Excerpted from the Washington Post: Marine veteran Matthew W. Mcelhinney was patrolling through Afghanistan when the rifle round hit him. Fired by a Taliban insurgent, it ripped into his back just below his body armor and tore through his internal organs.
He’s one of thousands of Americans who have sustained gunshot wounds in the Afghanistan war, but Mcelhinney’s gritty first-person account of the day he was shot — March 10, 2010 — has gone viral online this week, capturing the attention of thousands of readers on the Web site Reddit. Inwords both profane and touching, the infantryman recounts how he was rushed to a hospital in Afghanistan and cared for by his fellow Marines on the battlefield.
McElhinney’s post, titled “Almost,” has resonated with Reddit’s broad readership. Some questioned the legitimacy of his account, though, so he followed up by releasing a video on YouTube in which he shows a photograph of himself in the hospital with Gen. James Conway, the commandant of the Marine Corps when McElhinney was shot, and the round that hit him. The day he was wounded also was covered by an embedded Stars and Stripes reporter in 2010.
McElhinney, now 25, says in another post on Reddit that he has been frustrated by his care from the Department of Veterans Affairs. And in a third post, he recalls a recent interaction with his now-retired sixth grade teacher. He was in the man’s classroom when the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, occurred.
Here’s his letter that he posted to Reddit:
I can’t make you really understand the feeling in my body that day, the best I could do would be to tell it to you like this.
I tried to hop a gap to gain a better angle on this hole in a compound wall, every other movement is this risky. It seemed clear, it wasn’t.
First you feel the round hit.
It feels like a sledge hammer hitting you in the back, my stomach felt like the worst incontinence imaginable. Then you paradoxically try to resume your task in the fight, until you realize your own bodily dysfunction. I started flailing and screaming as horribly as you could possibly imagine. I could hear people directing fire when someone saw me on the ground and started screaminlike a banshee for a Corpsmen. I could hear the corpsmen call booming through the school house as I laid in the dirt writhing in agony and crazily pulling at the grass surrounding me, feebly attempting to displace the unmitigated sensation surging through me.
Then a warm pours over you, seeps through your body armor, pools down at your legs, and you can’t even see it, because the one time you attempted to roll and have a gander is first time you blacked out.
Marines and Afghan soldiers are what you wake to. They’re dumping mags, chewing through belts, and covering your bloody mess with their frantic bodies all while trying to drag you behind a corner and out of the kill zone. I could tell you what I remember of that moment. Marines screaming for cease fire, others laying down suppressive for Doc Pasqual (who had been out on the satellite patrolwas my understanding). Doc Duhart was taking a shit or something moments before the ambush and had his kevlar on and his body armor hanging off, he was flying through gears to get to me. He initially covered me and helped get me out of the shit spot I was in. People later told me that when Pasqual arrived at the scene, he became machine like, straight faced tearing and shearing my shit, sweat, dirt and blood drenched cammys off my body. Doc Duhart gave me my first morphine jab, initially it just added to the surreality. Eventually tho, the IV’s and morphine brought me enough capability to cope and come about some what.
Staff Sgt Campbell dove into the prone in front of me and began screaming his face off at the ANA who were just dumping 240 belts in arbitrarily. He was asking me all kinds of questions to keep from blacking out again. “You got a girlfriend?” “You read for a sweet ride McElhinney, just stay with us!” Imagine that the terror of your youth, the man who dragged through some of the most dick in dirt field ops that the most elite fighting force in world has to offer and every time you struggle or fuck up he is elated.
Now this man is laying down before you. You’re looking up at his dirty ass face you realize that he’s terrified and doing everything in his power to do something of grave value. You see him trying to rip off your cammys, and then you see his gear go from shitty, dirty, digi-marpat, tan to a deep ominous red.
