By Natalie Lakosil July 7, 2015
FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. (July 7, 2015) -- "I remember the day, Aug. 5, for those of you that have been to Kabul, you know that the air quality isn't quite right, but that morning I went on a 5-mile run.
"I remember my boss telling me and looking excited, he said 'Jeremy, it's a great day to be an American!" said Maj. Jeremy Haynes, Warrior Transition Brigade, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Maryland, to the packed Fitch Auditorium at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, June 24. "What have you done for your country today, and before you open your mouth, drop and give me 10 push ups,' and that was the kind of guy Maj. Gen. [Harold] Greene was. He was filled with humor."
What Haynes did not know is that would be one of the last conversations he would have with Greene. Haynes' life would forever change on that tragic August day. He had been serving as Greene's aide for the past six months when Greene's life abruptly ended.
Haynes opened up to the audience for the first time in an open venue about what took place Aug. 5, 2014. After going to breakfast with Greene and gaining some sound life advice regarding working on his marriage with his wife Chelsea, Haynes called her to tell her he would be working late that day and that he loved her.
During the mission that day, the group made an unexpected stop for a briefing. While congregating, the situation went awry, leading the group to quickly want to vacate the area. While Haynes was telling the security detachment he and Greene were leaving, he heard shots ring out from over his shoulder.
"I looked over my shoulder, grabbed my sidearm and I noticed there were snipers on the roof. They were looking down at us, and I'm seeing bodies drop," Haynes told the crowd. "And at that moment I'm looking at my boss, Maj. Gen. Greene, and I immediately start running towards his direction and that's when tragically I fell. I was shot," Haynes said.
"At that time, I didn't know I was shot four times. I remember falling down and looking up at him. He was still running towards me and there was a point when I saw him fall," Haynes said. "And it felt as if someone had a dimmer and was trying to turn off the lights, and I was trying really, really hard to open my eyes. I remember individuals walking up behind me and looking down on me and one individual saying 'hey, he may not make it. Let's go on to someone else.'"
Haynes was not able to speak or move. He saw blood and, initially believing he had been shot in the head, started to think he might not make it. "At that moment I thought about my wife who was three months pregnant at the time and how I had wasted three weeks on arguing with her."
When Haynes regained consciousness some time after the shooting, he realized he was alone.
At some point, the officer in charge also noticed Haynes' absence and sent men to retrieve him.
"I remember the first medic rolling me over and saying, 'are you alive' and with every breath inside me I said, 'I am alive. Get me out of here. I can't feel anything.'"
The doctors initially told Haynes he had one bullet wound but, while searching him, found three more. "I was on my stomach and they rolled me over, and I looked down at my leg and my leg was basically severed. I'm seeing bone protruding out of my skin and blood just everywhere … not knowing I was also shot in the shoulder. I was shot in the left leg which came out of the left hip, my tibial fibula was basically shattered -- torn to pieces -- and I was shot in the spine which penetrated and severed my vena cava," he said.
All the while, Haynes's wife Chelsea, who is a reservist in the Army, was wondering how long his mission was going to take.
"I was at work and I'm thinking it's taking a long time to hear back from him, she said. "Then I thought well, maybe he's just working hard and continued on with my day. Then I got a phone call and was told he's shot and I was keeping my composure through the phone call but after it I was just bawling to myself. Even though they said he's only shot once, you never really know."
After a few hours Chelsea realized she had to go pick up their two children.
"I decided no matter what the road was going to be they needed to continue to have that normalcy because they are so young," she said. At the time their children were 2 and 3.
"I've never talked about this before," Chelsea told the Soldiers, taking a brief moment to breathe. The next day she would find out the full extent of her husband's injuries.
"At that moment I had to make a decision, and they did tell me that he may or may not walk again," she said. "You don't know how much strength you have to gather to be by their side. You hear all the horror stories about spouses who have left because of injuries, so I made a promise to myself that I would be there by his side no matter what."
Haynes awoke a few days later in the intensive care unit in Germany.
"That moment proved to be the beginning of a long journey," he said. "A journey where I was told you'll never walk again, you'll never have feeling below your hips, there's a two percent chance you'll ever survive; but also having that same doctor walk out, take off his white coat, come back in and say, 'Through faith all things are possible. You just have to believe in yourself and you can do it. And I took those concepts with me throughout this long journey."
The Soldier would have a long recovery ahead of him but after months of being in the hospital and physical therapy, Haynes finally took his first steps in November. Haynes attributes his strength during the last 10 months to his Family, faith and focus.
