Three weeks into the fight in the volatile Arghandab Valley, an American platoon of the Army's 101st Airborne Division is heading to the rear, weakened by horrific war injuries and unable to continue their mission. The platoon -- 1st platoon, Alpha Battery, 1st Battalion, 320 Field Artillery Regiment, of the 101st Airborne Division -- started the mission with 17 men, and now they're down to 9. Combat Outpost Nolen has seen some of the most intense fighting in Kandahar Province.Read the rest here
This area is critical to U.S. control of the region because it's a main supply route into the city of Kandahar for the Taliban. It's also treacherous for the platoon trying to carry out its mission.
Shrapnel ripped into Sgt. Matthew Kendall's face and left arm on July 4th, when a soldier from another unit stepped on a homemade bomb, which the military calls an IED, as Kendall walked next to him.
Spc. Kevin Gatson fell victim to another IED July 12th. It was one of many that have been seeded in farming land surrounding the former school the platoon is using as a base. Gatson lost his leg and three fingers. The platoon leader, 1st Lt. Norman Black, had his eardrum blown out by the blast.
A quick reaction team was immediately sent from COP Nolen and came to Gatson's aid. On the way, an IED exploded and Staff Sgt. Kyle Malin lost both of his legs. Less than 45 minutes later, an IED took off both of Pfc. Corey Kent's legs and part of his left hand. Sgt. Michael Hagan was hit in the face and arm by shrapnel, and also ruptured an eardrum in the blast.
Just two days later on July 14, Pfc. Brandon King, a soldier from a different platoon, was shot by a marksman while standing guard duty. He was the first soldier killed at COP Nolen since it was taken over by the 101st Airborne Division.
On July 19, Staff Sgt. Avionne Reese walked into an IED for the third time in the three-week deployment -- it shot pieces of the bomb into the right side of his body. Luckily no one was seriously injured in the first incident on July 5, when an IED went off near a patrol. But on July 12, in the second incident, he was struck by shrapnel from the IED that hit Gatson. After three IEDs the Army will take a soldier out of the fight for evaluation.
Spc. Pedro Torres injured his arm and was hit in the face by the same blast that hit Reese.
The group has already been recommended for 10 Purple Hearts.
I am sobered and humbled by their sacrifices.