By Spc. Crystal Hudson, U.S. Division-NorthSeptember 14, 2011
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq, Sept. 14, 2011 -- Sgt. Aaron Manis, a human resources specialist with 101st Human Resources Company, calmly walks the halls of the division main building at Contingency Operating Base Speicher, hoping to share his positive attitude with everyone he passes.
"He is a quiet professional with a strong work ethic that completes the mission," said Capt. Johnny Jun, human resources operations officer, 4th Infantry Division.
Manis is very discreet about what he has experienced during his 10-year career. Most Soldiers would never know the noncommissioned officer helping them with their paperwork was seriously injured during his last tour in Iraq.
A DAY TO REMEMBER
On Aug. 7, 2006, his life was changed forever. Manis, an infantryman at the time, and his team were on a presence patrol in Baghdad, on a day like any other, when they got called to another area to check out a possible threat. There was nothing odd about the area so, with their mission complete, they loaded up to head out.
Manis popped into the gunner's hatch and turned to the rear of the vehicle to make sure it was clear.
"There was a guy 150 feet away and he decided he wanted to be a sniper and tried to take me out," Manis said.
The bullet went in on the right side of Manis' face near his eye and exited there.
"I never lost consciousness," Manis said. "It felt like a big rock being thrown at the side of (my) face."
He recalls putting his hand to his face, and looking at his hand covered in blood. He then dropped down into the vehicle and let the vehicle commander know that he was hit.
"The medic came and he performed first aid," Manis said. "There is not really much that you can do but put a bandage on it."
He remembers trying to soothe the other Soldiers in the vehicle with jokes so they would not worry about the incident.
Manis was evacuated to Germany for treatment, and eventually transferred to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., with the hope of repairing the damage to his right eye.
"When the bullet entered, the force and the heat of the round forced the retina to scrunch up," Manis said.
Doctors at Walter Reed did all they could to help restore the vision he lost. Unfortunately, the damage was very extensive and Manis is now blind in his right eye.
"My wife was heartbroken. I had to calm her down," Manis said. "It is just something that happens, it comes with the territory."
Manis spent six months in recovery at Walter Reed. He said that he did go through a dark time at the hospital.
"I accepted it. I am the one who signed up to be an infantryman," Manis said. "That was the only way that I could heal, by accepting."
Manis said that the Soldiers he encountered at Walter Reed and his Warrior Transition Unit are the best group of Soldiers he has ever met.
"I will never forget the heroes I worked with that helped me out in my time of need, and all the friends I've made since then," Manis said.
From Walter Reed, Manis went to Fort Campbell, Ky., to begin his medical board process. He was recommended for reclassification and became a human resources specialist.
This tour, his third in Iraq, has been unlike his other deployments as an infantryman. Manis is currently working as the casualty noncommissioned officer in charge for the 4th Infantry Division, United States Division -- North.
"Sergeant Manis' personal experience in the Army casualty reporting process provides him a unique knowledge base, which bolsters his abilities to lead a critical mission," said Jun, a native of Huntington Beach, Calif.
Manis is a living example of the Army Warrior Ethos: He placed the mission first, never accepted defeat and never quit, Jun said.
Manis draws experience from his time in the WTU and applies that knowledge to his current leadership style.
"I took one thing from the WTU -- every Soldier is unique," Manis said. "Two people might have the same injury on paper, but it is not the same injury to them."
One Soldier may be able to handle the injury really well while the other may struggle with it, Manis continued.
Manis' decision to return to active duty after his injury, enables him to provide actual combat experience to his current position. He sets a positive example for all of the Soldiers he encounters, Jun said.
"You don't have to be wounded or, sadly, lose your life in combat to be a hero. Just wear that uniform and serve your country and do it the right way. You will be a hero," Manis said.