And then you realize that some religious zealot nut with a fucking a RPK or a Dragunov has put a bullet just beneath your back SAPPI plate, through your back, pelvis, colon, and into the anterior wall of you abdomen. The faces around you read to you as tho the least favored but most probable outcome, is that you, and the body you inhabit, are probably going to die. Time for due diligence on everyone’s part.
After I was as affectively stablized as the situation permitted, they rolled my mangled side of beef on to a pole less litter. If it weren’t for the mountain of gauze filling the chasm in my back the rock I rolled on to probably would have caused actually shock instead of a mild black out. I could hear people returning from the satellite patrols as they came in, but what kept me awake was my hands dragging over the rubble of the school. I heard people losing their shit over me, at this point a lot of smashing and running. Com chatter was going absolutely ape shit to secure my EVAC.
“30 mikes out McElhinney, hold on bud! Birds are in the air.”
I don’t even know who’s talking most of the time. I was losing a lot blood and I had never had morphine, which was kicking me in the balls. I remember all of Lima One swarming the school house, calling out sectors and fortifying what was left of a decrepit attempt at civility. I remember being on the litter looking forward out of a massive hole blown in the wall.
Marines are squeezing my hands and trying to keep my talking. Not letting me slip into shock at a moment like this is a deciding factor on how my day turns out. I kept slipping into black outs, only to be awoken by Sgt Mckinney and Wizinski trying to break my hands with their grip. Eventually the dope started to round me out a little bit better and I recollected for a second that while I was outside some reporter from Stars and Stripes cought me being shot on camera. I rambled a lot, even for me I guess. I remember Lt. Gaughan (The platoon Bostonian) was breaking my balls about getting to go home and see “Your God forsaken Yankees” or some facetious shit like that. To which I apparently slurred out “Fuck off you crazy Beantown fuck”. Everybody laughed, I partially blacked out, Wizinksi was breaking cartilage at this point.
Sgt. McKinney called me brother. That might sound stupid or maybe a little douchey. But if you knew the hate and discontent this man instilled in 3/6 Lima guns you would know that in that moment, I realized I was a Marine forever. Even if I died a few moments later in the roll of the dice, it didn’t matter, my name was made.
I felt this transition come over me when I saw the smoke signals and the helo team fall out of the sky like a fucking comet. I could see the rage and tears in my brothers eyes as they wrestled for a spot on the litter to hold. I remember the agony of the pole less litter going to and fro from everyones non-synced gaits, and my hands dragging along the last jagged rocks I would ever touch in Afghanistan. They loaded me onto the helo and everyone tried to say their goodbyes. The air crew shoved most of them away but Wysinski got in next to my ear and said “If you go atleast you’ll be with your mom, bud” and then the bird touched off.
I remember saying my stomach hurt alot on the helo ride, every time I would say it to the PJ he would check my vitals and all the crazy shit I was hooked up to. In case you weren’t aware, you can’t hear shit on helo’s. But, I was on the “Hey I’m fucking dying” amount of morphine and persisted to blab. I remember waking up to this dude’s finger on my corroded artery and mid pulse read, grabbing his hand and just squeezing it. I grunted out the ride and eventually we were hitting a tarmac and a team was ripping me onto a gurney and put me in some mil spec ambulance.
I recognized where I was at.
I was on the airstrip next to Camp Bastion, the British/American heinous injury hospital. The reason I know where I am is that a few days prior to punching out into the suck, Berny and I had traveled there to see his mother, Commander Bernard, Chief of Radiology. This meeting however, didn’t consist of a walk, a cup of coffee, and a romp around the base in a bongo bus. But, instead it turned into me flailing and hollering for Commander Bernard. When she came into the triage room the last thing I remember was telling her to “tell Jason I love him like a brother” followed by probably a garbled mess of insanities. Then, a dark.
Her voice was like nothing I had ever heard. I could gather that she was milling about the room explaining to the recently coherent, the horror, that is now their life, and yet it was the most angelic thing I had ever been graced with.
I assumed I had made it to in the halls glory.