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What Heroes Are Made Of

2:45 PM, Jul 7, 2009 • By AMANDA VALAURI
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David Hutchinson didn't join the Army Reserve to be a hero. He joined because of a family tradition of service to save money for college. But soon after he enlisted, Hutchinson was deployed to eastern Afghanistan. On his fourth day in country, the 21-year-old private first class was on his first patrol, manning a Mark-19 grenade launcher in a Humvee's armored turret, when his convoy was ambushed. Because of this soldier's actions, not one American life was lost--17 men went in; 17 men came out. For his service, Hutchinson was awarded a silver star.

In a teleconference yesterday, he shared his story.

About 30 miles from the Pakistan border in Sharana, Hutchinson and the 420th Engineer Brigade came under insurgent fire in what "was supposed to be a relatively calm area."

"I saw 20 or 30 insurgents pop up on this ridge to the convoy's right," Hutchinson said of the attack. "As quickly as I could destroy [an insurgent] another one would pop up."

As firing slowed because of the dust cloud, two RPGs narrowly missed Hutchinson's truck. While the explosions caused him to lose feeling in the bottom half of his body, Hutchinson chose to administer first aid to his first sergeant, who was bleeding heavily from his face. Using compression bandages, Hutchinson stabilized the first sergeant until the medevac arrived.

Hutchinson's right leg was "peppered with shrapnel," and the first sergeant had shrapnel lodged in his brain. "It didn't dawn on anyone that we only had one litter at that point. So they had me on the [stretcher] first but I jumped off of it and told them to put the first sergeant on the [stretcher]," Hutchinson said.

Both had multiple surgeries in Bagram and the United States to remove the shrapnel. The first sergeant has made a full recovery with only the loss of peripheral vision. Hutchinson is working through nerve damage to his right leg but is "slowly getting back to full capacity."

Hutchinson plans to remain in the Reserve and go back for another tour in two years.

Amanda Valauri is an intern at THE WEEKLY STANDARD.