UNSUNG HEROES: The Marine Who Shielded His Team From A Grenade And Then Kept Fighting

Community
Photo by Cpl. Zachary Nola

“Ambush Alley.” That was what they called this side street. It was nestled in the Sangin district of Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, a Taliban stronghold. The street was just 8 feet wide, with 10-foot brick walls lining either side.


It was where Pfc. Richard Weinmaster would prove his mettle.  

Weinmaster and other members of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment were conducting a dismounted patrol through Ambush Alley on July 8, 2008, when they were attacked by Taliban fighters.  Small arms fire rained down on the Americans.  Weinmaster, who had been in Afghanistan just over two months, was leading the way with his machine gun. It was his first deployment.

Unfazed, Weinmaster fired back with his automatic weapon. His award citation states that he confronted a “withering volume of fire that passed within meters of his position.”

Then, insurgents lobbed two hand grenades over the wall. One landed near Weinmaster’s team leader, Lance Cpl. Travis Wilkerson, and three other Marines.

Cpl. Richard S. Weinmaster smiles as he is congratulated by a Marine after the ceremony where he was awarded the Navy Cross.Photo by Cpl. Zachary Nola

Weinmaster reacted immediately. First, he pushed Wilkerson away from the grenade. Then, astonishingly, Weinmaster jumped toward it, intending to put himself between the blast and his comrades.

The grenade exploded while Weinmaster was mid-air, according to an account by the World-Herald News Service. Shrapnel penetrated his head, legs, and abdomen.  One piece went through his eye socket and into his brain.

Wilkerson, the team leader, was unscathed, as were other nearby Marines. Weinmaster had saved them from the grenade’s explosion.

Incredibly, rather than seeking treatment for his devastating injuries, Weinmaster resumed the fight. He took up his machine gun and fired at enemy forces just 50 yards away. Even in his weakened state, he was effective. His award citation credits him with “engaging enemy forces with accurate automatic weapons fire and forcing them to break contact.”

Before long, Weinmaster collapsed from his injuries. He was medically evacuated and it was unclear whether he would survive.

In the end, Weinmaster pulled through. Two pieces of shrapnel remain lodged in his brain.  

For his actions on July 8, 2008, Weinmaster received the Navy Cross, the second-highest award given for distinctive valor. During the award ceremony, he also was promoted meritoriously to corporal.

Weinmaster deflects the praise to his teammates, crediting them with saving his life.  “If it wasn't for my Marines, I wouldn't be here,” he reflected at a Marine Corps League meeting. “I’m walking.  I'm talking. With that piece of shrapnel in my brain, I should be brain dead.”

Wilkerson, for his part, feels indebted to Weinmaster. “There is nothing I can do to repay that man,” he told The Desert Trail.

“I didn't do anything special,” Weinmaster insisted at his award ceremony. “Everyone on my left and right would have done the same thing. I was just in the right place at the right time.”

Casperassets.rbl.ms

Benjamin Franklin nailed it when he said, "Fatigue is the best pillow." True story, Benny. There's nothing like pushing your body so far past exhaustion that you'd willingly, even longingly, take a nap on a concrete slab.

Take $75 off a Casper Mattress and $150 off a Wave Mattress with code TASKANDPURPOSE

And no one knows that better than military service members and we have the pictures to prove it.

Read More Show Less
Staff Sgt. Daniel Christopher Evans was arrested on Jan. 29, 2018. (Photo courtesy of Wilmington Police Department, North Carolina.)

A special operations Marine is due in court on March 7 after being arrested last year for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend, Task & Purpose has learned.

Staff Sgt. Daniel Christopher Evans was arrested and charged with assault inflicting serious injury on July 29, 2018, according to Jennifer Dandron, a spokeswoman for police in Wilmington, North Carolina. Evans is currently assigned as a Critical Skills Operator with the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, according to the Marine Corps Personnel Locator.

Read More Show Less
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Elyse Ping Medvigy conducts a call-for-fire during an artillery shoot south of Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Aug. 22, 2014. Medvigy, a fire support officer assigned to the 4th Infantry Division's Company D, 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, is the first female company fire support officer to serve in an infantry brigade combat team supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Whitney Houston (Photo by U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Whitney Houston)

Following Trump's inauguration, some supporters of ground combat integration assumed he would quickly move to reinstate a ban on women in jobs like the infantry. When this did not happen, advocates breathed a collective sigh of relief, and hundreds of qualified women charted a course in history by entering the newly opened occupational fields.

So earlier this week when the Wall Street Journal published an editorial against women in ground combat by conservative political commentator Heather Mac Donald, the inclination of many ground combat integration supporters was to dismiss it outright. But given Trump's proclivity to make knee jerk policy decisions in response to falling approval ratings and the court's tradition of deference to the military when it comes to policies affecting good order and discipline, it would be unwise to assume the 2016 lifting of the ban on women in ground combat is a done deal.

Read More Show Less

R. Lee Ermey was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery on Friday.

Best known for his iconic role as the Marine Corps drill instructor Gunnery Sgt. Hartman in the war drama Full Metal Jacket, Ermey died April 15, 2018 at age 74 due to complications from pneumonia, Task & Purpose previously reported.

Read More Show Less
A B-2 Spirit bomber deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, and F-22 Raptors from the Hawaii Air National Guard's 154th Wing fly near Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, during a interoperability training mission Jan. 15, 2019. (U.S. Air Force/Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)

The U.S. Air Force has two of its most elite aircraft — the B-2 Spirit bomber and the F-22 Raptor — training together in the Pacific, reassuring America's allies and sending a warning to strategic competitors and adversaries about the sheer power the U.S. brings to the table.

These stunning photos show the powerful aircraft tearing across the Pacific, where the U.S. has increasingly found itself facing challenges from a rising China.

Read More Show Less