Editor’s note: This is the second of three stories about U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Tim Read of Starkville, who continues to recover from injuries suffered in improvised explosive device attack while deployed in Afghanistan.
By BRIAN HAWKINS
Cpl. Tim Read earned a Purple Heart when he was injured in the line of duty by an improvised explosive device while on a walking patrol Oct. 15 with his fellow Marines in Marjah, Afghanistan.
What many might be surprised to learn is that he earned another one a month and a half before the IED detonated under him while he and the fellow members of “G” Company, 3rd Platoon, 1st Squad — deployed with the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines from Camp Lejeune, N.C., since June 10 — were moving through a large irrigation ditch known as a “wadi.”
During a gunfight with Taliban insurgents on Aug. 31, Read — now recuperating and undergoing rehabilitation therapy at a Tampa, Fla, hospital for the serious injuries he suffered in the IED attack — was shot in the left leg — the same leg he would ultimately see partially amputated after the IED attack.
“When I got shot, I had an opportunity to home,” said Read, 21, a 2007 Starkville High School graduate.
But mindful of the needs of his fellow Marines, he chose to remain in Afghanistan and recuperate from the gunshot wound, returning to duty on Sept. 28.
“I know what it’s like when someone goes home and you’re short one guy,” said Read by telephone on Friday about the extra duties the remaining Marines assume when others are gone.
“You may have to stand post for four hours, but that could turn into a five-hour post when you are missing someone,” Read said. “My platoon needed me, and they relied on me. I went back on Sept. 28.”
Unfortunately, the severity of his injuries from the IED attack in mid-October meant Read had no choice but to return to the United States.
The IED’s detonation left both of 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.
Read would learn that part of his left leg had been amputated just above the knee after he awoke in Landstuhl, Germany, at the Department of Defense-operated military medical center there.
Landstuhl was the intermediate stop on his way to Bethesda Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., where he would arrive Oct. 20 and spend the next six weeks. At the Bethesda hospital, Read would be reunited with his family, but would also undergo multiple surgeries on his legs, abdomen, wrists and hands.
“When all the surgeries were over, he chose to go to Tampa with a friend to recuperate there,” said Read’s father, John, a research agronomist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Crop Science Research Laboratory on the Mississippi State campus.
Read’s mother, Lisa, is with her son in Tampa. John Read said he and his wife and his daughter, Charlotte, remain grateful to those who helped save his son’s life.
“Death was not an option for them out there. If it weren’t for his corpsman (U.S. Navy combat medic assigned to Read’s Marine squad) and the others, he wouldn’t be with us,” John Read said.
“They saved his life in the field with tourniquets, splints and bandages.”
But what has amazed Read’s family is his positive attitude.
“He is in very good spirits,” his father says. “He says, ‘I’m still the same guy.’”
He’s also maintained a wry sense of humor about his ordeal, his sister says. This was exemplified on a recent visit, Charlotte Read said.
“He said, ‘Charl, it’s going to take me twice as long to go through a bag of socks now.’ I sat there for a second and didn’t know what to say, so I just laughed. He laughed along with me,” Charlotte Read said.
The greater Starkville community has also embraced Read and his family, providing support that has been overwhelming the past several weeks, his father says. “People have donated so much time and energy. It’s been a community thing, and we greatly appreciate it,” he said.
The Golden Triangle Quilt Guild presented John and Charlotte Read with a special quilt to take to Read as he continues to recuperate. The quilt is made with many T-shirts that belonged to him, and it will be something is son will treasure, his father says.
“He will look at it very carefully. Some of the T-shirts have a lot of memories associated with them, and some of them he had to work for,” John Read said. “He couldn’t go out and just buy some of those shirts. He had to earn them.”
In the final installment Tuesday, Tim Read reflects on his Marine Corps service and the bonds forged with men he calls his brothers.