(ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.) — It was a medevac mission like few others that required heroic choices from all involved.
On January 12, Marine Lance Corporal Winder Perez was wounded in a Taliban attack in southern Afghanistan. The live explosive and a foot-long remnant from a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) remained lodged in his leg.
A crew of four New Mexico National Guardsmen agreed to take on the risky assignment of flying him by medevac helicopter to get medical care.
“Each of us on the aircraft had to agree to take the patient on,” Spc. Mark Edens told ABC News affiliate KOAT-TV in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
“There was quite a bit of alarm among the crew at the time, as you can imagine,” Capt. Kevin Doo told KOAT. “If the RPG exploded, you know Spc. Edens and Sgt. Hardesty are working on the patient directly over him, shrapnel alone would have been devastating. And about 18 inches behind where the patient is lying is over 300 gallons of jet aviation fuel, and it would have been catastrophic.”
When Perez arrived at the field hospital 65 miles away, he was not brought inside. Instead Navy Lt. Cmdr. James Gennari and Army Staff Sergeant Ben Summerfield, an explosives expert, stood by his gurney and undertook the risky move of removing the foot-long section of the RPG from his leg. Wearing full combat gear and a flak jacket, Summerfield literally yanked the RPG from his leg, so that medical teams could treat his injuries.
Perez continues to recover from his wounds at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Sara Ganim and Eric Levenson, CNN
Morgan Loew, CNN
Dylan Byers, CNN
Holly Yan, Paul Vercammen and Madison Park, CNN