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If you’re ever hit with an IED, pray for the U.S. Special Forces to save you.

They not only saved my life after a bomb attack in 2002, they changed it completely.

I was “bleeding out”, as military medics said, after a bomb attack in Afghanistan.

My husband, photographer Hadi Dadashian, and I were returning from a day of interviewing Afghan villagers near Gardez when men rushed our vehicle and tossed in a crudely made IED.  (I say crudely, because we’re alive to tell this story.)

Despite heroic efforts by Hadi, then an Agence France-Presse crew, then an international aid team, I was hurt so badly that they couldn’t save me.

So the U.S. Special Forces did.

A friend, Peter Baker of the Washington Post (now at the New York Times), persuaded Special Forces officers at a desert base to airlift me to Kabul for life-saving surgery at the military’s trauma hospital.

They didn’t have to:  There were more American military deaths that day than at any other during the war to that point, and incoming planes and helicopters were mostly collecting the dead.

But because the Special Forces agreed to help two civilians, including a Canadian, we’re still here to praise their courage.


American military, with me on a stretcher (much later)

 

About that airlift:  Everyone on that plane has our gratitude for life.  Literally.

Medics on the plane told Hadi I would die soon if I didn’t get to Kabul.  The plane was stuck in the sand, and I remember the sound of the engine roaring, then fading, then roaring as the pilot tried again and again to leave.

I was in and out of consciousness, yet will never forget the warmth of a hand holding mine.

The man asked if it was OK to pray.

I mumbled, “Sure.”

That man, Colonel Mike Wright, prayed for my life, and later told everyone he had experienced a miracle.

USAF Colonel Mike Wright

 

A helicopter sent to retrieve American soldiers from the battlefield was diverted to collect us.

I will never forget the brave Special Forces medics who carried me on a stretcher through the desert to reach the helicopter.

Despite warnings of advancing al Qaeda fighters, they carried that stretcher, heavy with oxygen and other emergency gear, through knee-deep sand and bitter cold, to safety.

Hadi says the helicopter crew was amazing too, poised with guns at the open back, while medics worked to keep wounded American soldiers and me alive.

Mike and his crew stayed with their plane.

They didn’t have enough weapons or manpower, but they held off al Qaeda fighters long enough to get out alive.

The plane was renamed Mud Puppy after that, and flew many more missions in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Mud Puppy crew has been dispersed all over the world since then, but Mike was so moved, that he followed our progress from one military hospital to another, in Kabul, then Uzbekistan, Turkey, and Germany.  (He and his wife Susan later visited Canada to meet my family, and we’re all lifelong friends.)

All the time I was in surgery, men and women from several branches of the U.S. military helped Hadi.

He was in shock, so they did their best to keep up his spirits.  They told jokes; they gave him gifts from their own belongings, because he had nothing.  They shared their MREs. They gave him clean clothes and a warm coat — his clothing was still stained with my blood.  They found him a place to shower and sleep, after days without rest.

Hadi says their support gave him hope, and helped ward off despair.

American soldiers helped both of us in so many ways, through four countries, that we still find their goodwill incredible.

Such selflessness in war, extended to civilians, is rarely reported and rarely recognized.

We cannot ever thank them enough for their courage and sacrifice.

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