Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Winder Perez was fighting in Afghanistan in January 2012 when he was shot with a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) that pierced his leg and remained stuck there without detonating.
A medical evacuation crew ignored regulations against moving unexploded ordnance, picked him up, and flew him to medical care where an explosives technician removed the RPG so a Navy medical officer could operate on him.
Specialist Mark Edens was the first member of the MEDEVAC crew to see the Marine. The flight had originally been briefed that they were receiving an injured little girl as a patient, but they arrived to find the lance corporal with a large wound and an approximately 2-foot long rocket protruding from his leg.
When Army pilot Capt. Kevin Doo was told about the embedded RPG, he asked his entire crew to vote on whether to evacuate the patient. They unanimously voted yes despite the dangers.
“There was no doubt to anyone that we were going to take this Marine and get him the medical attention needed to save his life,” Doo told Army journalists. “When dealing with this — not knowing that any moment could be your last — 18 inches from the patient’s legs was about 360 gallons of aviation fuel.”
“After Lance Cpl. Perez was loaded on the Black Hawk, it was a total of 11.2 minutes of flight time where every minute felt like an hour,” Doo added. “During that time, we were on the radio coordinating with our escorts, the Explosive Ordnance Disposal team, and medical personnel who were going to treat Perez.”
When the helicopter landed, Perez was met by Navy Lt. Cmdr. James Gennari, the head of the surgical company at Forward Operating Base Edinburgh, and Army EOD Staff Sgt. Ben Summerfield. Summerfield quickly tugged the RPG free of Perez and Gennari worked to stabilize the patient.
Gennari later said that the Perez’s wounds were so severe that he would’ve died without the quick MEDEVAC. Edens, Doo, and the rest of the Army MEDEVAC team then transported Perez to Camp Bastion where he began the long road to recovery.
(H/t to the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs who wrote about this incident in May 2012.)