Despite Own Injuries, Medic Tries to Save Fellow Soldier
By Senior Airman Thomas Kielbasa, USAF
National Guard Bureau
FORT STEWART, Ga., Feb. 20, 2004 Sometimes the biggest heroes are the quietest people, and Spc. Matthew Moss is that kind of hero.
Spc. Matthew Moss (left) shakes hands with Maj. Gen. Douglas Burnett, Florida National Guard adjutant general, after receiving a Purple Heart during a ceremony at Fort Stewart, Ga., Jan. 30. Moss was wounded during an explosion in Baghdad in November. Photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Southerland, USA
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Moss downplays the role he played on a sunny November morning in Baghdad, when an improvised explosive device hit his convoy and he ignored his own wounds and tried to save the life of a fellow soldier.
Although that soldier Spc. Robert Wise died from his extensive injuries, some people still consider Moss's attempts to save Wise to be heroic and selfless.
"I believe if Robert (Wise) had any chance at all, Matthew was the one who gave it to him," said Tammy Wise, mother of the fallen soldier, said in a recent phone interview. "Matthew is very near and dear to my heart."
Moss, Wise and another soldier were riding together Nov. 12 in a humvee through the center of Baghdad, escorting Army explosives experts on their way to the site of an undetonated IED. The soldiers all members of 3rd Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment were at the end of a three-vehicle convoy, and were stopping by their compound to pick up supplies before the mission.
Moss said it was around 9 a.m. when the bomb exploded just after their vehicle had rounded a corner of a dusty Baghdad street.
"The last thing I remember talking to (Wise) about was at the intersection right before that corner," Moss explained in an interview here. "I said to him, 'I hope we take the river road, 'cause that will get us to the compound faster.' He said 'Yeah, you're right.' And about 10 seconds later, the bomb went off."
The bomb was a 155 mm artillery round detonated by remote control about five feet away from their vehicle. Ironically, it was the same type of device they were on their way to destroy.
"Everything on the right side of my body felt like it was hit with a sledgehammer," Moss said. "For an instant I heard a loud crash in my right ear (and) there was smoke everywhere. I couldn't see, and it takes your breath away.
"I had no clue what happened, so I stopped the vehicle to look around and see what had happened," Moss continued, "and that was when I started hearing my gunner shouting 'My foot, my foot!'"
Moss said he didn't hear anything from Wise after the explosion, so he got out and ran up to the lead vehicle yelling for help. When Moss returned to the damaged humvee, he saw Wise was badly hurt, wasn't breathing, and needed immediate treatment.
"He was a pretty big guy," Moss said of Wise. "He weighed at least 180 pounds, and he had at least 80 pounds of combat gear on, so I was thinking there was no way in hell I was going to get him out of the truck."
Since his injured gunner couldn't help and no other medics had arrived yet, Moss said he "just turned around and yanked Wise out of the (vehicle) somehow," and started treatment. Another medic arrived to help, and together they managed to get Wise breathing again. Then they turned to help the wounded gunner, who received serious injuries to his foot, and is now receiving treatment here.
But despite the rapid treatment, resuscitation, bandages, and intravenous fluids, Wise died of his shrapnel wounds.
It was only after his teammates were treated that Moss received medical attention for a blown eardrum, shrapnel cuts on his hands and body, and abrasions on his eyes.
"I couldn't open my eyes for a few days after the explosion," Moss said.
Another Florida National Guard soldier who was in the vicinity during the explosion Spc. Daniel Morgan of 3rd Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment lauded Moss' efforts and explained the attempts to save Wise would have been extremely difficult, given the circumstances.
"He didn't even think about himself," Morgan said after returning to Fort Stewart in early February. "The first thing he did was try to pull (Wise) out of the Humvee, resuscitate him, and bandage the wound. To me, that was a great job."
Moss was sent to Germany and then here for treatment and surgery on his eardrum, and in January was invited to Washington, D.C., as a guest during the president's State of the Union address. On Jan. 30, Moss and four other Florida National Guard soldiers received the Purple Heart here from Florida adjutant general Maj. Gen. Douglas Burnett.