Staying awake meant staying alive
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On a mission to capture terrorists in Iraq, a Navy SEAL was shot seven times, including in the ...
April 20th, 2008 12:04 PM
Staying awake meant staying alive
Staying awake meant staying alive -- dailypress.com
On a mission to capture terrorists in Iraq, a Navy SEAL was shot seven times, including in the face. How did it happen, and how are he and his family dealing with the aftermath? Jay's story offers a rare glimpse into the SEALs' world.
There are nights when Jay's 3-year-old daughter will climb up in bed with him to compare "boo-boos."
His 5-year-old — with her young, inquisitive mind — will ask about his bandages, the remnants of his tracheotomy tube or the metal rods sticking out of his arm.
And then there's Jay's 8-year-old son.
Just the other day, while working vigorously on his second-grade homework, he said, "You know, Dad, if you were standing there and a bomb blew up at your feet, you'd be a legend."
Jay laughed when he recalled his son's words. "I got shot seven times," he said. "I got shot in the face."
Then he shrugged — as if to say, "Isn't that enough?"
"It was funny," Jay said. "We laughed about it. You have to."
Jay's full name can't be used because he's an active-duty Navy SEAL from Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek in Virginia Beach. He's one of 25 Little Creek SEALs to be wounded in Iraq since 2005. That's out of only about 650 at the base. Because of the secret nature of SEALs' missions, which include apprehending suspected terrorists after they've been located by military intelligence, stories about them — and the dangers that they face — rarely get told in public.
MILITARY in the BLOOD
As a child, Jay seemed destined to join the military. It was as much a part of his heritage as it was his dream: "My father was Army. Sister is Air Force. Brother was a Marine. Grandfather was Army Air Corps in World War II."
It was his soldier father, though, who introduced him to the Navy SEALs.
"My dad put (SEAL) team guys through training at Fort Benning (Georgia). He was a jump instructor down there. He said, 'It would be perfect for you: They swim, and they jump out of planes, and they're nuts.' I said, 'Sounds great. Sign me up.'"
Fifteen years ago, Jay, now 33, signed up for the Navy. In 1995, he graduated from the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL school in California and was assigned to Little Creek.
In the spring of 2007, Jay said goodbye to his wife and three children and headed for the Middle East — his first deployment to what he calls the "beautiful, sunny vacation land of Iraq."
Iraq is often dismal and dusty, Jay said, but he and his SEAL comrades often wondered — while they drove around on various missions — that "if in 50 years, … the port cities may be a vacation spot. You never know. Could be."
They spent a lot of time driving around because one of the Navy SEALs' jobs in Iraq is to capture suspected terrorists. When military intelligence uncovers the hiding spot of a key terrorist or insurgent group leader, a team of SEALs is often sent to catch the target.
Through early September, Jay "displayed extraordinary courage while conducting 34 direct action missions that contributed to 11 enemy killed in action and 124 enemy detained," according to the Defense Department.
On one such mission, while Jay was acting as assault force commander, "his team came under heavy enemy fire after entering a target building. He quickly assessed the situation, positioned his forces to return fire and oversaw" treatment of the wounded.
By mid-September, Jay was close to heading back home. Jay and his comrades were so close, in fact, that most of their gear was packed up: "We were actually pretty much done. But you're ... still on call."
They were called Sept. 13.
"We got notified there was a key leader we had been looking for in an area we'd been in before. We were tasked to go out and get this guy."
They knew they'd probably get into a fight that night: "We'd been in that area several times and had gotten into multiple engagements. We kind of expected it."
But when they arrived at the building that the leader was allegedly in, "there wasn't anybody there. We found weapons caches and things like that hidden around it. But no people on target."
After about 45 minutes, Jay's team thought that it saw four or five individuals hiding in a nearby field.
"I took my assault team out to … question them. We had seen that before: A lot of times, they'll run out and hide in these fields. They hide in this thick brush. They lay down in it, thinking they can't be seen."
The SEALs headed into the field.
"We were told they were grouped together. That really wasn't the case. They were more set up in an ambush formation, with two machine guns and multiple AK-47s."
