Veteran: Dan Ramsey
Writer: R. Chambers LeHeup
Show: Vol. 1
It’s been said that life is peppered with defining moments, where you define the moment, or it defines you. The choices we make at these times are the difference between being great or simply being, and in war these moments are in season. Few recognize them. Fewer rise above them.
Let me tell you about my friend Daniel Ramsey. On July 11th, 2006, Daniel, along with Charlie Company 1st Battalion 8th Marines, gears up in Jordan to run a security mission for the US Army. The raid was to take place 20 miles into Iraq, guarded by mounted 7-ton trucks and Humvees. Before they leave, one of the 7-tons misplaces a pin that holds the side tailgate to the bed of the truck. The key to this being that the side tailgate also had the chairs the marines were sitting on. Though the driver was yelled at, he still drives without the pin.
After the success of the mission, the lead driver decides to return the same way they had traveled. Why he does this, no one knows, but, of course, there’s an IED waiting for them upon their return. A car had been pushed into the center of the road, suspiciously blocking their path.
Instead of driving around the obvious bomb, the driver decides to drive up the hill, herded perfectly by the Iraqis waiting for them at the top. This causes the truck to face the explosive on Daniel’s side. The truck jumps and the tailgate, along with several marines, flies off.
This is the moment. This is his moment. Everything changes after this. Time slows. In one instant, he’s floating in air. The car bomb explodes.
And someone yells “Rocket!”
Immediately afterwards, Daniel lands on his forehead, pushing the back of his helmet into his shoulder blades. From reports, though his sporadic movements proved he had no physical control of his arms or legs, he continued to demand his rifle.
Unbelievably, there was no Navy corpsman attached to them. After the Iraqis were killed, the rest of his platoon took care of their own. They remove Daniel’s boots and create a make-shift neck splint, then take the side tailgate and use it as a stretcher until they can get back to their Forward Operating Base.
Two hours after he reaches the FOB, Daniel wakes up to a helicopter landing. And then he blinks, waking up to a hospital with two armed Arabs at the foot of his bed. Panic subsided only after a corpsman enters to explain. He’s in a hospital in Lebanon. He has whiplash and will soon be able to return to his platoon.
So they send him to Lebanon to secure its embassy. They were helping evacuate American refugees when he started consistently dropping his weapon. His hands were going numb and his speech was slurring. That’s what traumatic brain injury can do, apparently. The doctors at the Lundstahl hospital in Germany said as much when they saw him. He’d also broken 3 vertebrae.
He spent the next year waiting for his discharge papers so that he could return to civilian life. After several surgery’s, including fusing his neck only to intentionally rebreak it later (part of the procedure), he was released and retired.
He had his moment. This is how he defined it. He still has nerve damage. He still sometimes slurs. He is also a hero. After being severely traumatized due to outstanding incompetence, misdiagnosed, and made to linger in a service that wasn’t beneficial to either party, Daniel did something incredible.
He is one of the founding members of Hidden Wounds, an organization wrought from tragedy, but defining its own moment. This non-profit helps war veterans suffering from PTSD to get help from legitimate psychologists in the veteran’s surrounding area. Hidden Wounds is a testament to the character of its members, and parallels the strength that Daniel has, both physically and mentally.
That’s right. Between the 10th and 11th of November, 2011, and after breaking his neck just a few years prior, Daniel ran 100 miles in order to raise awareness for Hidden Wounds. It took him 34 hours. So that’s my friend Daniel Ramsey. And that’s how a true warrior defines a moment.