March 26, 2010. Cpl. Todd Nicely is leading a patrol in southern Afghanistan with 12 Marines of the 1st Squad, 1st Platoon, Company F, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines.
Lance Cpl. Felix Camarillo, 19, of Los Angeles was third in line, behind Nicely and the platoon's commander, Lt. Brian J. McGrath Jr., 27, of Glenside, Pa., who was along to interact with locals.
Camarillo saw Nicely engulfed in dust and debris. "Nice!" he yelled.
The explosion knocked down the whole patrol, Camarillo said.
McGrath tried to quickly sweep the area with a metal detector to make sure there were no other bombs. But there were so many fragments on the ground that he threw the detector aside and rushed to Nicely.
The blast had blown off Nicely's helmet and flak jacket.
He looked awful.
"I almost lost it," Camarillo said. "There were bones sticking out... His right leg was just completely gone. His left hand was gone."
Much of his right arm was also gone and his left leg was barely attached, other Marines remembered.
He also had a wound that looked like shrapnel had gone through the bottom of his jaw and come out his left cheek and an abdominal wound with part of his bowel protruding, his friends said.
Camarillo and Lance Cpl. Sean Harrigan, 19, of Methuen, Mass., who were trained to treat combat trauma, put tourniquets on what remained of Nicely's limbs to stop the bleeding.
A strapping corpsman, Jerrod Francis, 21, of Louisville, sprinted over from another squad and went to work on the other wounds. He was amazed that Nicely's vital signs were decent.
Nicely recalled: "I remember... thinking to myself... 'Just keep breathing so you can get back to your wife.' "
Michael E. Ruane of the Washington Post does a terrific job telling the story of the day Cpl. Todd Nicely got hurt, how his fellow Marines saved his life, and of his subsequent progress. One of the things I like best about it is that he captures not just Todd's spirit, but that of his wife Crystal. Because there's more than one Hero in this story.
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