Wednesday, August 19, 2009
A gunshot ripped through the darkness and a young British soldier fell dying on FOB Jackson. I was just nearby talking on the satellite phone and saw the commotion. The soldier was taken to the medical tent and a helicopter lifted him to the excellent trauma center at Camp Bastion. That he made it to Camp Bastion alive dramatically improved his chances. But his life teetered and was in danger of slipping away. Making matters worse, the British medical system back in the United Kingdom did not possess the specialized gear needed to save his life. Americans had the right gear in Germany, and so the British soldier was put into the American system.
British officers in his unit, 2 Rifles, wanted to track their man every step of the way, and to ensure that his family was informed and supported in this time of high stress. Yet having their soldier suddenly in the American system caused a temporary glitch in communications with folks in Germany. The British leadership in Sangin could have worked through the glitch within some hours, but that would have been hours wasted, and they wanted to know the status of their soldier now. So a British officer in Sangin – thinking creatively –asked if I knew any shortcuts to open communications. The right people were only an email away: Soldiers Angels. And so within about two minutes, these fingers typed an email with this subject heading: CALLING ALL ANGELS.
Soldiers’ Angels Shelle Michaels and MaryAnn Phillips moved into action. Day by day British officers mentioned how Soldiers Angels were proving to be incredibly helpful. The soldiers expressed deep and sincere appreciation. Yet again, the Angels arrived during a time of need.
The severely wounded soldier, whose name I will not print without explicit permission, is recovering in the United Kingdom.
Two or three weeks after the injury, I was having dinner with a British Major and several Captains. The Major talked reverently about Soldiers Angels, and then about a herculean effort that the United States military extended to save a single British soldier. I had no idea about that effort. I just heard the gunshot, saw the soldier carried away into the night, and heard the helicopter roar into the darkness. I knew Soldiers’ Angels had intervened back in Germany, but the details that followed came as incredible surprise. The U.S. military had quietly moved Heaven and Earth to save a single British “Squaddie.”