was supposed to be like any other mission.
was already in my quarters for the night in Iraq,
Bayji when my squad leader came in
to let me
know to be prepared to replace my team
a mission to the Bayji police station
the next day.
We were to be escorting the CO to the
to continue his ongoing discussion
with the local Chief
of Police concerning the local police
taking on more
responsibility for traffic control
points, regular patrols
and other duties. We had been working
with the Iraqi
Army and Iraqi Police, training them
and helping them
to perform their jobs more efficiently
and more securely.
Next morning, it took us about fifty to fifty-five
to get to the police station. When we got there,
up security. The 'HMV'ees were combat parked and
dismounts went up the three stories to the roof
building. There were six to eight soldiers in
on the roof top. I was pulling security at the
the police station, scanning my sector and talking
the other guys that were up there. We had been
on the roof for about an hour and a half and we were grumbling good naturedly about it getting close to lunch time and how
the CO was going to make us miss lunch if he didn’t get finished up pretty soon.
I was kneeling down on my right knee, doing my job, but grumbling loudest of all.
I had just finished a pack of peanut butter crackers
that had been in my pocket and smoked what was to be (though I did not know it then) my last cigarette when, suddenly, out
of the blue, a single shot rang out.
They say you can hear the bullet coming. I’m here
to tell you... that is true. That single bullet came roaring through the morning air and struck me between the plates of my
“bullet-proof” vest on the left side, ripping into my flesh and entering my body between the ribs. It continued
through my left kidney and spleen, then clipped off the bottom of both my lungs and tore through my diaphragm.
I had just been in the process of standing up when it
hit me. I grabbed the three and a half foot high sandbag barricade in front of
me and held on as I felt the feeling drain out of my feet and legs from the waist down. I remember thinking, “ Oh no,
I’m paralyzed” and I determined to hold myself up off that dirty rooftop.
I yelled “I’m hit!” over and over as the pain started to rise to an unbearable level. I was hanging on to that sandbag wall for dear life and saying over and over “I DO NOT want to die
I remember “Doc” our company medic grabbing
me and saying, “You’ve got to let go now, Buddy, I’ve got you...let go!”, but I just did not want
to go down onto that roof. I really thought I would never get up if I did go down, so I held on until Doc finally managed
to get me to let go.
As I was lying back on that rooftop, I remember looking
up and seeing my team pulling security around me, scanning and looking for any sign of the sniper while protecting Doc and
me. I cannot ever express how grateful I am for my well trained team doing their job and for our chain of command which insisted
we be properly trained and prepared for situations just like this. I know that The Good Lord and good training is why I am
Most of the injured soldiers I have talked to say they
do not remember much after they got hit, but I remember most everything all the way up to being sedated at the hospital. I
remember them cutting off my vest and uniform and trying to stop the bleeding. I
remember the pain of trying to breathe with two deflated lungs. I remember my team getting me tied to some kind of stretcher
and lowering me down off that roof and getting me into the back of the 'HMV'. I remember the back of the 'HMV' was too short
and I was shoved in it at an angle. I remember the driver being told to “Move it as fast as you can!” and “This
man says he is NOT going to die over here so we are NOT gonna let him die over here!” and Doc saying, “Don’t
go to sleep, man, stay awake!” I was determined to stay awake anyway because
I was sure that if I did close my eyes I would never open them again in this world.
It took us about thirty-five minutes to get back to the
FOB, as I recall, even at top speed in the 'HMV'. The helicopter was already
touching down as we pulled into the aid station and I was loaded quickly on board and flown to the nearest hospital, which
I was later told, took about ten minutes.
Once at the hospital, I was really starting to fade out. My kidney and spleen were bleeding inside me and I could not breathe with two punctured
lungs and a busted diaphragm. Right after I got there, some kind of Doc told
me, “I’m sorry, Soldier, this is gonna hurt, no time for pain killers” and stuck emergency chest tubes
in on both sides of me. Oh, man…and I thought the BULLET
I must admit, that is when I went out. I really do not remember being
in the hospital in Iraq or being transported to Germany, but I was told they took my left kidney and my spleen out in Iraq,
then transported me to Germany where I was reopened and my lungs and diaphragm were repaired.
