27 April 2011

The Flight Home

Kelli Pedersen looks on as Air Force Staff Sgt. Matthew Worsham, a respiratory technician with the critical care air transport team, prepares her son, Army Spc. Dustin Morrison, for an aeromedical evacuation flight from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, April 26, 2011, for follow-on care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. DOD photo by Donna Miles.

Evacuation Team Carries Wounded Warriors Home
By Donna Miles, American Forces Press Service

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany, April 26, 2011 – By many accounts, 20-year-old Army Spc. Dustin Morrison is a living miracle – and a testament to the military medical system that’s getting medical care to wounded warriors and moving them to progressively advanced levels of care faster than ever before.

Morrison, an Iowa Army National Guardsman, was severely wounded April 11 when his mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle struck an improvised explosive device in eastern Afghanistan’s Paktia province.

Army Spc. Brent Maher, the vehicle gunner, was killed, and two other members of the Iowa Guard’s Company B, 1st Battalion, 168th Infantry, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, were injured in the attack.

When Morrison’s mother, Kelli Pedersen, flew to Germany after her son was flown here, the staff at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center laid it on the line about his prognosis. “They told me how very close we came to losing him,” she said. His lungs were so severely damaged from the blast that the staff put him into a medically induced coma.

But after fighting for his life, Morrison made a breakthrough when began breathing independently two days ago, she said. And two weeks after being wounded, he was declared stable enough to transport for long-term care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.

Air Force Lt. Col. (Dr.) Raymond Fang has seen miracles like Morrison’s every day for the past seven years as director of trauma care at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. Battlefield casualties are getting medical treatment faster and closer to the point of injury than ever before, he told reporters.

Thanks to advanced aeromedical evacuation procedures, he said, patients now typically arrive at Landstuhl for advanced care within three days of being wounded.

And despite what Fang acknowledged have become increasingly devastating combat injuries, he said 2010 statistics show that patients who arrive at Landstuhl have better than a 99 percent survival rate.

“That is really unprecedented,” he said. “So if you are young and you get early care and you can go through our paradigm of staged care and be rapidly evacuated here, it seems to be effective. … You have a greater than 99 percent chance of survival if you can make it to us.”

An aeromedical evacuation crew carries wounded warriors aboard a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft April 26, 2011, for a flight to Andrews Air Force Base, Md., to receive advanced-level care in the United States. DOD photo by Donna Miles.

Pederson reflected on the medical care her son has received as she watched two oversized ambulances deliver her son and 40 other wounded warriors to a hulking C-17 Globemaster III aircraft on the tarmac here.

“I can’t even express how well they have taken care of him,” she said of the staff. “They have been so professional, every step of the way. But beyond that, they have been very honest. They’ve been able to take down their guard and be real with us, which has been so important in helping us through this process.”

Now, as Morrison was about to move on for advanced care at Walter Reed, Pedersen surveyed the bustle as the 86th Airlift Wing’s aeromedical evacuation team finalized the aircraft to receive the patients. With Air Force Capt. Anna Cho, a flight nurse serving as medical crew director for the mission, calling the shots, the team made final checks that the litter stanchions were secure and the tubes, cables and wires were properly connected to the medical equipment.

Then, the team worked with choreographic precision as they began hoisting litters from the ambulance and carrying the patients one by one aboard the aircraft and preparing them for the nine-hour flight to Washington.

“We do everything we can to take care of their needs,” said Air Force Senior Airman Brian Fox. “The biggest challenge is staying on top of the pain curve, especially because of the vibration. We make them as comfortable as we possibly can.”

Aeromedical evacuation and critical care air transport team members prepare Army Spc. Dustin Morrison, an Iowa Army National Guardsman severely wounded by an improvised explosive device attack in Afghanistan, for an April 26, 2011, flight from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, to Washington for treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. DOD photo by Donna Miles.

Morrison, along with two of the other most critical patients, was the last to be carried aboard the aircraft, where the aeromedical evacuation team secured his litter into stanchions just a foot from his mother’s jump seat.

Members of a highly specialized critical care air transport team went to work, ensuring he was secured as they hooked up a ventilator and medical equipment they would use to monitor his condition throughout the flight.

Each three-member critical care air transport team includes a physician, critical-care nurse and respiratory technician. They’re trained to treat patients suffering from the most severe injuries, and they’re armed with about 750 pounds of high-tech medical equipment that essentially turns an aircraft into a flying intensive-care unit.

