Vanguard infantryman lives to tell the tale
August 27, 2013
WARDAK PROVINCE, Afghanistan - "All I could think about was my mom and my sister," said U.S. Army Spc. Marcos Fernandes, an infantryman with Company B, 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division. "They're the ones who are most important to me."
Fernandes, a native of McKinney, Texas, was awarded the Purple Heart and the Army Commendation Medal with Valor Device, Aug. 1, for his valorous actions during conflict with an armed enemy after being hit by enemy fire, April 15, in eastern Afghanistan.
He suffered a concussion after he was shot in the head and knocked off the mound of dirt he was using as a fighting position.
"It just had to be the perfect bounce for me to be alive," Fernandes said about the bullet, which hit his helmet. "It hit about two inches above my left eye, and about an inch above where the helmet stops," he said.
Fernandes and his platoon were blocking a known area of interest in support of an Afghan National Army security patrol.
"A bunch of little kids walked up to us," he said. Not long after the children left, the soldiers took contact.
The first attack was not the full force the enemy had to offer.
"It had to be recon by fire," Fernandes said. The enemy will often fire into the area to see what soldiers will do. "I [returned fire] he said. "I wanted to keep them pinned down, keep them from shooting at me and my guys."
After the initial attack, the enemy came back in a larger force, from a nearby village.
"They hit us with everything they had, and that's when I got hit," remembers Fernandes. "I thought my brains were in the back of my helmet," he said. Fernandes and his team leader both checked for wounds, and found nothing. "I just started laughing, because I was so happy to be alive. We're in the middle of this firefight, and I'm laughing."
Fernandes regained his senses and immediately got back in the fight, despite the shock and concussive pain of the bullet strike to his helmet, and reengaged the enemy. He continued to suppress the enemy, while the clearance element bounded back from the village. His heroic return to action earned him the Army Commendation medal with Valor, in addition to his Purple Heart.
"Maybe we shouldn't be in that spot, still," Fernandes recalled saying to his team leader, "because of course you want to move to cover after you get shot in the head," he said with a chuckle.
"I heard about it over the radio," said U.S. Army Sgt. Jonathan House, an infantry team leader with Company B, 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, and a native of Dunn, N.C. "Needless to say, I was pretty surprised when I saw him maneuvering with us as we bounded up to the village we had taken contact from."
The platoon sergeant and the squad leaders moved the element forward and checked out the area, but found nothing but brass.
Fernandes didn't feel the effects of his concussion for quite a while.
"I had a bunch of adrenaline and testosterone going," he said, "but about six kilometers down the road, I started going down, and everybody noticed. I didn't really know my own symptoms; I was pretty out of it by that point."
Fernandes gave up his weapon and was helped along by his fellow soldiers. It was just outside of their post, Combat Outpost Soltan Kheyl, where they took fire a third time.
"I was pretty much useless, because they took my [weapon], so they hid me in a little hole," Fernandes said.
"He is a knowledgeable and motivated soldier with no quit in him. Fernandes, even with the concussion, didn't quit until he was back inside the COP," said House.
Fernandes has been in the Army for about three-and-a-half years, and has been with 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment since August 2012. He has kept his sense of humor about the incident, saying that it was nothing special.
"It was just an award for being in the wrong place at the wrong time," he said. "It could have been worse."