OTF Soldier Story for April 25, 2011 - Cpl. David Bixler
Current Unit: 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault)
Current Position: Team Leader
Component: Active Army
Current Location: Washington, D.C.
Hometown: Harrison, Ark.
Years of Service: 6
The motto of the 101st Airborne Division “Everyone fights, nobody quits,” represented more than a catch phrase to Cpl. David Bixler. The words embodied the spirit of bravery and perseverance he displayed last fall when he and his comrades came under enemy fire in Afghanistan. Currently recovering from combat injuries at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., the motto continues to inspire Bixler throughout his rehabilitation.
While deployed to Afghanistan with the 101st Airborne Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team, Bixler was on a routine mission that was suddenly derailed by an enemy attack.
“The entire horizon in front of us seemed to explode into a frenzy of machine gun fire,” he said. “We were pinned down into a ditch just on the other side of the dirt mound we had climbed up after crossing that canal. We could only manage to get a handful of Soldiers in decent fighting positions.”
As a team leader, Bixler was responsible for five of his comrades, including three Afghan National Army (ANA) Soldiers. When he realized that one of the ANA Soldiers had separated from the team, he tried to warn him of the danger. Bixler feared that a hidden improvised explosive device (IED) would detonate, injuring the group. When the Soldier did not respond, Bixler took swift action.
“I hauled up the dirt mound to pull him back to safety,” he said. “At that moment, I stepped backwards and wide in order to regain my balance, and that’s when I stepped on the pressure plate.”
The ANA Soldier sustained only minor wounds, but the explosion left Bixler with severe injuries, resulting in the loss of both legs.
Despite the extent of his injuries, Bixler is thankful to be alive crediting his fellow Soldiers with saving his life.
“The training that we had gone through really paid off that day,” he said. “My guys’ responses saved my life. We practiced how to get out of a combat zone after an attack. They knew that you need to finish the firefight first and then you could provide aid to wounded Soldiers.”
In addition to the actions of his team, Bixler also knows that his personal protective equipment shielded him from further injury.
“My personal protective equipment saved my life,” he said. “The IED shredded the gloves off my hands, but had I not worn them, I would have lost my fingers. My glasses and helmet blocked shrapnel from going into my eyes. And I wore ear protection, which saved most of my hearing.”
Bixler uses his story to encourage other Soldiers to take their safety seriously—even if the gear seems cumbersome.
“You need to keep wearing the gear, even if it is annoying,” he said. “It can save your livelihood and, in some cases, your life.”
Bixler’s valorous actions on the battlefield drew the attention senior leadership. Maj. Gen. John Campbell, the commander of the 101st Airborne Division and Fort Campbell, Ky., personally presented Bixler with the Silver Star Medal and Purple Heart in a bedside ceremony at Walter Reed.
Having recently been fitted for prosthetic legs, Bixler is learning to walk again. But for now, the Soldier has a more immediate goal—being there when the rest of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team returns home.
“The rest of my unit will return from Afghanistan in a few weeks, and I want to walk to meet them when they get off the plane,” he said. “I want to be able to greet them on my feet, to show them that I am alive. And most importantly, tell them that I have no regrets.”
Living without regrets is something that has characterized Bixler’s military service from the start. As a high-school student, he watched the events of Sept. 11, 2001 unfold, and was moved to join the Army and defend his country.
“I didn’t want to be a citizen in a country I wasn’t willing to fight for,” he said. “Had I not enlisted, I would have regretted it.”