An Army veteran from Rhode Island recounted his harrowing combat experience, which left him on the brink of death for a time and crippled for life.
An Infantryman, Terry Rajsombath deployed in 2009 with the Connecticut Army National Guard, heading into Afghanistan with the mission of finding and eliminating the Taliban.
“Six months into our deployment,” we had already [seen] heavy contact,” he recounted. “We survived ambushes, mortar attacks.”
With mid-tour leave approaching, Rajsombath decided he wanted to go to Peru and teach English to underprivileged kids, and was ready to go- he just had one last mission before he could make the flight.
However, Rajsombath had an impending sense of doom about the mission, as if something was going to go horribly wrong.
As the young Soldier’s unit approached their objective, his worst fears became a reality- they were caught in the middle of an ambush, taking fire from all sides of the valley they were traversing.
As a gunner, Rajsombath began to lay down suppressive fire.
“I remember, I wasn’t trying to be Rambo,” he said. “I wasn’t trying to be a hero. I was just trying to do my job.”
Then, his vacation to Peru was cancelled, and his life was changed forever.
“Suddenly, I was hit with the most excruciating pain in my entire life,” he said. “It felt like someone took one of those fireplace pokers and just skewered my leg from my left cheek, all the way to my thigh…And immediately after, steering me with that poker, it felt like someone reached into my thigh and was shredding my muscles [with[ their bare hands.”
Rasjombath was hit. To make matters worse, he had advanced so far along that his teammates were too far away to have noticed.
Calling out for his comrades, Rajsombath went unheard and was forced to wait for a lull in the fighting when his voice might have a chance to reach friendly ears. Splayed out on the side of the mountain, he began wondering if the Taliban fighter who shot him was coming to finish the job.
“I literally screamed out loud, ‘F*** dying in Afghanistan,’” he recounted. “‘I am not f***ing dying here.”
Using his machine gun as a lever, he dug the barrel into the earth and began using the gun to push him down the mountain, falling as far as 80 feet at one point.
Eventually, his efforts paid off, and he was found by his comrades, who stripped him down and took him to a gun truck.
Putting pedal to the metal, Rajsombath was taken to his outpost, where he began to fade in and out of consciousness. Searching for an exit wound, the medics initially believed he caught shrapnel.
Being hauled to a MEDEVAC helicopter, Rajsombath was repeatedly told to stay awake, but was unable to remain conscious.
Coming to at a forward hospital, he noticed that the nurses would not look at him, and seemed quite sad.
“They had the saddest look in their eyes for me,” he said. “I remember staring at their faces, looking for an explanation, and they couldn’t look at me.”
Falling asleep again, he would not awake until he was in Germany, two days later.
When Rajsombath awoke, he panicked due to the sensation caused by a feeding tube that had been placed inside of his mouth. Approached by a nurse who calmed him down, he was eventually spoken to by medical staff, who told him how lucky he was.
“[The doctor] said that had I arrived any more than two minutes, I would have bled to death,” he said, noting that he was given untreated blood.
Transported back stateside, Rajsombath underwent twelve surgeries, and learned he would never run again.
“I wanted to make the Infantry a career,” he lamented.
Putting things into perspective, Rajsombath knows that things could be worse- after all, he could have died on that mountain in Afghanistan. In time, he did make it to Peru, and even completed an Ironman with crutches.
“I’m actually training for another Ironman,” he said. “But I guess that’s another story.”
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