“What we do is ensure they have the same level of care as when they were in the ICU at Landstuhl,” explained Air Force Maj. Kirk Hinkley, the critical-care physician for today’s flight. “That’s the whole purpose of a team like this: to ensure there is no step down in care” while the patient is transported.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Matthew Worsham, the team’s respiratory technician, knew he would keep particularly busy monitoring Morrison during the flight. “We’re going to keep an eye on his vitals, make sure the equipment is operating properly and that his sedation levels are right,” he said.

Worsham said he felt particularly grateful to be able to meet his patient’s mother. “That makes this special. You don’t always get to meet everyone’s parents,” he said.

As the ramp raised and the aircraft engines fired up, Worsham knew he was in for a long, demanding mission – but he said he wouldn’t trade the opportunity to care for Morrison and his fellow wounded warriors for anything in the world.

“It’s an honor to be able to do this,” he said. “I feel lucky having the pleasure of taking care of these guys who have served their country and made all these sacrifices. I have the best job in the Air Force.”

An aeromedical evacuation crew makes final checks on other non-critical wounded warriors aboard a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft before an April 26, 2011, flight to Andrews Air Force Base, Md., to receive advanced-level care in the United States. DOD photo by Donna Miles.

Thank you, Mrs. Pedersen, for sharing your story. We will keep you and your son in our thoughts and prayers.

26 April 2011

As fighting season begins in Afghanistan, the Kandahar Airfield hospital will likely triple its trauma cases

As fighting season begins in Afghanistan, the Kandahar Airfield hospital will likely triple its trauma cases. Photo: Peter Andrews/Reuters.

Brian Mockenhaupt reports from the hospital at Kandahar Air Field in Afghanistan for the Atlantic.

By 7 a.m., the first patients of the day were slid off the medevac helicopters and wheeled into the trauma bay at the Kandahar Airfield hospital in southern Afghanistan.

"I've got a wedding ring. Make sure my wife gets it," Staff Sergeant Jeremy Breece said. His face was streaked black and green with camouflage paint, and smeared with dirt from the explosion. "I need to call her and let her know I'm okay." A tourniquet squeezed each thigh. His legs ended just below the knees, still covered in shredded pantleg. The trauma team -- a doctor, two nurses, and two Navy corpsmen -- cut away his uniform and checked for other wounds. ...

From the slow winter months to the height of summer fighting season, daily trauma cases typically triple between January and July. Military leaders expect the same this summer as the Taliban fight to reassert control over areas where coalition forces made significant gains over the past year, and to retain areas where they still hold sway. The steady climb in casualties has already begun. ...

The majority stay in Kandahar less than 48 hours before making their way to home countries. Americans are flown to Bagram Airfield outside Kabul, then to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. Those with lesser wounds recuperate there and return to duty in Afghanistan; the rest continue on to military hospitals in the U.S.

Make sure to read the rest of this excellent article here.

24 April 2011

He is risen!

United States Army Capt. Ryan Kenny, of Billings, Mont., left, with the 82nd Airborne Division, holds a light over the text for Chaplain William Kneemiller, center, as he reads while Staff Sgt. Richard Webb, of Donna, Texas prepares to light the Easter candle during the Lighting of the Easter Vigil fire service of light at a forward operating base in the Arghandab Valley of Kandahar province in Afghanistan. 2010. AP Photo.

In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn towards the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary to see the sepulcher.

And behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow. And for fear of him the keepers trembled and became as dead men.

And the angel answered and said to the women, Fear ye not: for I know that ye seek Jesus, who was crucified.

He is not here: for he is risen, as he said.

17 April 2011

"I told him to protect his Marines like a pit bull and he did just that"

Statement from SSgt Jason Rogers' Company Commander:

SSgt Rogers exemplified the term Marine. He was a true mentor to the Marines that he led, he was slow to yell, quick to correct, and happy to praise.

Young Marines respected him; his magnetic personality and smile put young men at ease in tough situations.

I am grateful to have known him and I know that I will never forget what he did for my Marines.

On the day prior to SSgt Rogers going out on the next operation, I pulled him in my office and told him "your job is to look out for the well being of your Marines, protect them like a pit bull." On that day a situation arose where he did just that.

Two of his Marines were severely wounded while clearing a compound. One of SSgt Rogers' Marines struck a pressure plate IED.

