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"We'd be in this converted chicken coop playing, and this mortar would come in. It was the loudest, most scariest thing you ever heard because you knew it came from guys who were trying to kill you."

Navy corpsman Stu Fultz spent five months in Iraq last year, tending to dead and wounded Marines.

"I was with the shock-trauma platoon attached to the 2nd Marine Division." Although he says he is a "metal guy," he was playing blues scales with Marines in their early 20s when the mortar landed in their living space.

Before he left for Iraq, Fultz played bass for a year in Dirtnap 29, an Oceanside band. When he returned from the war eight months ago, Fultz and lead singer Nick Zenns formed Compartment Syndrome. Fultz now plays rhythm guitar. When he got out of the Navy in March, he'd planned to stay in North County, concentrate on his band, and pursue a job in the medical field.

Fultz admits that his Iraq experience made it hard to concentrate. He doesn't write a lot of songs about war carnage, but after living under threat of roadside mines and suicide bombers, he says he finds song lyrics of others to be on the whiny side.

"It's, like, [lyrics about] your dad [who] treated you bad. Boo-fucking-hoo. Or you lost your job. Or your girlfriend left. Boo-fucking-hoo. You know what? There's bigger stuff going on around the world; stuff that's happening outside your egocentric-filled life."

Fultz says Compartment Syndrome will play out when the time is right. He says he's undergoing a "filtering-out process.... I've just done the hardest thing I've ever done in my life."

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