25 June 2012

Wounded Soldier Recounts Heroic Firefight



Nick Keene, 24, of Butte, MT, shows the Purple Heart and an Army Commendation Medal with valor he received after a firefight in Afghanistan. Keene’s actions may have saved the lives of each of those soldiers lying prone on the roadside and his injured lieutenant, but he’s paid a steep price: For one thing, he’ll walk with a cane for the rest of his life. Photo: Walter Hinick/Montana Standard.



Although the force of the blast had pulverized the discs and vertebrae in his back leaving him unable to feel his legs, PFC Nick Keene fired 2,800 rounds into a group of Taliban fighters. Then he picked up a machine gun and emptied that. He put seven or eight clips into his own personal weapon and did the same until he finally lost consciousness.

Late summer 2011, in the Panjwayi District in Afghanistan with the 5th Squadron, 1st Cavalry, 1st SBCT, 25th Infantry Division out of Fort Wainwright:

He was driving an eight-wheeled Stryker armored combat vehicle, keeping watch while most of his unit surveyed a roadside ditch for improvised explosive devices, or IEDs. Suddenly a rocket hit below his vehicle. There was a moment of confusion and panic. What was that and where did it come from?

The second strike, a direct hit, answered those questions. Keene was blown from his seat into the side of the vehicle, crushing and breaking vertebrae in his back. In the next moments he took stock of his injuries as the gunfire continued: he thought his legs had been blown off despite the fact that he could see them beneath his pants. The crushed vertebra had damaged his nerves and he could not comprehend the new way his body felt.

Yet, there were other concerns. His gunner, the only other man in the vehicle, was imploring Keene to move so they could get in better position to defend soldiers who were now pinned down next to the road. Keene did all he could to drive the vehicle a few hundred yards before it succumbed to the damage of the rocket blast and could go no farther.

Their lieutenant, a recent graduate from West Point, lay injured in the road. Their gunner struggled with a rear weapon that had jammed. Since the vehicle was no longer operable, Keene crawled through it and took his position at one of the guns. It was painful and he could not stand. Yet, he soldiered on, unjammed the gun and took aim behind it. He fired on a group of about eight Taliban fighters who were moving to get a better angle on the pinned troops. Since his legs were not working, Keene had cinched himself in the hole that allowed him to rise out of the vehicle and operate the guns. He didn’t take his finger off the trigger until there were no more bullets left to fire.

His mother Brenda remembers getting the phone call.

“He was in shock I think, but they let him make a call,” said Brenda. She chokes up thinking about those moments, and contemplating how easily it could have been worse.

“At least I could hear his voice,” she said.

The recovery was difficult, both physically and practically.

He arrived back on base in Alaska without identification, wallet or credit card, and walking across campus was next to impossible. Yet he didn’t complain and didn’t ask for help.

“He’s not very aggressive as far as asserting things,” said Brenda.

Yet she doesn’t think that contradicts what he did that day in the desert, when lives depended on his actions, his ability to pull through pain and do what was required.

“He did what he was trained to do,” she said. “I’m not surprised he reacted the way he did. That’s just the way he is. If he didn’t do what he did, who knows how many would have died.”

You can read the full story here.

And here's a nice story about PFC Keene's return to Alaska, where he was welcomed by the 5-1 Cavalry FRG.

68 comments:

nail tables said...

Man, I salute you. You guys are our new modern heroes and what you have done deserves respect and recognition.

Anonymous said...

That is worthy of the MOH, if I every read one.

Anonymous said...

I agree he does deserve a Medal of Honor.

Anonymous said...

I agree he does deserve a Medal of Honor.

Anonymous said...

Soldier on brave man!

Anonymous said...

AN ARCOM? ARE YOU S#!77!NG ME? I'M SURE THIS SOLDIER'S BRONZE STAR (AT THE LEAST)HAD BETTER BE IN THE WORKS. HE DESERVES THAT MUCH! I'VE SEEN REMFs GET HIGHER ACCOLADES THAN AN ARCOM, JUST FOR DOING THIER JOB.