When the assault team got into "the kill zone," Jay said, "they opened up on us."
Three SEALs were hit immediately, including Jay, who was struck twice in an arm.
Imagine an 800-pound gorilla taking a baseball bat and hitting you in the funny bone, Jay recalled. Amplify that by a million, and that's what it feels like to get shot. The force of the bullets entering his arm was so strong, it spun him around backward.
"At that point, I thought my arm had been shot off. I knew I was losing a lot of blood. I was still trying to shoot and move. I was also yelling out commands. I'm sure that drew attention to me because they turned the guns on me."
Jay turned his head, looking down to tie his own tourniquet, and a machine gun round hit the back of his face, just below his right ear. It exited near his nose.
It knocked him out.
When he came to, he reached up and touched his face. His nose was gone. Blood covered his hands.
"I remember very clearly … laying there … and bleeding pretty good. I was feeling real weak."
Looking up, "I could see a tree and … the stars."
This could be it, he thought. "It's kind of a feeling of resignation."
'Had to STAY AWAKE'
Jay's resignation to death, though, was quickly replaced by thoughts of his wife and children.
"I thought about them and … was like, 'Nope, nope, nope. I'm coming home to see my kids.'"
Besides, he said, he didn't want to die in a dirty field in Iraq and give "these guys the satisfaction of knowing they killed me."
Jay got it into his mind that as long as he could stay awake, he'd survive.
"I thought I only had to stay awake long enough to make it to the ER in Baghdad because, of course, we've all watched the 'ER Baghdad' show on TV and know the amazing things they can do to keep guys alive now."
He tried to stay awake, but he can't remember another SEAL taking over the fight, exposing himself to the gunfire to pull Jay to a small area of cover that they'd carved out for themselves, and calling in an airstrike and a helicopter to evacuate the wounded.
"I do remember — when the (airstrike) came in — watching the rounds come in directly in front of me. I was actually showered with the dirt from the explosions.
"I remember the continued sounds of the firefight. I remember hearing the enemy cry out when they were hit."
And he remembered the medical evacuation helicopter landing 50 or 75 yards from him.
"When they started dragging me (to the helicopter), it hurt, so I told my team lead, 'Just grab my arm' — which I thought had been shot off — 'and grab my helmet, and I'll walk.' "
Moments later, after walking to the helicopter, Jay was on his way to Baghdad, where he hoped that he could pass out.
After the short flight, medical workers put Jay on a small cart and drove him to the emergency room. Along the way — per the hospital's safety regulations — they stripped him of his weapons and ammunition.
When he was finally wheeled into the emergency room, doctors, nurses and technicians quickly surrounded him.
"I (was) finally like, 'Thank God — I can pass out and not have to worry about dying.'"
Then a medical worker looked down at him and saw that he still had a grenade in one of his side pouches: "She's like, 'Oh, my God! He's got a bomb!'"
Jay said the whole medical team disappeared like something out of a cartoon: "It was like there were clouds of dust around me. I'm like, 'Where are you going? I've been shot in the face. I'm dying here. You're supposed to save me. I'm ready to pass out.'"
Tomorrow: The road to recovery.
"Each worker carried his sword strapped to his side." Nehemiah 4:18
Guns Save Lives. Paramedics Save Lives. But...
Paramedics With Guns Scare People!
April 20th, 2008 05:41 PM
Originally Posted by paramedic70002
they need to train the medic at them feild hospitals better.they are supposed to secure any weapons and ammo left on casualties not freak out like that when the dustoff crews miss something. it is somewhat funny though.
Last edited by MattInFla; April 20th, 2008 at 05:59 PM.
Reason: Fixed broken quote tag
"Nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result."
Every well-bred petty crook knows: the small concealable weapons always go to the far left of the place setting.
April 20th, 2008 07:18 PM
Holy crap! I'm sure glad that people like him are on our side. Thank you one and all service members.
Gun control can be blamed in part for allowing 9/11 to happen.
"Si Vis Pacem Para Bellum" (Latin)- "If you want peace, prepare for war".
April 20th, 2008 09:59 PM
MilitaryPower You said it.
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