24 January 2011

Saving a Marine's Eyes

Continuing his Vantage Point series at the NYT's At War blog, CJ Chivers revisits the events of May 27, 2010. The Marines were on a foot patrol when an IED killed Cpl. Jacob C. Leicht and wounded Cpl Brett R. Sayre. Mr. Chivers was embedded with the MEDEVAC crew who responded that day. In this piece, he focuses on the improvement in protective equipment that saved Cpl. Sayer's life - and the ballistic eye wear that saved his eyesight.

To examine for yourself the immediate effects of Corporal Sayre’s wounds, watch the video ... from the moments after the helicopter landed. You’ll see he was disoriented, bloodied and effectively blind. (Warning: Graphic content.) You’ll also see that he is intact. His armor and helmet appear to have prevented what could have been more gruesome and grave trauma.

But what of his eyes?

Inside the Black Hawk, he was asked by the flight medic whether he could see. The corporal had a single-syllable answer: “No.”

Watch the video closely as Corporal Sayre is escorted to the aircraft, and as the flight medic tries to comfort him and begin the exam. Look him over.

Corporal Sayre’s helmet shielded the upper portion of his cranium. His short hair was swept flat and burned, but he did not suffer a penetrating wound to the skull, as many victims of bomb blasts do. The vest shielded his torso from shrapnel. He could well have suffered internal bleeding; it was too soon when this video was made to tell.

But unlike the victims of bombs who were not wearing flak jackets and are commonly seen at blast sites, his torso is not a mess of holes. The ballistic groin flap kept debris from striking his genitals. The fire-retardant uniform he wore prevented extensive burns on his limbs, which protruded from the Kevlar of his vest and suffered light shrapnel wounds (He did have burns on his left arm, reaching to his armpit, from where bomb’s heat flashed up his sleeve. Memo to those who walk these kinds of walks: Button and cinch down your uniform and keep everything tight).

In sum, much of this young corporal’s body was protected from any number of wounds that might have killed him, or, at a minimum, made his case – and his future — much more complicated.

Now let’s have Corporal Sayre describe the wound to his face:

I was 15 feet from the actual blast. I had total face wounds. I lost all the skin from my nose to my neck. Burned right off. And my goggles were destroyed. I couldn’t even open my eyes. I was blind. I couldn’t see a thing.

Note his use of the past tense. I was blind.

There's much more at the link - make sure to read it all.

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