By M/Sgt. Elmer Ill
WITH 1ST MARINE WING, June 5 -
Mario is a 12 year old Korean orphan boy. He doesn't have a last name
- nor does he have a right leg. Two years ago a Korean doctor couldn't
diagnose a growth on his leg, so he cut it off above the knee. Mario
was discovered by Father Joseph F. Cloonan, a chaplain serving with
Marine Aircraft Group 33. He was playing baseball in the play yard
of the Catholic orphanage near wing headquarters, doing a bang up job
of it, too - until his crutch slipped and he fell and hurt his arm.
It was then Father Cloonan decided Mario needed a new leg.
HE CONTACTED Lt. (J.G.) Patrick F. O'Connell, a doctor
serving with a ground control group of the wing. The doctor volunteered
his services to measure the leg and make a plaster cast in insure a
proper fit. Marines, hearing of Father Cloonan's project, asked to
be let in on the deal. He announced it one morning at mass and the
marines opened their hearts and purse strings to the tune of $153.
Before more money could be collected, Dr. O'Connell wrote to a nurse,
Mrs. Elizabeth Deuber, who served with him in the family clinic at Marine
Corps Air Station, El Toro, and told her of the situation. Mrs. Deuber
told her husband, James, a prosthetics man for a group of Los Angeles
doctors. He contacted the Adroit Prosthetics Company, Los Angeles,
and told them about Mario and the attempt to get him a new leg. The
workers volunteered their labor. The cost of the material was all that
was needed and the marines had that. The artificial leg arrived in
Korea, and the day for Mario to try it was near. It was like any other
day for him. He got up, dressed, ate his breakfast, and watched the
other children play. A short time after lunch, two jeeps drove into
the orphanage yard. Out stepped Dr. O'Connell and Father Cloonan. The
leg was finally attached and adjusted. Mario stood up and looked at
his two full pant legs for the fist time in over two year. A smile
slowly crossed his face and his eyes said thanks to everyone who made
this day possible.
The moment arrived. Mario took his first step-a
little shaky and still with the aid of his crutch, but with two legs under
him instead of one. He looked up for the needed encouragement, got it,
and continued his practice.
IT'S A LITTLE difficult to work an artificial leg
with one good leg. The knee bends as he steps and, as he prepares for
the next step, must pull the leg back to snap the knee joint in the
upright position. It is an involved process, but as the day went on
Mario was getting the knack of it.
A couple of hours went by and the doctor
noticed that Mario was getting tired. He advised him to stop for the
rest of the day. Mario was ready to rest, but hated to give up. As the
father carried him off for a nap, he asked a question. "Could I sleep
with my new leg tonight?" "Yes, you can sleep with it, Mario, it's yours
from now on." said the doctor. Mario went to sleep. The
leg wasn't on. It was cradled in his arms like a new-found friend.