By U.S. Army Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod July 25, 2012
GHAZNI PROVINCE, Afghanistan (July 21, 2012) -- Soldiers who have seen combat will attest that where the Soldiers' Creed and Army Values most often cross paths is when a soldier is wounded.
Never leave a fallen comrade, a tenat of the creed, is accomplished through selfless service, one of the Army Values.
Witness four cases from the battlefields of Afghanistan, where the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team has been removing a long-standing insurgent presence from southern Ghazni Province.
Medic Pfc. Michael Trevino
On June 15, 2012, a platoon with Company D, 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, walked into an L-shaped ambush in the vineyards and wheat fields that surround the village of Spedar in Afghanistan's arid Ghazni Province.
Though caught in the open, Sgt. Nicholas Fredsti led his fire team to high ground to set down a base of fire. He was almost immediately hit by enemy fire that pierced his chest.
When the call for a medic came, Pfc. Michael Trevino rushed forward in spite of the continued rifle, machine gun and rocket-propelled grenade fire.
With Fredsti were his three soldiers, two armed with rifles and one with a squad-automatic weapon.
Though they continued to defend their position, incoming fire was so great that Trevino had to stop treating Fredsti several times to pick up his M4 to help return fire.
He continued to expose himself to the enemy until Fredsti's wound was treated and he was evacuated from the danger zone.
Sgt. Christopher Griffis
As Sgt. Jacob Schwallie's gun truck led a patrol of Charlie Troop paratroopers on a mission near Combat Outpost Giro May 7, it was suddenly hit by improvised explosive device -- 250 pounds of homemade explosives wrapped around a 155 mm artillery shell and buried in the road.
The blast ripped the truck apart, killing Schwallie, Spc. Chase Marta and Pfc. Dustin Gross. Still suffering from the shock of the blast and his own injuries, Sgt. Christopher Griffis immediately began giving aid to those that he could and providing covering fire against insurgents when the evacuation vehicles were being loaded.
His ankle was so swollen that, when medics were finally able to treat Griffis, they had to cut his boot off his foot.
Rather than return to the States, Griffis returned to the remote outpost and his unit on crutches. Since then, he is back on point and has completed another 10-15 missions.
Spc. Marvin Zara and Sgt. Willard Hoyum
When the cab of the rig he was driving was hit by a roadside bomb, Spc. Marvin Zara of Company A, 307th Brigade Support Battalion, blacked out. When he regained consciousness, the engine was quiet, the lights were off, and the world was spinning.
It was 3 a.m. on June 19. Their resupply convoy had been traveling from Sharana to COP Giro when it came under attack by insurgents. An IED had exploded next to the truck in front of them.
Both said, "Wow, that was close."
Five seconds later, their truck was hit.
In the dark, Zara could hear the muffled sound of someone choking. It must be truck commander, Sgt. Willard Hoyum, he thought. Zara struggled toward Hoyum and found the chin strap of Hoyum's helmet choking him. He released the strap, freeing his non-commissioned officer to breathe.
Zara, a 33-year-old native of the Philippines, had wanted to join the U.S. Army since he was a boy, and shortly after he moved to Hawaii, he did. Two years later, he found himself deployed to Afghanistan as a truck driver.
As Hoyum labored to breathe, Zara decided to extricate himself from the battle-damaged cab to walk around to Hoyum's door and give better aid. Other paratroopers approached, asking if he was okay. He told them yes so that he could get to Hoyum even though he himself was injured in both elbows, both knees and a shoulder.
"No, no, you're injured," they told him. "We'll take care of him."
Zara continued to wobble toward Hoyum's door, but a paratrooper grabbed him by the shoulder and led him to a nearby vehicle.
Before leaving, he heard Hoyum call out, "Zara, take care out there."
"He was my brother," said Zara. "He was hurt bad, but he was really concerned about me."
Spc. Christian Rafael Contreras
In just minutes, 14 mortars rained down on COP Muqor on the afternoon of June 27. The second round exploded when it hit the top of a tent, sending a shower of shrapnel into the mouth of a nearby bunker.
At its entrance was Staff Sgt. Michael Benson, who was hit up and down the left side of his body. Benson fell to the ground, and though the third mortar landed just 30 feet away, Master Sgt. Zachary Shuman, a finance soldier who was visiting the base, rushed to pull Benson into the bunker.
As other wounded were identified, Spc. Christian Contreras, an infantryman on his first deployment with 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, began treating Benson's shrapnel wounds.
Contreras noticed that the tourniquet placed around the wounded soldier's left leg was not significantly stemming the bleeding, so he cut off the pant leg. A pool of blood fell on him. It seemed likely that Benson had been hit in the femoral artery.
Contreras placed a second tourniquet higher up on the leg snug against the groin, and that seemed to do the trick.
Though medics arrived with their aid bag, the Hinesville, Ga., native continued to do what he could, treating additional punctures to Benson's knee, back of the calf and inner thigh.
When Benson was taken care of, he moved onto three other wounded, oblivious to the mortars that continued to fall.
Living the life
"It's easy to talk about the Army Values such as selfless service and not leaving a fallen comrade," said Capt. Jonathan Fernandez, commander of Zara's distribution company. "I think it takes great courage and great commitment to actually live the life."
"We all hope that, that is what we would do," he said.