SSgt Rogers immediately recognized the gravity of the situation and rushed to the aid of his injured Marines. He rushed to their aid and arrived to find that they had sustained very serious wounds and would surely die if he didn't do something.

SSgt Rogers was a rock solid example in a traumatic situation, directing the Marines to stay calm and keep focused, while he continued to ensure that the Marines tending to the casualties were responsive and coherent.

SSgt Rogers ordered the Marines to keep the casualties responding with oral communication. Even after this group of Marines had already experienced one mass casualty situation that day, SSgt Rogers was able to provide the combat tested leadership that kept their focus on the task at hand.

Recognizing that his wounded Marines would require stretchers to be moved and that his Marines would soon die if they didn't receive higher level care, SSgt Rogers wasted no time and assigned the remaining engineers to assist the Corpsman in preparing the two wounded Marines for evacuation.

Without regard for his own life and focused solely on getting his Marines to safety, he charged across 20 meters of uncleared, IED laden terrain in order to retrieve two litters from his nearby vehicle. He unhesitatingly crossed the 20 meter IED laden area in order to make his way back to his Marines.

Once he returned, he instructed the remaining engineers to prepare the casualties for evacuation.

Fueled by a tenacious desire to evacuate his Marines to safety, SSgt Rogers once again without hesitation or regard for his own life, placed himself between the enemy's devices and his Marines by using a Vallon metal detector to sweep a lane for their evacuation.

As he cleared the lane that he had traversed twice previously, he picked up a metallic signature with his metal detector. As SSgt Rogers went to confirm the IED, it detonated, and he succumbed to his wounds instantly.

Through his heroic actions and ferocious desire to save the lives of his critically wounded Marines, he paid the ultimate price and ensured that every last Marine came out of the compound alive.

Had SSgt Rogers not taken the point man position in order to provide freedom of movement to the litter bearers, the lead litter team would most certainly have struck the IED and led to the lost lives of most if not all of the engineer squad.

SSgt Rogers is a hero in the truest sense of the word. I can't tell you how proud I am to say that I knew him and I will tell my children and grand children of the Marine who guarded the lives of his Marines with ferociousness tenacity.

On the day he left I told him to protect his Marines like a pit bull and he did just that.

Capt John Shubeck D Company
Commander/ RCT-8 Engineer
1st CEB, 2d MarDiv (FWD)

Rest easy, Staff Sergeant. Your Marines are safe.

Update, 21 April. Please take a few moments to watch this interview with Jason's mom, Jenny Smith.

Part 2 is here. For some reason I can't embed both of them, so make sure to click through and watch the second half.

15 April 2011

A Hero's Welcome

Lance Cpl. Jason Hallett (l.) and Staff Sergeant Michael R. Gilio, both of India Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, are reunited at the unit's homecoming from Afghanistan earlier this week. Hallett has been recuperating at Bethesda Naval Medical Center since being wounded in October 2010. Photo: Heidi Cope.

13 April 2011

DUSTOFF under Fire

U.S. Army personnel from "Dustoff", C Company, 1-214 Aviation Regiment, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade gesture as they discuss the part of their medevac helicopter which was hit by a bullet during a mission today, at Camp Dwyer in Helmand province April 13, 2011. Photo: REUTERS/Denis Sinyakov.

New developments in prosthetics can make voluntary amputation an increasingly viable option

1st Sgt. Mike Leonard works with his Physical Therapy Technician Spc. Nick Peterson at Walter Reed hospital. Photo: Garrett Hubbard, USA TODAY.

Wounded Soldiers and Marines are making choices about arms and legs that predecessors from earlier wars never had: Advanced prosthetics created to replace limbs lost in battle now are being sought by troops with legs or arms that survived combat, but are not functioning well or are still causing great pain after months or even years of physical therapy.

WASHINGTON — Army 1st Sgt. William “Mike” Leonard found himself mourning the left leg that he had agonized for months about keeping. It was in December, just weeks before he would have doctors cut it off.

“There were a couple of nights,” the company sergeant recalls, “where I sat in the shower and just kind of had some tears about losing it.”

But the bomb blast in Afghanistan that had taken his right leg on March 22, 2010, had so damaged the left one that bones stubbornly resisted mending. Standing on the left limb was excruciating. Leonard could see other amputees at Walter Reed Army Medical Center up and running on new, high-tech prosthetics. “Why am I still in a wheelchair?” he asked himself during months of internal debate.

