Marine With an RPG in His Leg
Have you heard about the incredible story of Marine LCpl Winder Perez? 23-year-old LCpl Perez was stationed in Afghanistan (Musa Qala, the Fortress of Moses, in Helmand Province), and on January 12, 2012, Perez and the rest of his team were sent to investigate a report that an IED was found in an area. They located the IED, verified that it was in fact legit and they went about their work.
They were all packed up and heading back to base when they came under fire. The Marines scrambled and then they noticed that LCpl Perez was down. His fellow Marines came to his aid and noticed that LCpl Perez was hit with a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) and the unexploded grenade was lodged in his leg. They quickly grabbed Perez moved him to cover and applied a tourniquet to his leg. In typical Marine fashion, several of his fellow Marines make a joke about the situation, with one saying, “I’m glad I have my protective glasses on”. To the average civilian making a joke about something like that is unthinkable, but to a Marine, it is just another day.
When the call came out for a medivac, there was an Army team already in the air and in the area. When they heard about the situation, the Pilot, Army Captain Kevin Doo, asked the rest of the flight crew to each vote if they wanted to continue with the mission. If one voted against it, they would abort the mission. Flying a patient with an unexploded ordinance could cause catastrophic damage to the aircraft and the crew. As expected, the entire crew signed on and the mission was a go. If you have never been in the military, then you would likely not understand why the crew decided to take the mission. They all knew the consequences if the ordinance exploded while they were in the air, but they also were not going to allow a Marine to die on their watch if they could help it.
The medic team arrived and started to assess the situation, and one of them told Perez “You have an RPG in your leg“. Perez, who was still alert, shouted back, “Are we good?“. The crew quickly stabilized Perez and loaded him into the bird. The Black Hawk helicopter lifted off and flew the 11.2 minutes (65 miles) flight to the nearest medical unit.
Besides having an unexploded RPG on the flight, LCpl Perez’s ventilator failed during the flight, so Spc Edens and Sgt Hardisty manually gave him oxygen for the remainder of the flight.
On the ground at the medical center at Forward Operating Base Edinburgh, Perez asked Navy trauma surgeon Lt. Cmdr. James Gennari (Department Head, Surgical Company B, 2nd Supply Battalion) for more painkillers. That is when the following conversation between Perez and Gennari took place.
“Where is everybody?” LCpl Perez asked.
“You have an RPG in your leg, and everybody’s staying away from you,” Lt. Cmdr. Gennari answered. He decided to tend to Perez alone thinking, “I am not going to ask somebody to do what I am not going to do.”
Perez fully realized, “I’m not the one being protected. I am the one being protected from.” He was quiet.
“I promise you,” Gennari told Perez. “I will not leave you until that thing is out of your leg.“
“Cool,” Perez uttered and then passed out.
The entire procedure was not like any that they had performed before.
With Perez knocked out, explosives expert Army Staff Sgt. Benjamin Summerfield came to help and began the crude but necessary work of getting that RPG out of his body.
Summerfield grabbed the fins of the weapon protruding from Perez’s flesh. The RPG moved a little.
Summerfield stood next to Gennari and gingerly wrapped his fingers around the device. The RPG was stuck. The two then pulled the fins downward toward Perez’s feet and yanked again.
Finally, the grenade came loose from Perez’s leg, and a specialist carried the device.
With the RPG out of the picture, it was time for Lt. Cmdr. Gennari to do what he does best, save lives. He quickly stuffed the wound with sterile cotton and tightened the tourniquet.
Perez made a very speedy recovery at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and was walking with a cane in no time.
Thank you to the Army medivac crew:
Army pilot Capt. Kevin Doo
Sgt. Robert Hardisty – Crew Chief
Sgt. Hardisty – Flight Medic
Specialist Mark Edens – Flight Medic