Months after military medics from New Mexico made the brave decision to pull a live explosive out of a young Marine, the guardsmen shared their story.
A crew of New Mexico National Guardsmen, well-practiced in medevacking wounded troops off the battlefield in Afghanistan, made a decision that few can fathom.
"Each of us on the aircraft had to agree to take the patient on," Spc. Mark Edens said.
Their patient, Lance Cpl. Winder Perez, had a foot-long rocket-propelled grenade embedded in his left side. It could have exploded at any time.
"There was quite a bit of alarm among the crew at the time, as you can imagine," Capt. Kevin Doo said.
Perez needed to be flown to the nearest medical unit, which was around 65 miles away.
"If the RPG exploded, you know Spc. Edens and Sgt. Hardesty are working on the patient directly over him, shrapnel alone would have been devastating. And about 18 inches behind where the patient is lying is over 300 gallons of jet aviation fuel and it would have been catastrophic," Doo said.
When the chopper landed, a Navy trauma nurse ordered his staff to stay away. The young Marine was still fully conscious.
"I took him by the hand he said, 'Where is everybody?' and I said, 'You have an RPG in your leg and everybody is staying away from you. I promise you I will not leave you until that thing is out of your leg,'" Lt. Cmdr. James Gennari said.
Rescue crews were able to get the live round out of the young Marine. He's still recovering in a Washington D.C. hospital.