Doctors amputated Leonard’s remaining leg on Jan. 10. Within weeks, he was standing on gleaming new artificial limbs, balancing on bright green Nike Air Max running shoes, and sweating over a hip exercise machine.

“It’s nice to get up and get going finally,” says Leonard, 40.

This is the first article I remember seeing on this subject, which is more common than you may think. It's worth reading the whole thing.

Update: It's new developments in prosthetics like the latest in bionic legs illustrated below - which require less effort and enable more natural movement on uneven terrain - that can make amputation a viable option.

Package about how patients at Walter Reed Army Medical Center are receiving an incredible new prosthetic. Army Sergeant Nathan Jones shows us how it is helping them get up inclines, climb stairs, and get over other rough terrain that once held them up. Includes soundbites from Col. Paul Pasquina – Physician and Staff Sgt. Daniel Lister – Wounded Veteran. Produced by Sgt. Nathan Jones at Soldiers Radio and Television in Arlington, Va.

12 April 2011

3/5 Marines begin coming home

Families, friends and fellow Marines await the arrival home of members of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Regiment. Photo: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

More Marines from the battalion will return home over the next couple of weeks.

Exhausted yet exhilarated, Marines from the 3rd Battalion, 5th Regiment, returned Monday night to Camp Pendleton after seven months of combat, death and survival in Afghanistan.

Hundreds of family members holding signs and waving American flags waited on a parade deck for 250 members of the battalion. Known as the Dark Horse battalion, the unit suffered 24 killed in action and more than 175 wounded as it fought to wrest control of the Sangin district in the Helmand province from the Taliban.

11 April 2011

Six Task Force No Slack Soldiers Remembered

KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Spc. Brit B. Jacobs, a combat medic from Sarasota, Fla., assigned to Company C, 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, Task Force No Slack, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, gives a farewell kiss to the helmet of one of his fallen comrades during a memorial service for six fallen U.S. Soldiers at Forward Operating Base Joyce in eastern Afghanistan's Kunar Province April 9. Jacobs helped treat some of the wounded on the battlefield when six of his brethren died March 29. Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Mark Burrell, Task Force Bastogne Public Affairs.

Six TF No Slack Soldiers remembered

By U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Mark Burrell Task Force Bastogne Public Affairs
Tuesday, 12 April 2011 02:25

KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Soldiers held a memorial service for six fallen U.S. Soldiers from Task Force No Slack at Forward Operating Base Joyce in eastern Afghanistan April 9.

The U.S. Army Soldiers, all from 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, died during combat operations in Barawolo Kalay and Sarowbay in Kunar Province's Marawara District March 29.

The deceased included: U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Ofren Arrechaga, from Hialeah, Fla.; Staff Sgt. Frank E. Adamski, from Moosup, Conn.; Staff Sgt. Bryan A. Burgess, from Cleburne, Texas; Spc. Dustin J. Feldhaus, from Glendale, Ariz.; Spc. Jameson L. Lindskog, from Pleasanton, Calif.; and Pfc. Jeremy P. Faulkner, from Griffin, Ga.

Task Force No Slack commander, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Joel B. Vowell, a native of Birmingham, Ala., said the Soldiers' sacrifices were not in vain.

"Our enemy had grown too large, too bold, too capable to ignore any longer," said Vowell. "Task Force No Slack met that challenge and we destroyed and killed over 130 insurgent fighters and wounded scores of others in our biggest battle since Vietnam."

The operation lasted more than a week and exemplified the type of strength these Soldiers are best remembered for, said Vowell.

"Strength matters here and always has," Vowell added. "The strength of our Soldiers and our leaders has no better example than these six heroes depicted before you."

Much more at the link.

09 April 2011


U.S. Army medic SSG Quincy Northern from "Dustoff" team, C Company, 1-214 Aviation Regiment, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade walks toward his medevac helicopter as it casts a shadow on a hospital wall at Camp Dwyer in Helmand province, Afghanistan, April 5, 2011. Reuters photo.

08 April 2011

"I've gained more than I've lost"

Marine Cpl. Todd Love poses with his prosthetics in January. Love will be greeted with a hero’s welcome when he returns to Acworth, GA on Saturday. Photo: Staff/Special.

