MILITARY TRAINING SAVED HIS LIFE
During combat operations in 2006, a Special Forces Soldier assigned to Company A, 2nd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne) transmitted over the radio, “I’m down and bleeding out fast.”
Master Sgt. Tom Morrissey, who was deployed on his third combat tour, had suffered eight wounds from an enemy’s AK-47 at close range.
“I thought I was going to die.”
However, his quick thinking and “training ad nauseum,” as he calls it, helped save not only his life but the lives of the other men who had been hit.
SHOT IN BOTH ARMS AND BOTH LEGS
Because he was shot in both arms and both legs, Morrissey was not able to administer first aid. But he explained to his translator how to stop the bleeding while they waited for their quick reaction force, from the 10th Mountain Division, to come get them.
Morrissey recognized the man who shot them, but following the ambush that was the least of his worries.
Shortly after the call for help, 10th Mountain Division Soldiers arrived and brought Morrissey back to the closest forward operating base (FOB). There he was stabilized and prepared for medical evacuation.
Although his injuries were life-threatening, Morrissey said his top priority while receiving first aid was to stay in an operational mindset and relay the intelligence he had gathered to his fellow Special Forces Soldiers so they could continue with the mission.
“The day this happened to Tom was one of the worst in my military career,” said a Special Forces Soldier assigned to Morrissey’s team. “Talk about feeling helpless.”
Morrissey was alone in an area the team considered “secure,” while the rest of the team was performing a mission in another area of Afghanistan. Over the radio, his team heard about a conflict in a nearby region. Not until hearing the call for medical evacuation did they realize it was for Morrissey.
“We didn’t know what his condition was or any of the details,” said Morrissey’s teammate. “We just couldn’t get back to the FOB fast enough.”
MEDEVACED FOR EMERGENCY SURGERY
The team arrived back at the base only a few hours after Morrissey had been medically evacuated for emergency surgery. Twenty-four hours passed before they received word about his condition.
“The atmosphere was glum,” said the Special Forces sergeant on Morrissey’s team. “We were upset with the situation, but we had to use [the anger and frustration] to charge us up to continue the mission.”
While the team waited to hear about his status, Morrissey underwent emergency surgery to stabilize him. After being stabilized, he was evacuated to Landstuhl, Germany, for further medical care.
“I learned early in life through Special Forces to be a survivor,” Morrissey said. “To be a survivor, you plan and
train to deal with the unexpected. As a result, nothing is a surprise.”
After the shooting on 5 June, 2006, it took approximately nine days until he arrived at a hospital in the United States. Within 10 minutes of his return to the U.S., his family arrived at Eisenhower Army Medical Center, Augusta, Ga. It was perfect timing, said Morrissey, who was grateful to see his wife and three daughters.
To date, Morrissey has had 16 surgeries stateside. He said U.S. Army Col., Dr. Paul Cutting, a hand and nerve specialist, is the expert behind his recovery. Calling him a “near genius surgeon and an officer to be admired,” Morrissey is grateful for the recovery he has been able to make and for the care he has received.
HELPING OTHER WOUNDED SOLDIERS
Morrissey, who has served as a “quiet professional” for more than 30 years, has taken a new path during his recovery. He is a vocal supporter and mentor for other combat-injured Soldiers. No matter the gaps in age or rank, Morrissey tells fellow Soldiers to “recognize how lucky they are to be alive.”
“They cannot feel sorry for themselves for thinking their lives will never be what they expected,” Morrissey said. “I tell them their lives were never going to be what they expected. They simply had not lived long enough to realize it yet.”
Morrissey said he is grateful for the support from his teammates, family and friends. “Not to take anything away from blood family, but Soldiers who go to war together are family.”
More than two years after the ambush, Morrissey, now 55, is stationed at Fort Gordon, Ga., as a medical-hold
Soldier, while his surgeries and rehabilitation continue.