The bullet entered in his upper lip, went into his mouth, and exited out of his jaw. Then it went back into his chest just below his collarbone and lodged itself in the skin underneath his armpit. “It just felt like I got hit by a baseball bat in the face,” said SSG Daniel Hayes Hayes, who walked to the MEDEVAC helicopter. This isn't his first Purple Heart, and he's also a Silver Star recipient.
TF Bastogne Soldier exemplifies courage, luck
Combined Joint Task Force 101
Story by Capt. Peter Shinn
KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – It sounded like a worst-case scenario, April 2, when the call crackled over the radio during Operation Strong Eagle III, an operation to disrupt insurgent activities in the province: “We’ve got a Soldier shot in the face, and it looks like the bullet passed through and lodged in his chest.”
The wounded soldier, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Daniel Hayes of Grand Rapids, Mich., not only survived, he walked to the medical evacuation helicopter that took him from the battlefield in the Marwara District to the 102nd Forward Surgical Team at Forward Operating Base Wright. After surgery at FOB Wright, Hayes walked to the second MEDEVAC chopper that transported him to Bagram Air Field for follow-up treatment.
The FST surgeon who treated Hayes is U.S. Army Maj. Mike Kilbourne of Richmond Hill, Ga. Kilbourne described Hayes’ injuries as Hayes rested nearby, awaiting airlift to the next echelon of care.
“The bullet entered in his upper lip and went through his lip, into his mouth, cracking his upper teeth and injuring the top part of his mouth, and it exited out just at the level of his left jaw,” Kilbourne said. “Then the bullet went back into his chest just below his collarbone and lodged itself in the skin underneath his left armpit.”
Minutes after Kilbourne finished the surgery to repair Hayes’ torn cheek and injured chest, Hayes was alert, sitting up, and talking. Hayes, an infantryman with Company B, 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, explained how he had been able to walk to the MEDEVAC landing zone under his own power, despite his wounds.
“It just felt like I got hit by a baseball bat in the face,” Hayes said. “I could tell I didn’t get hit by any arteries, so I was able to stay calm,” he added. “I usually pride myself on staying calm most of the time, so it worked out this time.”
Hayes’ military record backs up his self-assessment. The seven-year U.S. Army veteran earned the Purple Heart during his deployment to Iraq in 2006 for injuries sustained when his convoy hit an improvised explosive device. Then, for actions during Operation Strong Eagle in June and July 2010, Hayes was awarded the Silver Star, a medal presented to Hayes personally by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Dec. 7.
Kilbourne, the surgeon who treated Hayes at FOB Wright, noted Hayes’ bravery. Kilbourne also pointed out that Hayes was extremely fortunate.
“He was just within inches of injuring very large structures that deliver blood to his brain,” Kilbourne said. “I think there’s been soldiers that have been about as lucky as him, but he ranks up in, probably, the top-10.”
Hayes was reluctant to talk about himself or about the incident that brought him to the FST for treatment.
“The main thing is, we got ‘em,” Hayes said. “Our guys are well-trained; they have a lot of firepower and we destroyed the enemy.”