Editor’s note: This is the first of three stories about U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Tim Read of Starkville. The following story contains details of an improvised explosive device attack in Afghanistan in which Read was seriously injured. Some details are graphic in the depiction of the attack and may be difficult for more sensitive readers.
By BRIAN HAWKINS
Tim Read is defiantly optimistic. As he undergoes extensive rehabilitation at a Tampa, Fla., hospital for what many would call debilitating injuries, Read, a corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps, knows that attitude is everything.
“Your attitude and optimism is 90 percent of your rehab. If you have a good attitude, you can do anything,” said Read by phone on Friday.
“I’m getting better every day. I act as if I didn’t get injured.”
Read readily admits his attitude of “non-injury” sometimes does not set well with the physicians who are helping him recover from injuries he suffered on Oct. 15 when a hidden improvised explosive device (IED) detonated directly under him while on ground patrol with his fellow Marines in “G” Company, 3rd Platoon, 1st Squad, during deployment with the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines in Marjah, Afghanistan.
Read, a 2007 Starkville High School graduate, and his squad were patrolling in a “wadi” — an irrigation ditch about 30 feet wide and 20 feet deep with 4 feet of standing water running through it — and were moving out of the large ditch when the IED was activated.
The IED was buried in one side of the steep ditch, and Read saw both his legs broken, his left wrist shattered, his right hand and wrist broken and severe lacerations along the right side of his chest and abdomen, as well as other cuts from shrapnel and debris.
Ultimately, Read saw part of his left leg amputated in the immediate aftermath of the explosion. He is currently undergoing rehabilitation in preparation to receive a prosthetic leg over the next few months.
But Read is one determined Marine.
“I am going to walk again,” he said.
Read remembers the IED blast vividly — he remained conscious during the whole experience.
“My whole body was basically over the IED. I was taking short steps climbing up the side of the wadi,” Read said, noting that the steep sides of the ditch often require Marines to literally crawl to get out of it.
“I looked down at the ground where I was about to kneel down,” he said. “I then watched the ground beneath my left foot open up, I heard a split second of a boom and my ears just started ringing. They’re still ringing.
“I looked down, my right hand pushes up my protective glasses and I feel dirt and shrapnel hit my teeth and face. It was just a ‘POW’, a flash and then the ringing.”
The force of the blast threw him about 15 yards from where the IED had been buried in the wadi, which he realized after seeing his rifle lying by the blast site, Read said.
“When I opened my eyes a second later, I was completely dazed, but I knew exactly what had happened,” Read said. “My left wrist was completely destroyed, my right hand was broken and lacerated. I looked down out at my legs, saw two boots and thought I had my legs.”
Read had also suffered a “deep laceration all the way up the side of my rib cage” on the right side of his body.
Unable to help himself, Read yelled for the U.S. Navy medical corpsman — referred to as “Doc” by the Marines — on patrol with his squad.
“At that point, it became all about saving my life. I felt my lung cavity filling up with blood and told Doc to stab my chest to get the blood so I could breathe,” he said. “Once he stabbed it, I started breathing really hard to push the blood out. I remember asking for water.”
“It felt like forever for the cas. evac. (casualty evacuation unit) to come.”
Leaving the blast site
Read was immediately taken to Camp Dwyer in Afghanistan and under went immediate surgery. Remaining conscious through his initial arrival and treatment at Camp Dwyer, Read was soon put under anesthesia.
When he next woke up, he was hospitalized at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, a military hospital operated by the Department of Defense near Landstuhl, Germany.
“I woke up in Landstuhl, and thought my left leg was covered up by a sheet,” Read said. “I asked to see my left foot, and the doctor said I didn’t have it.
“I sat there, took a deep breath and let it out. There’s nothing crying will do to get it back,” he said.
On Monday, Read shares more of his perspectives and members of his family discuss his continued recovery.