JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON (Feb. 24, 2012) — A combat medic who treated a Soldier in Afghanistan found herself in a role reversal after she was injured a week later and brought to San Antonio Military Medical Center where the Soldier she treated is also recovering.
A recent graduate of the University of Oklahoma with an Aerospace Engineer degree and an infantryman with the National Guard for eight years, Staff Sgt. Brian Wayland deployed to Afghanistan on April 2011 with his unit Company C, 1st Battalion, 179th Infantry, Oklahoma Army National Guard.
“I was definitely excited and nervous when I got the call to deploy. I talked it over with my wife and told her I didn’t have to go but I also told her how I could not live with myself if any of my Soldiers were injured or killed and I wasn’t there. So together we decided I would go,” said Wayland.
On Dec. 9, 2011, Wayland was on his routine mounted patrol in Afghanistan when his vehicle struck an improvised explosive device, or IED, that threw him away from the vehicle.
“It happened so fast, one minute I was backing up the mine roller vehicle from a clearing route and then the next minute I was in a ditch about 30 to 60 feet away from the vehicle,” said Wayland.
He managed to move his injured body about 100 meters to the patrol base where Spc. Ashley Jones started immediate medical aid until he was air-lifted to Forward Operating Base Fenty in Afghanistan.
“As I was lying there on the back of the vehicle — what kept me motivated to keep going was the thrill of waiting for the ‘bird’ to pick me up. I kept looking up, just watching, anticipating,”chuckled Wayland.
Wayland was transferred to SAMMC nine days after he was injured and was diagnosed with Traumatic Brain Injury and multiple facial and body injuries due to fragments from the IED.
“Everyday I’m getting better. I do wish my brain worked the same way as it did before, but this is not an obstacle that I can’t overcome. There have been a lot of life lessons that were learned but if all I gave for this country is my concentration, memory problems, hearing and scars, I’m doing pretty good,” said Wayland.
Jones, a 20 year-old combat medic, joined the National Guard at age 17, was assigned to Company C, 700 Brigade Support Battalion, 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team when she deployed and often traveled on convoys to provide medical support for the Soldiers in combat.
“I don’t want to have to do my job, but I will when I need to,” said Jones. She further went on to explain that combat medics do their most demanding work when others are at their worst.
Coincidentally, one week after Wayland was injured, Jones’ vehicle was struck by an IED, injuring her right foot. She soon realized her right foot was crushed from the blast so she immediately started self aid by applying a tourniquet to her right leg until a combat medic came to rescue.
“I was in and out of consciousness so I can’t remember how bad I was hurt,” said Jones.
She was medically evacuated to FOB Fenty in Afghanistan where they removed her right leg below the knee, transferred her to Germany and then to SAMMC on Dec. 24.
“Just a week ago, I had to MEDEVAC someone and now here I am,” she said, reflecting on being on the other end of the patient-medic relationship.
She was the first amputee in her unit.
“I didn’t know she was here [SAMMC] until I came back from my four day pass,” said Wayland. “My injuries might have been worse if Specialist Jones was not there to provide first aid.”
“Her calming demeanor helped me believe I was going to be okay,” he added. “That is the big battle when someone gets injured. If you think you are not going to make it, there is a possibility your body might start shutting down. The mind is a powerful thing.”
He and his wife visited Jones daily in the hospital until she was released Jan. 18 and plan to remain close friends, especially during their rehabilitation at SAMMC and at the Center for the Intrepid.
“After she got out, I made sure her and her family were taken care of with rides to different places and provided them with any information they need,” he said. “On Valentine’s Day, my commander and I took Ashley and her mom, JoDe, to dinner to try to make the day special for them. That’s the least I can do.”
After Jones returns home, she plans to stay in the Oklahoma Army National Guard and return back to school.
“After my rehabilitation, I wanted to transfer to Oklahoma State University to receive my degree in Nursing but after visiting and rehabbing at the CFI, I’m thinking about changing my degree to become a physical therapist,” Jones said. “I don’t regret my decision in joining the National Guard, its unfortunate what happened to me but I’ll get through it.”
Wayland would like to find a job in engineering to help other wounded warriors with their injuries.
“I hope to get a job in aerospace engineering and use engineering to better the world. I plan on doing research to help amputees to return to a more normal life through technology. They have given so much, so we as a country should strive to give them the very best,” said Wayland.
Wayland and Jones both received Purple Heart medals and certificates for their bravery and courage and Jones received her Combat Medic Badge for treating a fellow Soldier while being actively engaged by the enemy.