his face. A small scar above his eye marks where his eyewear hit and
nearly missed his eye.
His cousin and mentor, DeRon Johnson, a staff sergeant with
the Army of 13 years, understands Finniessee’s view on “understanding” war.
“This now makes the reality of war come closer to home,”
Johnson said. “When we are over there, you do your job but don’t think you’ll
get wounded. You just do your job, day to day.”
Overcoming past trials
Nearly two years ago, Finniessee made a public turning point
in his life when he shared his story with The Valdosta Daily Times. In 2002,
Finniessee, then a student at Valdosta High School, was arrested forallegedly
cursing at a teacher and charged with disorderly conduct. He was sent to the
Lowndes County Jail and released after a few hours of confinement.
A judge banned him from returning to the high school until
the year 2005. For Finniessee, who dreamed at age 7 of becoming a U.S. Marine,
the sentence meant more than his youth. That same year, he became a father. His
son, Zephan, is now 4 years old.
On Sept. 30, 2002, he entered the night program at the
Valdosta City School System’s Transition Center and made positive steps toward
turning his life around. He separated from friends and habits that led to his
old behavior and focused on academics. On Dec. 18, 2003, he emerged successful,
having worked 12 hours a day to achieve the credits necessary for a high school
He headed to boot camp on Parris Island in South Carolina in
mid January to fulfill his dream — to become a U.S. Marine.
Looking back to look ahead
On the night of March 21, 2006, Finniessee looks back and
remembers seeing two Iraqi men walking alongside the road minutes before the
“They didn’t have any weapons, so we let them pass,” he
Finniessee had a standard routine. Sleep was precious and
available only in spurts.
He would wake around 10 a.m. and work until 3 to 4 a.m. Foot
patrols, observation posts, home searches, raids … a variety of methods to look
for Iraqi insurgents and maintain security.
He’s seen friends die
in combat. He’s seen others seriously wounded. Yet each day, he would rise, a
U.S. Marine, and embark on his duty … his calling in life.
“I want my son to appreciate the ability to walk down the
street and not worry about freedom,” he said. “You need to be able to express
yourself without consequences.”
Zephon thinks he sees his daddy on television, and it
“Every time he sees a Marine on TV he salutes and says
‘da-da,’” Finniessee said. “I know I have an influence on him.”
Johnson was an influence on Finniessee, back when the-then
teen was getting into trouble.
“Several times I would talk to the teachers and principals …
I stayed on him a lot,” Johnson said. “It was a great route he took, he got
focused to do something with his life. The Marines made a great man out of
The cousins laugh, remembering when Johnson showed up at
Finniessee’s graduation wearing an Army Class A uniform, the dress uniform.
Johnson’s mother, Belinda Fair, said it’s hard to bid two
loved ones farewell to the desert.
“I pray a lot,” she said.
Finniessee served for five months in Afghanistan in 2004 and
seven months in Iraq until his injury.
“We were so close yet so far away,” Johnson said of the two
cousins who simultaneously served in Iraq. Finniessee’s injury was the first
thing that brought them together in two years.
Finniessee has 30 days of leave followed by an undetermined
amount of medical recovery time. For now, he will enjoy spending time with
family, playing golf, watching television and “putting his feet up.”