"I've gained more than I've lost. People praying for me have been carrying my life. I'm not sure they realize the power of their prayers, but I feel honored and humbled that people can be closer to God because of me."

- Marine Cpl. Todd Love, triple amputee as a result of injuries sustained in Afghanistan October 25, 2010

In the heat of battle

U.S. Army medic SGT Tyrone Jordan from DUSTOFF team, C Company, 1-214 Aviation Regiment, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade is bathed in sweat as he treats a Marine with a gunshot wound in the forearm aboard a medevac helicopter in Helmand province, Afghanistan, April 8, 2011. Photo: Reuters/Denis Sinyakov.

07 April 2011

U.S. troops in Afghanistan suffered 'unprecedented' number of catastrophic injuries in 2010

Marine 1st Lt. James Byler, 25, of Long Island, New York, was leading a patrol in Afghanistan late last year when an explosion severed his legs and snapped off the ends of several fingers. He is undergoing physical therapy at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times / December 22, 2010)

Increased foot patrols in an effort to win support from Afghan villagers, a key strategy in the counterinsurgency campaign, together with the Taliban's use of improvised explosive devices, has resulted in an 'unprecedented' number of catastrophic injuries to U.S. troops in 2010, according to a recent study (previous story here).

U.S. troops in Afghanistan suffer more catastrophic injuries

By Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times
April 6, 2011, 4:11 p.m.

Reporting from Landstuhl, Germany, and Helmand — Grim combat statistics that one military doctor called "unbelievable" show U.S. troops in Afghanistan suffered an unprecedented number of catastrophic injuries last year, including a tripling of amputations of more than one limb.

A study by doctors at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, where most wounded troops are sent before returning to the U.S., confirmed their fears: The battlefield has become increasingly brutal.

In 2009, 75 service members brought to Landstuhl had limbs amputated. Of those, 21 had lost more than one limb.

But in 2010, 171, 11% of all the casualties brought to Landstuhl, had undergone amputations, a much higher proportion than in past wars. Of the 171, 65 had lost more than one limb.

Injuries to the genital area were also on the increase. In 2009, 52 casualties were brought to Landstuhl with battlefield injuries to their genitals or urinary tract. In 2010, that number was 142.

Dr. John Holcomb, a retired Army colonel with extensive combat-medicine experience, said he and other doctors involved in the study were shocked by the findings, which he labeled as "unbelievable."

The hospital at Landstuhl is the busiest it has been since the battle in the Iraqi city of Fallouja in late 2004, officials said. Both the number and severity of wounds have increased, said Air Force Lt. Col. Raymond Fang, a surgeon and trauma medical director at Landstuhl.

The average patient stays about three days at Landstuhl before being airlifted to the U.S. for further care. "All we're doing is clearing up the destruction done by the injury," Fang said.

The increase in catastrophic wounds has taken an emotional toll on the medical personnel at Landstuhl, said Navy Cmdr. Joseph Sheldon, one of nine chaplains at the U.S. military hospital.

Sheldon and the other chaplains are also present when patients awake to learn of the extent of their battlefield injuries. He remembers sitting with a wounded Marine on Christmas Eve.

"There was a lot of silence and a lot of tears, for both of us," Sheldon said. "Everybody wants their life to be the way it was, but it's not. Coming to grips with that is hard."

The Camp Pendleton-based 3rd Battalion, 5th Regiment, has been particularly hard hit, with 24 Marines killed and more than 175 wounded while deployed in the Sangin district of Helmand province.

More than a dozen Marines from the battalion have lost two or more limbs. One of them is 1st Lt. James Byler, 25, of Long Island, New York, who was leading a patrol in early October when an explosion severed his legs and snapped off the ends of several fingers.

Byler's patrol was walking slowly, carefully, in what is called "ranger style," with each man following in the footsteps of the man in front of him.

"Everyone had gone over that spot," said Byler, now recuperating in the U.S. "I was just the one who stepped on it when it exploded.

"It wasn't a big one, but it was enough to blow my legs off."

More at the link.
Previous: Report shows steep increase in amputations in 2010

06 April 2011

They call him "Headshot"

Sgt. Paul Boothroyd waits for a medevac helicopter after sustaining a sniper round to the head March 4 in Helmand province, Afghanistan. Photo: Courtesy of Sgt. Paul Boothroyd.

Wow. Another amazing close call.

