About a week ago the project was contacted by a the non for profit organization Martial Arts Community of Veterans (MACV) looking for some support raising awareness for their cause. The organization focuses on helping veterans who are diagnosed with PTSD and operational stress injuries specifically through the study and practice of Jiu Jitsu. I think this is a great cause and something that more veterans should look into. I highly suggest that you take the time to check out some of the work they have been doing and give them some love or inquire how you can be a part or learn from what they have been doing. You can check them out here: http://www.macvproject.org/#macv
Through our connection we have started to meet some outstanding veterans who are looking to share their story. Damian Jungermann, an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician, has deployed on several deployments to Afghanistan in many harrowing situations. Overcoming the horrors and stress he experienced during tour Damian is a testament towards the work that is being done by MACV. Through their work he has regained his life and we are proud to bring you his account. Please take the time to read it and show him some support!
I suppose I will share the experience that really changed how I approached my missions. I was on a night time village clearance with an Army SF ODA. It was our second mission partnering with the Afghan commandoes. The first had gone off without a hitch, which worried me. We were doing these missions in a notoriously difficult part of Kandahar province called Panjwai. We inserted off of a CH-47 with the Commando element and made our way to the compound we had decided to hit first. After making our way through the dense marijuana field and grape rows, I placed an explosive charge on the wall and blew a hole large enough to breach the compound. Unfortunately it did not lead into the compound and we were now relegated to using the doorway. Our Afghan Commando engineers cleared the doorway of any explosive hazards. Then I went up, kneeled in the doorway and cleared it quickly. I found no signs of any IED hazards. We made entry after I called it good. After most of us had made entry and were inside the compound, there was a large explosion. And for all of you who have heard an IED go off, it's sometimes hard to know where it happened initially. Especially at night. It turns out that the last two Afghan commandos had initiated an IED in the doorway that I had cleared. I tried making my way back to get them. Once we managed to get them inside we saw how bad the damage was. One had lost both legs and one arm. The other had blast injuries to his face and hand. He would live. The triple amputee was begging us to kill him. We attempted to medevac him by helicopter but by the time they arrived, he had passed away from his massive injuries. His teammates wrapped him in a blanket and we brought the body back with us when we were extracted. It was my second IED strike I'd been involved in in the first 6 weeks I was in country. At first light I made my way back to the doorway to investigate. The blast hole was exactly where I'd been kneeling just a couple of hours earlier. How the fuck did I not function this thing. What the fuck had happened? There was little evidence to gather that helped me paint a picture. This was still early in my first combat deployment in fall of 2010. I had a lot to learn and it was this mission where I knew I had to change how I did this job. I had to develop new ways to do our job. I made it through 8 months of that deployment and did two more deployments to Afghanistan in the two subsequent years. The last I was doing the same mission with the Commandos in Kandahar once again. I have an incredible amount of respect for the Afghans who fought with us and a lot of love for the country of Afghanistan. It is a tragically beautiful place and culture. That mission haunts me every night. I replay it daily and wonder how I missed that. What could I have done differently so that didn't happen. And I am sure I'll continue to go over that and see that Afghan's face and hear him moaning in pain. That sound is always the same. Every time I've been around someone who has stepped on an IED, there is that moment of silence after that blast, and then the moaning starts. It's most definitely a sound I don't want to hear again.