Between April 5 and 6, 2003, my battalion (1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery) was caught up in a firefight that started in the afternoon and lasted throughout the night. A Special Forces team swept along the canal bank and removed all the small pockets of resistance.
We were leading a column that would link up with Task Force 2/69. TF 2/69 came under attack during our drive to meet them, and artillery support was requested from us. Our own firefight began just as soon as the fire support mission began. The worst of it was at the beginning with our own column came under fire while it was paused on a highway overpass. We pushed forward, then came to a stop where we had to continue providing fire support until morning. During that time, there were reports of movement along the canal banks on our left and right, and even a battalion of mechanized infantry heading our way until we were able to divert a battery of cannon to take them out of the fight. We saw their wreckage the next morning.
Unfortunately, a young man from Task Force 2/69 by the name of Private Kelley Prewitt had taken a stray bullet to the leg from the enemy.
PVT Kelley Prewitt
The Rescue Attempt
The medics from his unit worked tirelessly to extend his life. They applied MAST trousers to serve as a tourniquet and shunt blood to his vital organs. Multiple requests were made for a med-evac helicopter to come get him. There was a high chance that one of the many artillery strikes my unit was firing to support TF 2/69 would hit the helicopter as it flew into the line of fire and out. A plan was hatched by the leadership of 2/69 and 1/10 to move Prewitt back via ground vehicles. Since we had canals on both our left and right, this entailed more than simply moving behind the line of fire. The trek would cover many miles along a single-lane farm road with six- to eight-foot banks on both sides. Our vehicles moved to the top of those banks exposing ourselves to possible enemy fire to allow our one ambulance from Headquarters Battery to move up to the patient from TF 2/69. SPC Ryan Mains and LT Michael Hanvey were driving the ambulance to receive Prewitt from from the TF 2/69 medical team.
At that point, Prewitt was in bad shape. LT Hanvey and Mains went to work on him immediately, but he was unresponsive to any treatments they attempted to stabilize him. Prewitt died moments later having bled out. LT Hanvey and Mains transported his body to the rear of the 1/10 Field Artillery line so that his remains could be returned home. I remember the somber and distant look on LT Hanvey’s face as that ambulance drove past my position among B Battery. I was on the left bank keeping an eye out for one of those 3-man RPG teams we kept hearing about over the radio, but when they drove by all I could do was ask myself, “I wonder why our battalion surgeon isn’t in the back with the patient.” It was a sobering experience that this was not a game. Real lives were being snuffed out with each push of a button and pull of a trigger.
I am going on a 12-mile ruck march this Memorial Day that I’ll call a “Silent Patrol”.
This will be a time to reflect on my own life and remember those who did not come home like Private Prewitt, whom I never met in person.
Many of us take Memorial Day as a time to barbecue, have a day off from work, and thank a veteran or two for their service. I would like to ask you to do just a little bit more from now on.
I did a 3-mile ruck march in 2013. The walk lasted one hour where I donned a 22-pound rucksack. That time helped me clear my head, put life into perspective, and decide to honor those who gave their lives in service by living my life to the fullest. I also decided to do the same thing this year, but go to 12 miles.
Why 12 miles?
Twelve miles was the typical road march distance for training. I remember trying to push out that distance in three hours, so we would have to push ourselves at a pace faster than 4 miles an hour. We typically walk at a speed between 2.5 and 3 miles an hour.
I don’t plan to push for a 4 mph pace, but I will give myself about four hours of marching time. The route will be a 12-mile loop I mapped out this past week. I’ll use Runkeeper to make sure that I stick to at least 12 miles.
There is a physical fitness benefit from this activity, but the main point of this activity is to be silent, reflect on my own life, and remember those who have fallen. I want to do this because I feel that many of us will instead be focused on barbecue, shopping, and anything but remember those who are not here with us.
Feel free to join me
You don’t have to go twelve miles or give four hours of your day to commemorate the fallen, but I would like to invite you to consider doing some of the following:
Attend a Memorial Day ceremony in your community. A local chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars or American Legion may be planning something already in a downtown park, shrine, or cemetery.
Visit the grave of someone in your family who has given the ultimate sacrifice. Honor their memory and resolve to do something to live your own life to the fullest.
I do not feel we honor those who have fallen by shrinking back from life, but we do so by remember their lives and resolving to live to the fullest. See your dreams to fruition. Look at your obstacles and say, “I got this! Let’s go!” Someone died to protect your rights and freedoms. Use them, don’t waste them.