Anonymous said...

Hooah

Anonymous said...

DSC or MH

Anonymous said...

Epitome of a true American soldier. His actions were that of a higher level award.

Paul g said...

Holy crap that's all he got. This is another example of why morale is so low in the military.

Anonymous said...

Brave soldier!! Brave mom!!

Anonymous said...

give that man a medal of honor

Anonymous said...

What a damn shame, ARCOM?!?! LIKE ITS BEEN SAID, AT LEAST A BRONZE STAR.... I know of NCOs who did way less like run a MWR tent who received bronze stars.... wat a damn shame that because hes a pfc they give him a bullshit arcom...

Anonymous said...

He needs more than an Arcom!!! That's bull!!! He deserves at least a Bronze Star with V device if not a Silver Star. I have seen soldiers awarded Arcoms for basically just doing their job.

Anonymous said...

in ww2 they gave out purple hearts to most injured troops it's a insult to this soldier to not be given a medal of honor

Anonymous said...

I sure hope they do better on the medals I think you deserve much more. A Bronze Star, The Medal of Honor. You desever it. Awesome story I'm glade your still able to convey it.

Anonymous said...

Soldiers CONUS in non-combat situation get bs Arcoms all the time for crazy nonsense. Give that man the awards he deserves. Whoever put him in for that award screwed him.

Anonymous said...

I agree this soldier deserves at least a bronze star with a V! Thank You for your serve!

Dc said...

Personally owned firearm down range ?????

Anonymous said...

Silver Star mimimum.

Anonymous said...

Silver star, or bronze with v device. An arcom should not have even been in the discussion. That's his chain of command being shit. Im sure all the e-7 and above fobits got a bsm.

Real soldier said...

Read an actual moh award. Not to discredit his actions but putting him in the same category as SSG Giunta, and Audie Murphy is a stretch.

Anonymous said...

To all who played a role in the dicision to give this troop a "PCS" award for his acts of valor.......... " Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it." (PROVERBS 3:27). It is never too late to do the right thing by this troop!

Anonymous said...

Own personal weapon another words his M4 or M16

Anonymous said...

When they said personal weapon it was either his m4 or sidearm, as the Stryker's gun he was firing was empty. This sounds like Bronze Star at least to me...possibly the MoH

Anonymous said...

I agree should get more than a "PCS" award I mean I received that for Korea...shame on the leadership definitely should receive BS, or at least an MSM.

Anonymous said...

man this guy deserves more than just an ARCOM. i would think a Silver Star or at the very least a Bronze Star with "V" device would be great.

Sbeal117 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sbeal117 said...

I'm not saying he should have the Medal of Honor but for sure he should receive more than an ARCOM. I have an ARCOM and I never crushed any bones in my back.

Anonymous said...

Brought tears to my eyes reading it.
But no, if you want Medal of Honor level material, go read actual MoH citations.
But yeah, Arcom is BS. I got an Arcom for not damaging my equipment while in Iraq. This is definite Bronze/Silver star territory.

Brad said...

Absolutely agree an ARCOM is ridiculous. I got an ARCOM for talking my BN CDR into extra training for my company at a drill period that other units missed because of snow. Clearly that is nowhere near the same plane as this Soldier's effort.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like we need to put some calls into the 25th ID CDR and find out why this young man was not put in for a higher award and if so why the hell was it downgraded. ARCOMs are like AAM's when it comes to deployments, this should not even been considered for this young Hero.
What a shame!!!

Anonymous said...

Please remember, that ARCOM is not like the ARCOM you get in garrison for PCS'ing. It's an ARCOM with a "V" device. Big difference. His story sounds like a BSM W/ "V" device at a minimum. That is where his LEADERSHIP failed him. They should have made it happen.

Anonymous said...

