Editor’s note: This is the third and final installment in a series of 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
Many characteristics have been used to describe members of America’s military forces — particularly the U.S. Marine Corps — throughout history.
Honor. Perseverance. Valor.
Marine Cpl. Tim Read of Starkville knows a bit about all of them, for he has seen them exhibited firsthand by his comrades-in-arms during his own active duty service.
Valor is a characteristic that has great meaning for Read, who says he saw his fellow Marines live it every day during his deployment to Afghanistan.
That valor, he says, saved his life more than once — on Aug. 31 when he was shot in the leg during a gunfight with Taliban fighters and on Oct. 15 when he was suffered multiple serious injuries when an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated beneath him as he was making his way out of a “wadi” (a large irrigation ditch) on a ground patrol.
“Valor is a common thing with my guys,” Read said. “There have been many times I’ve seen it, like the day I was shot.”
On that day — just like the day he was injured by the IED — Read and the members of “G” Company,
3rd Platoon, 1st Squad, which had been deployed since mid-June to Afghanistan with the Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines, were patrolling in a wadi in Marjah, Afghanistan.
During that gunfight, one Read’s squad members was wounded by Taliban gunfire.
“I went and dragged my buddy out of the wadi to start First Aid on him until my corpsman (U.S. Navy combat medic) could get there, then I stepped back to fight the enemy,” Read said.
“I looked down and my leg felt warm.”
That’s when he saw the bullet wound that would ultimately force him out of active duty for about four weeks while he recovered at Camp Dwyer in Afghanistan.
Just like he helped his buddy, the other Marines acted to help him, Read said.
And they kept fighting, he said.
“The day I was shot, we got within frag (fragmentation) grenade range. We knew we got them,” Read said.
The Taliban fighters have proven to be an intelligent, calculating enemy, especially when it comes to using IEDs to assault American and other Coalition forces, Read said. An area he and his fellow Marines patrolled regularly — known as Route Rabbit — exemplified this, Read said.
“Route Rabbit is one of the more dangerous spots they would ambush us,” Read said, noting how the Taliban would adjust their fighting tactics as they observed U.S. forces in action.
“You learn to know the indicators for IEDs. You don’t want to take paths where you think they would plant them, like a bridge or a path that has been taken by a lot of Marines or in compounds that have been abandoned,” Read said.
“As a leader, you have to look around. You watch for guys on motorcycles who may be following your movement. That is a big indicator.”
But Marines are trained to stand their ground, even in dire circumstances, Read said. During a firefight, Read remembered that he and some members of his squad were pinned down by gunfire when he saw the silhouette of a Taliban fighter carrying a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.
“They pinned us down and the next thing I know, there was a guy who had an RPG, and I was the only one who saw him,” Read said.
But that didn’t last for long.
“I saw my good buddy, who was our SAW (squad assault weapon) gunner. He was just an awesome guy, pushing guys out of the way. He then opens up fire with a full drum to help us get out of there,” Read said.
That kind of bravery was consistent among his squad and his platoon, Read said.
“You see it everywhere. Everybody just flowed together. We fought like the stereotypical Marines. We fight hard and fight fierce and they are afraid of us,” Read said.
Marines have been nicknamed “Devil Dogs” for their fierce fighting style in combat. An intercepted Taliban cell phone transmission reinforced this nickname while he was in Afghanistan, Read said.
“Our radio squad interecepted on one of their cell phone calls. They called us the ‘Devil’s Cowboys,’” Read said. “That made us feel good. We knew they were afraid of us.”
As he continues to recuperate from the injuries suffered by the IED detonation and undergoes rehabilitation in preparation for the prosthetic leg he will receive to replace part of the left leg he had to have amputated, Read thinks of his buddies often.
Though many in Starkville and Oktibbeha County have wanted to help him and his family as he recovers, Read’s mind is on his platoon.
“I am back in the States and I am set. I would appreciate folks back home praying for my guys who are still out there and all the military men and women who are still out there,” he said.
“Letters are fine for me. Pray for my buddies who are out there.”
Read hopes to be reunited with his buddies when they return from Afghanistan in January.
In the meantime, Read says he’s determined to recover as fully as possible.
“I plan on going to see my guys when they get back,” Read said. “I just want to get walking in no time. I am optimistic about it.”