John's Journal...

Wounded Warrior and American Hero - Thomas Lee

:Help Arrives

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: Thomas Lee, Jr. is a Staff Sgt E-6. His latest tour was to Taji, Iraq. He also had a tour to Afghanistan and a brief tour in Balugi, Iraq. I met Thomas Lee on a deer hunt with Trijicon Optics (, a big supporter of the Wounded Warrior Project ( in Duvall County, Texas, at the Duval County Ranch ( Not very often do you get to meet a true American hero. However I believe once you hear Thomas’s story you’ll understand why I’ve defined him in this way. This is a soldier’s story.

When help finaClick to enlargelly arrived, the rate of fire coming from the enemy had really picked up. The number of enemy now was in the teens, maybe more, when I heard the second vehicle move up into our position. The first mission of any army platoon is to secure the area before they take care of the injured. So all of us wounded understood that the second vehicle had to return fire and secure our position before they could help us. Before the second Stryker unit could call up a MEDEVAC to get us out of there, theyhad to secure the landing zone and suppress or defeat the enemy. I heard a lot of gunfire and people yelling back and forth to each other during the battle.  As soon as our men advanced forward and created a cushion between us and the enemy, some of our best combat lifesaver qualified troops were able to start taking care of the wounded.  They got Wilson off the top of the vehicle, put him on a back board and carried him to a safe area where they could further tend to his wounds. Then they needed some time to get Rogers out because he was down in the hatch still inside the vehicle. Because the ramp that we generally exited the vehicle on was blown closed, they had to take Rogers out of the top of the vehicle and pass him down the vehicle to get Click to enlargehim out. At this time, we were still receiving sporadic gunfire – although not as heavy as earlier. Then the troopscame to get me. However, I was kinda hung up inside the vehicle where there were a lot of sharp edges from the blast inside the vehicle. I knew I needed to keep my body armor on, but I didn’t want them to have a hard time getting me out of the vehicle.  I had on one of the new IBA’s (individual body armor) that had a break-away feature with a pull cord that allowed the entire vest to come apart. After using the pull cord, my rescuers were able to get me out quickly and back to safety because I’d been bleeding heavily. 

Click to enlargeThey have a new chemical now that the medics can use for people with severe bleeding to help  clot the blood and slow the bleeding down. But, this medicine is so strong that if it’s applied at the wrong time, it can kill you. All of our equipment and training before we were deployed to Iraq really paid off, because these guys knew what to do andwhen to give me that medicine.  And, that’s probably the only reason I’m still alive.  As soon as they got fluids in all of us, two life-flight helicopters came to our position. Also, two gunship-type helicopters came in to get rid of the enemy, defend our position and protect the life-flight helicopters. By the time the life-flight helicopters arrived, our troops had really taken care of business by giving chase to the enemy to insure that the helicopters could land safely. Wilson and Rogers were loaded in one helicopter, and as the most-severe casualty, I was loaded in the second. We were flown to Baghdad, where our initial care of getting everything getting cleaned-up and washed-up took place. While we were in the air for that  40 minutes, I started to lose consciousness.  But the medic kept me awake, constantly telling me how much further we had to go. He kept me talking.  As soon as we landed, I was placed on a gurney and taken to a trauma center where the doctors and nurses were unbelievably quick and decisive. After cutting off my clothes and cleaning my wounds, the medical personnel cauterized my leg and used cutters to cut away the injured bone.  I’d already had gone through 16 units of blood. The doctors didn’t want to put me unconscious for surgery, until they could get me more stable.

Tomorrow: Awake to Life

Check back each day this week for more about "Wounded Warrior and American Hero - Thomas Lee"

Day 1: A Soldier’s Story
Day 2: A Hero Among Us
Day 3: Help Arrives
Day 4: Awake to Life
Day 5: What Is the Wounded Warrior Project


Entry 438, Day 3