Manning the top of a compound south of Sangin, Afghanistan, Sgt. Paul Boothroyd III took a sniper round to the head. He landed face down onto the muddy roof with a thud.

Fifteen minutes later, Boothroyd was bandaged, smiling, smoking a cigarette and giving the “thumbs up” as he waited for the medevac helicopter, to which he walked under his own power.

Early March 4 in Helmand province, Boothroyd, attached to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, was on a rooftop providing over-watch for a local security patrol. It was his first deployment. Insurgents opened fire, “and I got hit by the first bullet,” he said.

The bullet pierced his helmet. The Kevlar caught and turned the round, he said, “so instead of going in and thrashing my skull,” it entered through the neck and lodged itself above and behind his right ear.

“It was like being hit by a train,” he recalled. “I remember what I was doing. I remember being hit, then I was face down in the mud on top of the building. I really wasn’t terribly concerned because I could hear bullets whipping above me, but I still had the presence of mind not to stand up. I thought, ‘Well, I don’t have any brain damage, at least at this point.’ ”

“My lieutenant pulled me to the edge of the roof so they could take a look at me,” he added. “I got a little upset when they were pulling my Kevlar off. I said, ‘Hey, if that’s holding my brain together, I’m going to be upset if you take it off.’”

The corpsman examining him found the bullet behind his ear. Now he hopes to keep it as a memento.

More at the Marine Corps Times.

Video: 101st Airborne's "No Slack" Battalion takes the fight to the enemy in eastern Afghanistan

The No Slack Battalion has taken the fight to the enemy in eastern Afghanistan in recent weeks during Operation Strong Eagle III.

The troops were on a mission to show force in an area where the U.S. largely has abandoned small bases.

The heavy firefight lasted hours, with the U.S. soldiers and Afghan forces digging into a muddy hillside.

According to [ABC News' Mike] Boettcher, the Americans and Afghans killed some 50 Taliban fighters and destroyed a Taliban radio headquarters.

When the fighting ended, six American soldiers and one Afghan soldier were dead, with 15 others wounded.

At least seven Medevac helicopters were flown in to rush the casualties to treatment. The operation, called Strong Eagle III, is still ongoing, according to Maj. Gen. John F. Campbell, commanding general of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) in a video teleconference from Afghanistan Thursday.

"There was a significant number of insurgents killed in this operation and several large, large caches found," said Campbell, "We knew this area had a number of insurgents in there. That's why we were targeting this area."

TF Bastogne Soldier shot in face, walks to chopper

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Daniel Hayes of Grand Rapids, Mich., holds up the bullet that pierced his face and chest, April 2. Hayes, an infantryman with Company B, 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, walked away after receiving treatment for his injuries, sustained during Operation Strong Eagle III. Photo by Capt. Peter Shinn.

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.”

03 April 2011

Welcome home, Cpl Josh Himan

Virginia Community Surprises Returning Wounded Marine: MyFoxDC.com

Virginia Community Surprises Returning Wounded Marine
Published : Sunday, 03 Apr 2011, 8:27 AM EDT

DALE CITY,Va. - Twenty-seven-year-old Josh Himan wept with gratitude, Saturday, when he returned to his family's home after 18 months of recovery and rehabilitation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Hundreds of residents of Dale City, Virginia lined the streets and held up homemade signs. 18 police motorcycle officers formed an honor guard. Then, when Josh reached home, he was shown the addition that volunteers constructed in the back of the house. That addition includes a wheelchair-friendly bedroom and bathroom.

An improvised roadside bomb destroyed the Humvee in which Himan was riding in Afghanistan in September of 2009. The Marine Corporal suffered severe spinal damage, among other injuries.

Many people who waved flags at Josh's motorcade on Dale Blvd. have never met the wounded warrior. Linda Gosnell said she came out, "Because it's the right thing to do." Bill Moser, a retired veteran of the Air Force, said he came to salute Himan's sacrifice. "I don't think there's enough people with his courage," explained Moser. "Most people are willing to let somebody else do it."

After telling reporters and supporters he's happy to be back home, Josh Himan grew very quiet. In a whisper, Himan, who had to pause several times, explained, "On the way here with the police [escort], I mentioned to my mom that I was glad to be able to see it. [Glad] that I was alive."

Himan brushed back tears and continued, "There's a lot of guys that didn't get to come home... So, I'm a lucky guy."

