Harry Stokes was a medic in an Army infantry unit the day he stepped outside of a building and onto an improvised explosive device.
So when Stokes regained his senses and realised both his legs were missing he knew just what to do … but then bullets started to fly.
Often the best in us comes out during the worst times.
Stokes recently did a Reddit AMA in which he was asked to describe how he made it through the moment, and this is what he wrote (lightly edited for clarity):
I set down my aid bag inside a cement school doorway and took a step outside of the building and then the next thing I knew was my mouth was full of dirt and my eyes were covered in it also.
I smelt the explosives as I clawed the dirt out of my mouth. The first thing I did was try to get up and find my rifle (which was blown off along with my eye protection and helmet).
I was only able to slightly move my left leg and my tibia and fibula were completely uncovered and the only thing holding them together was the top of a new pair of boots I had just bought the day before.
By the time I saw my right leg was completely gone up to the knee we started taking fire. I knew I was in terrible shape and took my [tourniquet] and started yelling “medic down!” I started to [tourniquet] my left leg and a team leader made it over and finished that and started placing another. The medic arrived as I was trying to work the other [tourniquet] around my right leg.
I ended up with 2 on each leg, which I remember hurting worse then my legs injuries did. I injected myself with an auto-injector of morphine in my leg then I chomped down two fentanyl “lollipops”. By this time my 1st Sgt and weapons squad leader made it to me and kept me calm as I did my best to stay awake and make fun.
The other soldiers eventually repelled the enemy assault, and called a Medevac for Stokes. He was flown eventually to an Army hospital in Germany, and then back to the States, where he received a double amputation — one at the knee, and one six inches below.
Aside from the moment of impact, the Redditors had some interesting questions for Stokes, just as he had some interesting answers.
Do you regret serving or going to a combat unit?
Harry Stokes: Never.
What is it like going from an able bodied young man with your life ahead to having so many opportunities taken away before your eyes?
It’s just a harsh reality that I have to deal with. I signed the papers so I can’t blame anyone other than myself and the guys that put that bomb there.Do you have phantom limb pain?
HS: Yeah. Its a mix between a sand blaster and electrical pulses through my legs.
What’s the difference between the two prosthetic legs?
HS: Well my right leg has an X2 prosthetic knee. It has a microchip in so that way it knows if you are going uphill, downhill, up or down stairs, or if you just want to stand it place it will lock. My left leg is just a basic prosthetic limb. Nothing special at all.
How has the army helped you through this ordeal (medically, financially, emotionally), and how long will this support last?
HS: The army gives a certain amount of money, basically per joint lost, to the amputee that can reach up to $100,000. They also have something called the adaptive housing grant which caps out around $90,000 that will go toward renovation of a house to make it handicap friendly. ON TOP OF THAT, you get around $18,000 toward a car that is convenient for you. All this changes depending on the extent of your injury. Most people don’t qualify for everything.
If you are an amputee you receive care the rest of your life.
How many people have drank beer out of your leg? I’ve got a lot of amputee buddies and everytime we go out, someone (sometimes even a chick) chugs beer from their leg.
HS: Haha, none yet, but I have my 1 year [anniversary] coming up though.
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