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March 19, 2007: Our first mission that day was to move to a nearby Army facility. When the mission was completed, we started back to our original department point. Traffic was heavier than normal, so we altered the route. As we approached an intersection, there were the usual donkey-carts, beggars, cops, taxis and, of course, an ocean of Toyota Corollas. Our motorcade moved slowly through this orchestrated chaos.

As we did so, I noticed a red Corolla pull alongside from a small row of shops off to the right. This happened the moment we cleared the intersection. I immediately called on the radio for a “screen right” and the motorcade responded, expertly executing the defensive maneuver. As the approaching vehicle moved to our right, I was able to get a view inside the Corolla. From the not-so-comfortable vantage point of my forehead pressed against the window, I tried to look down into this vehicle to check out the occupants. I noticed it was a right-hand drive like cars in England. Due to the angle and my elevation above the Corolla, I could not see the driver. I also noticed (oddly) that there were no seats, upholstery, floorboards, etc. While this isn’t entirely uncommon in the Middle East, it was worth noting. The whole picture didn’t add up and my “spider senses” began tingling.

I peeled my face off of the window and leaned over to tell my driver what I’d observed in the car. It was at this very moment the Corolla violently exploded (I would later find out that all the explosives were concealed inside the door panel of the Corolla). The explosion happened right outside my vehicle door and my world went black.

I remember the absence of sound and color but somewhere in my brain, the reality of what just happened was clear enough. I suddenly knew with crystal clarity that I needed to get up now, or die. The sounds that punched through my mind fog were the words of my teammates shouting over the radio, “Tommy’s dead, Tommy’s dead!” I realized that despite the explosion, my earpiece somehow stayed in my left ear. I knew that I had to get my body to respond to save my life. I regained full awareness and immediately awoke to a numbing paralysis, my body felt like 600 pounds of Silly Putty. I could see now and was more or less coherent, but I couldn’t seem to get enough air to speak. I could hear well enough to understand as my teammate grabbed my shoulders and calmly spoke, “Tommy, I have to get you out of this truck and its going hurt.”

“Hurt” couldn’t adequately describe the pain that roared through my body as he gently moved me to the street. Our team medic rushed to my side and administered an IV through my chest and then proceeded to remove the broken pieces of teeth out of my mouth. He calmly explained how I needed to breathe and regain use of my cognitive abilities. John, another teammate, also came straight to me and helped our medic assess my injuries. I was pretty messed up but the most critical injury was my right leg. There was a moment’s thought given to a tourniquet, but this idea was shot down due to the shrapnel damage to my abdomen. A leg tourniquet would have failed to stop the bleeding from my abdomen.

John then stuck his hand inside my leg and restricted the bleeding with his fingers by pressing down on the artery. At this moment, the Blackwater Physicians Assistant arrived on the scene. She stayed with me during the flight into a nearby military base. She was very professional and provided me comfort by holding my hand and keeping me informed of my status and our whereabouts. She gave me verbal encouragement telling me that I was going to be okay. Her professional actions were critical to my survival.

— Tommy, Blackwater Contractor

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