Photo: DVIDS/Albert J. Carls
“We knew our position was about to get attacked.”
Petty Officer Third Class Chase Speed’s role as a Corpsman — the title given to a combat medic serving with U.S. Marine Corps or Navy units — grants him the colloquial moniker of “Doc”.
It’s also clear that Speed is part of a battle-tested brotherhood with the Marines he serves alongside and watches out for.
But he’d have no idea that it would be him getting medevac’d that day last year after being wounded in a firefight that showed the strength of his character, and his commitment to “my Marines.”
A helicopter had inserted Speed’s platoon right into a “hot bed for insurgent activity,” said Sgt. James Mercure reporting for the Marine Corps.
The village of Jahazi in Helmand province has been known for its “desolate and lawless conditions” where Taliban keep a keen eye on people going through the small town. Insurgents have previously set up check points to “tax” travellers and their goods. Lance Cpl. Clayton Vonderahe of Regimental Combat Team 8 reported last year that all the bazaars in the area were empty before Marines began patrolling to put an end to the check points and open up the roads.
The day Speed got there, his platoon was definitely being watched and they knew it.
“I saw guys watching us from the tree line and from a compound to our southeast. A fire-team element of military-age males went into the same compound.” The Marines were expecting an attack.
“Sure enough,” continued Speed, “we started to take fire from the compound, and our staff sergeant yelled to take cover.” The Marines started firing back and then made a break for a different compound nearby.
As Speed was running, an insurgent’s bullet caught up with him, going through the back of his belt near the base of his spine. It came out through his right hip, but he kept running. It was only until 50 meters later that he stopped, but it wasn’t to check out the damage.
Photo: Marines/Clayton Vonderahe
“I got on the ground facing the enemy and kept firing to protect my guys.”Then he heard another urgent call to action: “Corpsman up!”
One of the Marines looked like he was wounded as automatic weapons fire peppered the platoon’s position.
“I half ran, half limped to the Marine we thought was in trouble.”
Doc Speed checked out his comrade and it turned out the Marine wasn’t injured, but the combat medic definitely was.
“We busted into a nearby compound. I told him I think I got shot in the butt. We both laughed about that in the middle of the firefight.”
He applied first aid to himself and noticed that the searing heat of the bullet had “luckily” cauterized the wound, “so there wasn’t as much bleeding as there could have been.”
Although he was in pain and his right leg eventually went numb, he wouldn’t take any of the medication he was carrying — “in case my Marines got hurt worse than me.”
In a reversal of roles, the men called in a helicopter for a medical evacuation and got Speed lifted out. His injury took him away from the frontline for several medical operations and a couple weeks of recovery at the British base Camp Bastion in Helmand province.
But as soon as he was able to, he headed out to catch up with his unit — back in the fight.
“Ever since I got injured, I’ve had more pride in the uniform and understand that if you get knocked down, you have to get right back up.”
Speed received the Purple Heart Medal awarded to combat veterans who have been wounded or killed serving the United States. He says sharp pains every now and then don’t slow him down. As a corpsman, he’s someone the Marines, his brothers, depend on if anyone goes down.
He’s now on his second deployment in Afghanistan with a team from 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, which is part of a ground combat force with a mission to secure the Afghan people and advise local troops.
“I keep pushing forward no matter what, because my Marines count on me, and I will be there for them.”
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