Himan joined the Marine Corps after graduating from Radford University. He plans now to earn a masters degree in finance.

And, from Carrie Costantini, who attended the homecoming yesterday, here's an earlier interview with Josh.

We've never forgotten you, Josh. It fills my heart to see how well you're doing. You're a very special young man and I'm sure you have a wonderful future ahead of you! God bless and Semper Fi.

Arctic DUSTOFF, continued

US medic Corporal Breh Schlieve from Arctic Dustoff team treats an Afghan man with a gunshot wound in the shoulder due to unrest in Kandahar. Photo: Reuters/Denis Sinyakov.

In which evil and ignorance beget savagery and death.
A source in Afghanistan's Interior Ministry told RIA Novosti on Sunday that the death toll had passed 100 in riots over the public burning of a Quran by a U.S. pastor.

Fighting is going on outside a government building and the city's fifth district is littered with bodies. Police say the protesters have been joined by Taliban militants.

Eyewitnesses told RIA Novosti by telephone that police had opened fire on a crowd that tried to storm a UN office, located next to a government building.

"A machine gun is being fired, there are a lot of victims," one person said.

Police in Kandahar said earlier in the day that they prevented an attempted attack on a UN office, killing nine attackers.

Protests over a public burning of Islam's holy book held by radical Christian preacher Terry Jones grew into riots on Friday.

The violence started in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif, where seven UN workers and four protesters died when a mob stormed a United Nations office. It moved on Saturday to the southern city of Kandahar, continuing on Sunday and spreading to Jalalabad in the east, where at least 20 people were killed.

U.S. President Barack Obama on Saturday called the killings "outrageous."

"The desecration of any holy text, including the Quran, is an act of extreme intolerance and bigotry. However, to attack and kill innocent people in response is outrageous, and an affront to human decency and dignity," Obama said in a statement released by the White House.

02 April 2011


US Army flight crew chief Sgt Cory Rodgers (L) from Company C, 1st Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment, MEDEVAC team wipes the face of a wounded US Army soldier on their Blackhawk helicopter over Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan on March 28, 2011.

01 April 2011


A Soldier from "Arctic DUSTOFF", Company C, 1st Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment based out of Fort Wainwright, Alaska, walks past Black Hawk helicopters at Kandahar Air Field, southern Afghanistan, April 1, 2011. Photo: Reuters/Denis Sinyakov.

108 Hours

Matt Burden, Soldiers' Angels Board of Trustees member, is putting out the word for help in sending a Gold Star Father to see where his son spent his final hours:
Last Christmas, I received this email from a Gold Star Dad. He lost his son a few years ago in one of the war zones. He reached out to us for help getting to stand on the very ground where his son was killed in action. As a Dad, I can understand it. As a vet, I want to help this great American father find some peace - what little of it he will find, he deserves...
...I can not die in peace one day if I do not go. I will be 58 in January and... I think I can't wait any longer. But more importantly I have a gut feeling it is time.
The only gift in life I dream of for myself, strictly only for me, is to kneel and touch the ground where [he] died. To smell the air. To see what he saw his final days, final moments. I can see it at a distance of several hundred feet through out of date Google Earth Photos but that simply is not good enough for me. Even if it were to cost me my very life, I have to go there. I need your help to figure out how to make this happen. I would appreciate anything you could do to help me formulate an entry plan in country to make this happen.

My best to you in this Holiday Season as [we] celebrate Christmas, continuing to Remember [him] With Honor. Happy New Year. Thank you for your friendship, for saving my life by giving me an outlet to share my feelings and come to grips with my grief.
This mission will take a lot of financial and physical resources. You can email suggestions to blackfive - AT - Gmail - DOT - com. But be advised that we have worked this through the various government agencies at some very high levels. Soldiers' Angels has agreed to support this mission.
If you think you know who this Gold Star Father is, please do not speculate in the comments. Just as with our troops, there are very serious OPSEC considerations with this mission:
Due to security concerns, I cannot tell you who this is about. Many of you will guess. I've turned off the comments because I don't want any information out there (true or false) to compromise this mission. I cannot tell you when this will happen. We are planning on completing the mission in the late summer or early fall, but I am not going to pin down the dates, months or seasons.
Matt says they'll need $30,000 to make this mission happen. Donations can be made to Soldiers' Angels to support it. Matt's post has those details, and may have additional updates, so please read his entire post.