FORWARD OPERATING BASE RIPLEY, Afghanistan -- Walking back from a bazaar after buying gasoline for their village, four young friends were stopped by Taliban rebels. Gunfire erupts from the Taliban, killing one and wounding two children. One of the two people injured was a nine year-old boy, who was brought to doctors and corpsmen of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable).
After the attack, the boy's father brought his son to Tarin Kowt to ask the governor of the province, who in turn asked the Marines if they could help. The boy had been shot at least twice with an AK-47.
"His right shoulder had two entrance wounds and several smaller wounds," said Lt.(j.g) Brian Allen, a nurse corps officer and Nazareth, Penn., resident. "You could see the top of his lung. His clavicle was blown off."
However, like most Afghan youth, the boy proved to be a tough survivor. He needed only a minimum amount of painkillers, and didn't require a blood transfusion.
"He had a great threshold of pain," said Petty Officer First Class (Fleet Marine Force) William Fetherman, a Bangor, Penn., native. "This wasn't a thing where we could stitch him up and send him on his way."
Fluids proved enough to bring the boy's blood counts and pressure up.
"We were contemplating a unit of blood," said Allen. "We were going back and forth. We opted not to transfer and just went with fluids."
Regardless of how tough the boy was, the team of doctors and corpsmen immediately went to work. They cleaned and dressed the wound, and ensured there was no other internal damage. They determined that he needed more extensive surgery than could be provided at FOB Ripley, so they arranged for a flight to another medical facility.
Escort by their side, the boy and his father were loaded onto an aircraft and taken to Bagram.
The boy was treated at a hospital ran by the Egyptian military where more additional medical and humanitarian care is available to local nationals.
The boy is now listed in stable condition and is scheduled for surgery to repair his extensive injuries.
Shooting an innocent nine year-old child in the back highlights the brutality of the former Taliban regime and justifies continued presence of the Coalition and the Marines in Afghanistan, a presence which the people of Afghanistan are grateful for.
"Dad came down the ramp and shook my hand," said Allen. "He said through the interpreter, 'Thank you very much.'"
The 22d MEU (SOC) is in Afghanistan conducting combat and civil military operations as Task Force Linebacker for Combined Joint Task Force 76 in the Oruzgan province.
For more information on the 22nd MEU (SOC)'s role in Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, visit the unit's web site at www.22meu.usmc.mil.