Face of Defense: Wounded Weatherman Takes on Different Type of Battle
By Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Ty Foster
Special to American Forces Press Service
HURLBURT FIELD, Fla., Feb. 18, 2009 In an instant, Air Force Senior Airman Alex Eudy went from battling the enemies of Afghanistan to battling for his life.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Donny Wurster, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, pins the Air Force Combat Action Medal on Air Force Senior Airman Alex Eudy's shirt during a ceremony at the hospital on Hurlburt Field, Fla., Feb. 3, 2009. Eudy also received the Purple Heart for injuries he received during his deployment to Afghanistan. U.S. Air Force photo by Chief Master Sgt. Ty Foster
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
It was just after 1 a.m. on Jan. 24. He was just two months into his first deployment after graduating from advanced-skills training here in September. The special operations weather team journeyman and the Marines he served with were on patrol about 30 miles from their firebase in the western province of Farah.
Behind the wheel of a Humvee, Eudy and five other passengers looked for variations in the road surface, such as exposed wires or freshly dug soil. "Scab left" or "scab right" they called out. The driver adjusted his path of travel accordingly to mitigate the threat to the special operations patrol.
Then the roadway erupted.
Two 155 mm mortars and a Soviet anti-tank mine were command-detonated under the front of the vehicle. The engine flew 30 feet away as the 6-ton rig somersaulted three times. The concussion of the blast rendered Eudy unconscious.
His personal protective gear had done its job. He didn’t sustain any puncture wounds or lacerations from flying debris. In the violence of the explosion, however, his helmet chinstrap had sawed through the skin on his lower jaw. Everything else seemed fine, except his legs.
When he came to, he said he was lying nearby, outside the vehicle. He thought he'd been thrown out.
"My Marines told me when they pulled me out of the vehicle, they could hear the bones crunching," the 22-year-old warrior said. "Of the six of us in that vehicle, I was one of two who were nonambulatory."
The Marine special ops team set a defensive perimeter and requested medical evacuation airlift. He didn't just lie there, Eudy said. He checked his buddies and put his combat lifesaver first-aid training to work.
In the hours and days after the explosion, Eudy's parents, Dale and Kathy Eudy of Highlands Ranch, Colo., spoke with their son and others involved in the convoy, medical evacuation, treatment and travel back to the states.
Despite dozens of fractures from both knees down, the special ops weatherman kept his mission focus, even while being evacuated, Dale Eudy said.
"When the medevac was inbound, Alex was telling his Marines how to use his instruments to pass critical weather data for the helicopter landing zone," he said.
Less than 10 days after the explosion, the airman was in a waiting room in the hospital at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., swaddled from the knees down in bandages --, bones pinned, screwed and grafted. He was surrounded by family and friends, "and everyone is Alex's friend," Kathy Eudy said.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Donny Wurster, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, stopped in to present the post-op airman with a Purple Heart and the Air Force Combat Action Medal.
The only time Eudy's "eyes leaked," as he put it, was when he offered tribute to his fellow servicemembers who were wounded with him and to the Marines who had adopted him as one of their own.
Despite months of painful healing, rehabilitation and reliance on others, Eudy is determined to move forward.
"Wallowing in sorrows doesn't do anybody any good," Eudy said. "I'm not out of the fight. This is just a different kind of fight."
Eudy said there is a chance he will not return to duty as a fully functioning and deployable special operations weather team member. Regardless, his special tactics brethren have offered unflagging support to Eudy and his family, he said.
"They become your family and families intertwine," Eudy said. "In special tactics, you're held to a higher calling. It's something more that protects you, not only on the battlefield, but on the home front as well."
(Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Ty Foster serves with the Air Force Special Operations Command.)