Is this for real....has anyone verified this by seeing his official commendation.....if it is true he deserves more

Anonymous said...

WOW his CO needs his ass kicked to award him only an ARCOM with V. This brave soldier deserves a silver star, DSC, or MOH. Not lower than a silver star. They need to award him what he earned!

USAMP1980 said...

The fucked up thing is he probably only got an ARCOM because of his rank. I bet the LT got a bronze or Silver Star. So very wrong.

Anonymous said...

He deserve more than this bronze medal. Hey Army give him Medal.of honor because he sacrifice hos life to fighting to saving someone from big enemies com on you know better he deserved it he is injured and keep fighting that is true honor him a medal of honor.

Anonymous said...

He should get nothing less than a Medal Of Honor

Anonymous said...

Guys im sure he liked the awards he recieved, but im sure when this happened no awards were going through his mind ! The only thoughts were to save his teammates , and get out of there. Although from what i see he definetly recieves a higher award than an ARCOM!

Anonymous said...

This man showed extreme courage. I think he should be honored properly. He should be wearing a Medal of Honor. God bless.

John F. Holmes said...

Blown from the drivers hatch of a stryker? By an RPG? Then drove the vehicle away from the contact then fires 2800 rounds from the rear hatch with what weapon without a barrel change? Then 8 mags from his personal weapon which is in the drivers harch?

Anyone here been on a stryker? Im sure he was brave and fought thru his injuries... But alot of the heroics are impossible

Sue said...

John,

There is always one asshole who needs to feed negativity into a hero's story. Maybe there is exageration, ts obvious you are jealous not of this soldiers actions, but of his character.

Susan Fogel

Anonymous said...

Bravo CoC. you manage to screw over yet another junior enlisted soldier.

mike said...

I want to see military paperwork or it did not happen. Everything thing a soldier does is followed by paperwork.

Anonymous said...

I got 2 ARCOMs JUST FOR BEING THERE in the desert as did the entire rest of my unit, as well as a bronze star just for being a member of a QRF team... Yet all this soldier gets is an ARCOM-V for something far more meritorious than anything I ever did? His CoC should be hanging their heads in shame, this is disgusting.

Anonymous said...

Definately not trying to downplay what this Trooper did, he's a tiger. MSM and AAM were never intented to be awarded in a war zone so they are awarded for "non combat related" tasks. And for all those of you who have "PCS'd" with an ARCOM with V device you need your head examined, because that never happened. At face value I agree that this young Trooper should have been put in for a higher award, but we don't know the details. It's a far stretch to go MoH on this information- was that really above and beyond the call of duty? On this info, BSM/V or SSM. Let's not prostitute the awards system any more than it already is.

Anonymous said...

An arcom is a fucking pcs -every e 4 and under gets one for completeing a deployment granted im sure theres two sides to every story but when is the purple heart ever not paired with something higher than a fucking arcom?

Elegy said...

A freakin ARCOM? I received ARCOM's for deployments and did nothing even close to what this kid did. I also received one for an ETS award.

I've saw a PL get a bronze star for a deployment award after only being there for half the tour. This dude got screwed big time.

Anonymous said...

You gotta be smoking the bad shit. This soldier, while paralyzed and freshly wounded, crawled to a weapon emplacement and laid down 2800 rounds before collapsing at his self-appointed post. His meritorious and heroic actions saved the lives of his fellow soldiers, most likely at a steep personal cost to himself. If fighting on while devastatingly wounded and saving the lives of those you serve with does not deserve the MOH, I don't know what does.

Anonymous said...

Even if for whatever reason they don't think that this is worthy of a medal of honor.... don't you think it's worth more than an ARCOM with V.

Anonymous said...

Whoever put him in for this should be beating their fucking faces. Probably the officer who he saved; afraid a private's dress blues might look better than his.

Anonymous said...

are you fucki*g kidding me only a arcom, HE should have a DSC!!

Anonymous said...

