Sgt. survives sniper round to the head - Marine Corps News | News from Afghanistan & Iraq - Marine Corps Times
Sgt. survives sniper round to the head
By Brian Shane - Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday Apr 5, 2011
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.
It’s a “you-gotta-be-kidding-me” story that earned Boothroyd, a signals intelligence operator with 2nd Radio Battalion, a new call sign from his team members: Headshot.
“It was a one-in-a-million shot that the sniper was even able to hit me,” he said in an interview with Marine Corps Times, “and a one-in-a-million chance that the bullet didn’t destroy my brain. It wasn’t my time.”
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.
Boothroyd, 22, said his survival came down to the single-digit millimeters separating the 7.62x54mm Dragunov sniper round from his spinal column and its main arteries.
Boothroyd’s firefight was one many Marines have faced in Helmand province’s Sangin district, which has become one of Afghanistan’s most violent and casualty-heavy arenas.
Two days after the incident, Boothroyd was transported to National Naval Medical Center Bethesda, Md. Surgeons on March 16 removed the bullet with no complications. Boothroyd received the Purple Heart for his combat injury.
“It’s one of those things where I feel like I’ve been given an unearned vacation,” he said of his 30-day recovery. “In the surgical ward, I was only one of two gunshot wounds. Everyone else, they’re all guys who have lost legs to [improvised explosive devices]. I look at those guys, and I think, ‘Do I really deserve a Purple Heart compared to these guys?’ ”
Meanwhile, the Marine Corps and Army continue to test a new, stronger helmet to better combat enemy bullets, including 7.62 rounds.
Boothroyd said he hopes to return to Afghanistan for a second deployment this fall, if possible. In the meantime, he’ll convalesce at home through mid-April with his immediate family, his wife, Ashley, and 2-year-old son, Paul IV, in Midland, Mich., before returning to his battalion at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
“The neurosurgeon says he’s miraculously fortunate,” said the Marine’s mother, Carol Boothroyd. “It hasn’t damaged his enthusiasm for, frankly, going back or anything. He really loves the Marine Corps. We’re just really, really thankful that he’s OK and he walked away from this.”