"I've had my moments where I've wanted to give up," Haynes told the crowd. "I've had my moments where I remember looking at my wife and telling her 'I'm not the man you fell in love with. I am half of a man so therefore I understand if you leave me and you go and remarry'… But she said, 'I'm here.'" Haynes stood for the first time in November 2014.
"That led to me regaining feeling back in my legs where I can stand and where I can walk, not as good as I'd like, but I've learned through this process that I have to sit back and be the turtle and allow my body to heal."
It was a more than emotional day for the couple as Haynes, who was initially diagnosed with paralysis from the waist down, took his first major steps. On Nov. 26, 2014, Haynes climbed to the top of the stairs to hug Greene's wife, Susan Myers, just as he had promised he would when she visited him in the intensive care unit.
"She [Myers] was reaching down trying to give me a hug in the [intensive care unit], and I was trying so hard but I just couldn't, and I made a promise to her by the end of the year I was going to walk up her stairs and give her a hug," Haynes said. "So when I started to walk up her stairs, my first thought was I had made a mistake. She had like 30 stairs," he said with a laugh. "But I managed to get to the top of the stairs and she was right there to greet me with a hug, and everybody was crying."
"To watch him take those steps was very emotional," Chelsea said. "There are not even words that can explain it. It just made me very happy simply to see him take those steps because I know that he is going to walk again."
It was around this time that Maj. Gen. Robert Ashley, commanding general, U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence and Fort Huachuca, met with Haynes at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and invited him to share his story with the Soldiers at Fort Huachuca.
"Last November I met Jeremy and I was actually blown away," Ashley said. "We talk about resilience and character and perseverance, and I saw that exponentially as Jeremy was siting in the bed with all sorts of hardware coming out of him, and Chelsea was pregnant at the time.
"I told [Haynes] I would love for you to come out and see [Greene] be inducted [into the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame on June 26], but I would really like for you to speak on resiliency," Ashley said.
"I just think it's an inspirational story to hear what he has overcome. … Really, the takeaway is, there is nothing you can't get through. It's your mental outlook; it's your attitude, and the support of your Family. … I hope everyone goes home tonight and hugs their kids or their spouse and tells them that they love them."
Haynes and his wife only decided three days prior to the discussion that they were finally ready to share their story with others.
"It felt very therapeutic being able to open up," Haynes said. "It felt as if I was able to remove a boulder from my rucksack and it will make the recovery process easier going forward. I'm grateful that Maj. Gen. Ashley opened his doors to allow us to come here and share our story. We're ecstatic to be here at Team Huachuca.
"I am ecstatic for [the MI] Hall of Fame," he added. "Any time we have the opportunity to come to an event to honor my boss, it's a feeling of missing him, but I can hear him in the back of my mind saying, 'Hey hang in there. Your story isn't done.'"
Haynes' story was a powerful reminder of the importance of resiliency to those in the audience. Chief Warrant Officer 2 Stephen Barber, 350G, U.S. Southern Command Headquarters, said, "I wasn't sure what we were coming for. I knew it was some kind of unit training, but I am absolutely glad I heard it. It was an amazing story.
"The principles that the Army instills in you for resiliency is being able to come back and recover from a tragic incident," Barber said. "Something for me is always balancing the professional and personal life. I think it's critical to always look back and just remember why you're serving. It's easy to lose sight of that every day when you put on the uniform but just figure out what you're serving for. Whether that's friends, Family, kids, your wife, your parents, everybody serves for a particular reason, so from that perspective it was good to just sit back and reflect on why you serve."
Another attendee, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Emmanuel Carlo, 500th MI Brigade, said, "I think it was great. A good opportunity to actually listen to somebody who has been through some problems like that. You can take all this resilience training that we've had and apply it to something as serious as what he went through."
"One thing I found out is when we don this uniform we are not wearing this ourselves," Haynes said. "It carries a burden not only to your wife, but to those who aren't married that burden is extended to your mother, brother, sister your best friend. It's a shared burden, it's a shared responsibility. That's what I found out during this entire recovery process.
"I've had my moments when I've wanted to give up, when I wanted the pain to stop, when it felt like someone was standing over me with a baseball bat just pounding on me over and over and over and nights I begged for sleep," he said.
"Those are the moments I had to really dig deep. When I was down at my lowest moment, I was thinking my whole world was going to crash. I had individuals that ran back and picked me up, and I'm thankful for it. I still have my moments where I have to push myself, two hours of physical therapy every day because I refuse to allow what occurred to me to become an excuse for me to not succeed. I won't quit -- not on myself, not on my wife, not on my marriage, not on my kids."