Tell me about another blast you can’t forget?

I was the Truck Commander (TC) of a truck carrying 15-20 Iraqi Army guys in the back of the truck  that we were training and taking on missions, there was also a U.S. Army Captain in the back. In the cab with me was my driver, on the left side in the drivers seat, me in the middle so I could stand up out of the hatch to return fire if need be and help my driver back up, and an Iraqi Army LT on my left in the passenger seat.

We were driving along, nothing had happened in days, I was real tired, and half asleep, I had the hand mic to the radio jammed in my ear so I could hear if someone called me and my chin rested on the hand that held the mic. I was scanning the sides of the road for IED’s or anything that didn’t fit. We were going through a village and we had just made a right hand turn and were just starting to speed up and ((BOOM)).

Six other vehicles had passed already and it blew up on us, no one saw anything out of place or suspect, that’s how good they hide them.

Again all I could see was flames, dust, and smoke and I yelled over the radio, “IED Contact, left side!!” and stood up to get a bearing on the situation expecting to see death in the back, my driver started to stop so I slapped  him on the back of the helmet and told him to floor it because we were still in the kill zone. I stood up and threw out some bullets with my M4 as suppressive fire. I looked in the back of the truck and they were all laying down and just starting to get up and I screamed at them to return some fire and one by one they started to and we seen the trigger man run from a house towards a car so I took him out.

When it was all said and done someone asked me over the radio if I needed a medic and that is when I slowed down a bit and checked my driver. He had shrapnel hit his face but he was ok. Then I looked at myself and I had blood all over me and I thought for a moment that I was hit but nothing hurt and I patted myself down and found a few small shrapnel wounds but nothing that explained the amount of blood on me. That was when I turned to check the Iraqi LT next to me and he was covered in blood and his face was bleeding everywhere and had shrapnel all over it. His face looked like bloody hamburger meat. I can still smell the blood and smoke. I grabbed a hold of him and he was still alive, so I yelled for a medic and started to work on him myself, and he did survive. Everyone in the back was ok.

Again I seen no medic or doctor and had a lot of the same symptoms. We were super lucky on this one though because there were three 140MM Arty rounds planted there, but only one went off and the one that went off was an illume round vs. the two that didn’t which were HE (High Explosive) rounds. If either of them would have gone off  there would have been nothing of me left. They would have been scraping small chunks of me off the road to send me home.

I told the Army about my IED blasts and they flagged me to check for a TBI but I was told by superiors to not get too into it because I would affect my career. So I told them what they wanted to hear and they cleared me. No tests were run, we were just asked questions.

MRI

MRI image of Brandon’s Arachnoid Cyst: which develop as a result of head injury

Do you remember your first blast?

Yes, actually my first was a landmine in Iraq on my first tour in 2003. I was an E1/PVT or maybe an E2/PV2 and I was driving a Bradley with E4/SPC Keehan as the gunner and E5/SGT Rogers as the Bradley Commander (BC). It was a land mine that we hit.

I was driving with my hatch open because it was muddy and raining and I couldn’t see out of the periscopes with the hatch down. We were driving along and I looked to my right and seen part of a blown up Humvee, we don’t travel on roads if we can help it, so it was off a road. I was just lifting my foot off the gas and was going to hit the brake and I heard SGT Rogers start to say stop, but all he got out was “ST-” then ((BOOM)). After that its a bit confusing.

The guy driving the Bradley behind me said the blast lifted the whole Bradley and Bradley’s are super heavy. When the blast happened I know I flew up out of my seat and hit the back of my head and my back against the hatch hard as hell. That is when I hit my knee on something and hurt it too. When it exploded all I could see is dirt and smoke and smell was sulfur, like matches or fireworks.  I don’t know if I closed the hatch or my body flying into it caused it to close, but next thing I know is I am sitting back in my seat with the hatch closed, can’t see due to smoke and dirt, can’t breath, can’t hear more than a high-pitched squeal, and it feels like everything is moving in slow motion and I am super confused and in a lot of pain.

Next thing I know someone yanks open my hatch and there stands SPC Keehan, yelling something at me, but I can’t hear him. So I read his lips and I think he is asking me if I am “ok” so I look over myself for blood, make sure all of my limbs are still there and all of my toes and fingers are still there. They are, so I give him the thumbs up. It turns out that there were meaty red chunks all over the front of the Bradley and they thought it was parts of me, but we had MRE’s (Meals Ready-to-Eat) strapped to the side of the Bradley and it was now spaghetti all over the front. We get out to assess the damage. I am hurt, but alive, so I suck it up, crawl out of the drivers hole, look over the edge and at the ground to make sure I didn’t jump down onto a land mine. It looked clear, so I jumped down and SFC ? (can’t remember his name – was our Platoon Sgt), was making his way to our Bradley on foot, walking in the tracks our Bradley made to make sure he didn’t step on a land mine or anything and he stopped in mid-step and told us to get back up on our Bradley and he want back to his. It turns out he seen another land mine right next to our track, the rain washed the dirt away and exposed the top of it.

Yup, we were sitting in the middle of a mine field surrounded by mines. We took stock of what we needed to fix our Bradley by leaning over the side to look, called back and told them what we needed and they sent out mechanics and a tank with a mine plow and some EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposer’s) guys picked them up, took them off a hundred yards and blew them with C4. We went to fixing the Bradley, the mine had blown a side skirt about 400 yards away and another 100 yards away. About six or seven hours later, lots of smashed fingers, tired, & sweaty, it was fixed and away we went back to camp. I never seen a doctor or a medic or anything and that was normal. I also didn’t want to look weak so I kept my knee pain, back pain, neck pain, dizziness, hearing loss, headaches, and blurry vision to myself and sucked it up and soldiered on. In fact, shortly after the Bradley was fixed I was out on another mission.

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 Tank with mine plow

No doctor visits, no days off, nothing.