Face of Defense: Wounded Corpsman Returns to Action
By Marine Corps Sgt. James Mercure
Regimental Combat Team 6, 1st Marine Division
FORWARD OPERATING BASE WHITEHOUSE, Afghanistan, April 6, 2012 Navy Petty Officer Third Class Chase Speed still has the blood-soaked belt he was wearing when an insurgent put a bullet through it last year.
Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Chase Speed waits for the patrol order before departing friendly lines at Forward Operating Base Whitehouse, Afghanistan, during a March 30, 2012, operation. Speed was injured during a firefight when an enemy bullet went through his waistline, and after a two-week recovery period, he went back to the fight. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Albert J. Carls
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Speed, a native of Orangeburg, S.C., was serving as a corpsman with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, the day his platoon was inserted by helicopter into Jahazi, a small town that was a hotbed for insurgent activity.
“I saw guys watching us from the tree line and from a compound to our southeast. A fire-team element of military-age males went into the same compound so we knew our position was about to get attacked,” Speed said. “Sure enough, we started to take fire from the compound, and our staff sergeant yelled to take cover, and then we began to engage them. As we were bounding to a different compound, I got hit and kept running another 50 meters. I got on the ground facing the enemy and kept firing to protect my guys.”
Suffering from a deep laceration in his right hip, while consistently receiving automatic weapons fire from the insurgents, Speed heard his staff sergeant yell, “Corpsman up!”
“I half ran, half limped to the Marine we thought was in trouble,” Speed said. “I checked him out, and he didn’t have any apparent injuries, so we busted into a nearby compound. I told him, ‘I think I got shot in the [butt].’ We both laughed about that in the middle of the firefight.”
Once inside the compound, Speed was able to check his wounds and begin to apply first aid.
“I looked down and saw I had an entrance wound near the base of my spine, and the exit wound was coming out of my right hip,” he said. “Luckily, the bullet cauterized the wound, so there wasn’t as much bleeding as there could have been.”
After the Marines called for a medical evacuation for their ‘Doc,’ his right leg had gone numb. He could no longer walk without help.
“A sergeant had to help me get to the bird as it was coming in. I hadn’t taken any of the meds I was carrying in case my Marines got hurt worse than me,” Speed said. “So I was glad when the crew chief gave me something to dull the pain when I got on the helicopter.”
After several operations and two weeks of recovery at Camp Bastion, ‘Doc’ Speed returned to his unit, which was still engaged in the fight.
“The day he got back he was still smiling and as happy-go-lucky as ever,” said Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Gerald Brant Jr., an independent duty corpsmen who worked with Speed last year and during his current deployment. “It was like getting shot didn’t affect him. He still went on patrols with his Marines and still kept up like nothing happened to him.”
Throughout the whole ordeal, Speed has stayed positive, setting his sights on continuing his career in the Navy.
“Ever since I got injured, I’ve had more pride in the uniform and understand that if you get knocked down, you have to get right back up,” the Purple Heart Medal recipient said. “I get sharp pains every now and then, but it doesn’t slow me down a bit. I still keep up with my guys, and I keep pushing forward no matter what, because my Marines count on me, and I will be there for them.”
Speed is serving as a corpsman with Police Advisor Team 2, 1st Bn., 8th Marines, and he said he plans on becoming a naval officer as a critical care nurse after returning from his current deployment.