I do know that I woke up in Walter Reed Army Medical Center about
eight days later with a big hole in my belly and feeling like I was dying of thirst.
My wife was there beside me and that was when I first heard the rest of the story. I learned that I had come over from
Germany four days after I had been shot, that I had been on a ventilator and that I had lost my kidney and spleen. I learned
that my wife had been flown to Walter Reed by the Army and had arrived there two hours before I got there. I was so glad that
the Army makes provision for the immediate family to come be with their soldier so that my wife could be there to help with
my recovery. Even the doctors say that is one of the reasons I have had such
a remarkable recovery, as their original expectation for me was to have to be in the hospital much longer than I was. The
things she did to try to make me have some degree of comfort, like dropping cool water in my mouth and then using the machines
to suction it back out because I was not allowed to swallow for weeks, are the only things I remember as soothing during that
surgeon responsible for my care in Germany came to Walter Reed about three weeks after I got there and visited with me. He told me he and his staff prayed together before operating on me and that he and
his family prayed for me that night. He told me that if I had received the same exact gunshot wound in front of my home in
a large city, with all the medical care available, I would probably not have survived to get to the hospital. It was the Lord and Army Emergency Medical Care that saved me. He
told me that the bullet missed my aorta by a hair and that had the aorta been nicked I would have bled out in less than a
minute and a half. I realized how close to death I had been and felt a deep gratitude to God and to the other soldiers and
medics that had done their jobs all along the way and kept me alive.
I spent two months in the hospital
with my abdomen open and my intestines swelled up out of my body. I was NPO or, “nothing by mouth” for 24 days
and lost over thirty pounds. Since I am six feet tall, I was always lanky at one hundred and seventy, but I was down to one
hundred and thirty eight pounds at my lowest point. I went through twenty-four different medical procedures in the operating
room before finally being released under doctor's care to recover as an outpatient there at Walter Reed in the Fisher
House where my wife was staying. I spent two more months at the hospital in that status and have now been released to
Fort Stewart, Georgia to continue my medical care and follow up there. I am now on the road to recovery though I know it will
be a long time before I am completely recovered. I am just glad I am alive and have the chance to heal and get well
so I can return to duty.
About two weeks after I was shot, the sniper who shot me made the mistake
of bragging about it down on Market Street, the Iraqi version of a strip mall/flea market. He was telling everyone that he
was the guy who shot the soldier on top of the Police station. The Iraqi people
he bragged to got the information on the guy and reported him to the authorities. My
platoon went searching for and found the guy. When they located him, he had the long-range sniper rifle that I had been shot
with, along with bomb making materials, weapons and information about other terrorists. It turned out that he was the same
guy responsible for rigging the IED that cost our company the lives of two fine solders and injured several others a few weeks
prior to his shooting me. He is now in prison and will probably be there for the rest of his life, so he won’t be taking
out any more soldiers.
As I look back on this experience, I realize that on that fateful day, I
was in the eyes of this sniper, for how long…I do not know. I was not aware
that while I was keeping watch, thinking about chow and smoking a cigarette, this guy had me in his sights and was thinking
about pure, unadulterated, premeditated murder. When he pulled that trigger and saw me go down, I am sure he laughed with
glee thinking he had killed me…and he darn near did.
Yes, he thought I was dead, this hidden coward who shot
from the seclusion and secrecy of someone’s home, then ran and hid. He thought I was dead but, though I have been through
a lot, he did not succeed. I did NOT die over there! I am still alive and my
spirit has NOT been broken. I am still alive, and while he has lost his freedom forever, I continue to live
in a land bought and paid for with the very blood he helped to spill…the land of the free and the home of the brave.
In addition to still being alive, I am also in the process of re-enlisting in the Army right now and plan to do twenty years
as a member of the greatest fighting force on the planet! So, hey, Sniper Man, you have your whole life to sit in prison
and think about the fact that, while you might take down the body, the spirit of an American Soldier can not
be taken down by you or anyone else…and you can put that in your hookah and smoke it! Hooahhh