I had the distinct pleasure this past weekend to spend some time with George Grant, the Navy Corpsman who saved my life 6 years ago in Iraq. He would hate to be called a hero and insists that he was just doing his job, but I disagree. To put it bluntly, I would not be here if it weren’t for George. After I was shot in the head, and while the sniper was still shooting at the Marines around me, George performed an emergency tracheotomy on me and also conducted rescue breathing. In fact, when he first turned me over I was no longer breathing and the other Marines thought I had been killed instantly.
Obviously I rotated back to the States after I was shot, but Dahlia and I went down to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina to welcome home the battalion when they returned from Iraq in 2007. I saw George then and had a chance to say thank you to him.
We have both come a long way since then. I have had dozens of surgeries and moved ahead in my career; George has continued to do great things for the Navy and takes care of Marines and Sailors on a daily basis. We got together this past weekend, along with a handful of other wounded warriors and a few caregivers, and enjoyed a great beach weekend. For me, it was therapeutic and eye-opening to hear George describe some of the details of exactly what happened on October 18, 2006. But most of all, I was struck by the precise teamwork and coordination that was required by so many just to save me.
Besides George providing the lion’s share of the work, the rest of the squad of Marines, and in particular the battalion commander, all played important roles. Also, Lance Corporal Buehler risked his own life to save mine while driving us over roads littered with improvised explosive devices which would certainly have been deadly had he accidentally driven over one. Then the warm handoff at the aid station between the Marines and the medical staff, and of course all the different medical personnel who all played a critical role in Iraq and on the flight to Landstuhl, Germany.
As George and I discussed, the power of teamwork can be an amazing thing. Without it, I certainly could have died at any number of points from the time the sniper started shooting at us until I left the hospital at Landstuhl. We are all stronger when we work together, and the benefits are obvious. Of course, things are always better when you have someone like George Grant in your corner!