It never fails soldiers doing what others wouldn't have even thought of gettin the shaft. During my several deployments I seen E-6's and above get bronze star just for being that rank. Hear I am my troops and I laying down bad guys and plenty of them walking out the war zone with an Arcom. Had he been higher ranking he would have at least gotten a bronze star with a V device. This soldier did not leave his post cuddos, could not use his legs, risked being completely paralyzed and protected his solders before passing out. His COC is bout as worthless as they come. I bet all the COC got higher recognition for doing hardley nothing

Anonymous said...

In the last 11 urs of war 6 of which I've deployed this trooper deserves higher. I don't think any soldier should get a MoH unless they die just my opinion. But deffinetly something along the lines of a silver star or soldiers medal. I've been on deployments where if you are E-6 and above you get a bronze star so the bronze star will be forever watered down and not a respected award to me. In OIF I my squad laid down so many bad guys, arrested even more with great intel an all we got was an Arcom shit I got that just for going to Sapper school. It's always those that do all the work or the best job and get hardley no credit. I never cared about awards they all go in a drawer lol but this soldier getting an Arcom is plain insulting guy was damn near paralyzed. Hell I've seen NCO' and officers leave their post while being attacked and then get a bronze star lol. The award system is rigged then if his COC didn't like him that's a whole nother discussion.

Anonymous said...

Well said!

SPC Robert Coones said...

Great job PFC Keene. The Army is nothing without great dedicated soldiers like yourself. I would salute you any day with or without a medal of honor! Hooah Brother!

Anonymous said...

Everyone call your senator or representative...let's get this man what he deserves.

Anonymous said...

So you've seen NCO 's and officer leave their post huh!?!? So why were you looking at them and not fighting?!? And on the soldiers medal, that is a NON- COMBAT AWARD!..... BARRACKS LAWYERS!

Anonymous said...

You people need to look up the history on-the-medal of honor! Then you'll see why he is not even close to meeting those minimum requirements! Once again, please know what your talking about!

- Good job on doing your duties as a soldier!

Anonymous said...

I will disagree with those of you who have said that this Soldiers actions are MOH material. This Soldier definetly also does deserve much more than a damn ARCOM. I'm sure he received this because some one on a staff some where thought he shouldn't get a Silver or Bronze Star with a V for his first award. Hypocracy, Poor Leadership, and Buerocracy at it's finest.

Anonymous said...

Agreed. Couldn't have said it better.

Anonymous said...

Ok, I hope somebody is looking out for him and working on an upgrade. I can't see how an ARCOM even with Combat V is sufficient for this action. I believe he should be getting a Silver or Bronze Star with Combat V minimum.

LTC L

Anonymous said...

The story from those on the ground with him is a little different and that's all I'm gonna say... This Soldier did sacrifice a lot but not the way this blog has highlighted. Please don't alwAys believe what you read in a blog... And I do know what I'm talking about I'm part of his unit!!

MaryAnn said...

Please note that this story was not written by this blog. It was written by Tim Trainor of the Montana Standard newspaper. We have quoted from that story and linked to it.

We understand that reporters don't always get everything right, so your point is well taken.

Anonymous said...

I sense pogegness and jealousy. And by the way this link was posted in the army's fb. Just saying. So way to go fobbit.

Anonymous said...

nice posting.. thanks for sharing.

Jonesazwg said...

I agree this soldier deserves at least a bronze star with a V! Thank You for your serve!

Anonymous said...

This soldier was one of my own before i retired a few months ago. He was never was awarded anything other than his Arcom with Valor. We had put him in for a Bronze Star with valor but a General in Afghanistan downgraded it to an Arcom w/V, most likely because of his rank. had he been and NCO or officer i bet his award would have gone through. Another fine example of high ranking officials serving the needs of themselves and their buddies. Pfc Keene, now SPC Keene has never once complained of be robbed of this award, it goes to show the character of the soldier who didnt do it for an award he did it to save his brothers.