American Patriots Unsung Magazine Issue 6 - Page 18



10 around you . We were all quickly reprogrammed with an understanding that life is not fair , and that the wrath of the big Army does not discriminate .”

His class of 2005 was nicknamed the class of 9 / 11 . Your first year at West Point is kind of a freebie . You know that you ’ re not fully committed to the five years of active duty service and eight years of reserve time that follows until your second year . During the second year , cadets must take what ’ s called the “ Oath of Reaffirmation ” where you raise your right hand and sign on the dotted line . Once you do , you ’ re committed . The class of 2004 was the first class to take that oath after 9 / 11 with the full knowledge of what was in store for them . “ A new sense of seriousness set in over the Corps of Cadets . We knew as future leaders why we were here and we knew exactly where we ’ d be heading when we left there .”
Mantz says that being at the Academy while so many he knew were heading off to war was very conflicting . “ A profound sense of guilt came over me , being in an academic environment when this horrendous fight was going on in Afghanistan and Iraq . Every single day I was there , I wanted to do nothing more than drop out , enlist , and join the team downrange .”
But it was Sergeant Major Doug Van Der Pool and his step-father Degg , his two biggest mentors in life , that talked him off the ledge and kept him focused . They helped him keep perspective and convinced him that he ’ d be more effective if he continued and finished the process . He kept up with his studies even though the war always beckoned and the deaths of those he knew continued to challenge him . “ Somehow , I managed to stick it out . I met the expectations the academy and those I set for myself . One of the very first courses that I was thrown into as a freshman was called Discrete Dynamical Systems and I still have no clue what that is .”
Graduating from the academy would seem like a joyous moment of major accomplishment where cadets throw their hats in the air and celebrate , but Mantz saw it as a box to check . A major step in the right direction , he willingly admits , but it was just a necessary step in getting downrange , and his internal clock was growing impatient .
“ My stepfather wrote me a letter and gave it to me at graduation . Sealed inside an envelope , he told me not to open until I got to Fort Benning for my year of infantry school . It was two pages , wonderfully written about leadership , what he took away from his time in the infantry , and his time on the police force . I came across that letter not very long ago , having almost forgotten about it . As I read it , it was amazing how his words came back to me and the leadership practices he wrote about . I believe that I naturally fell into those leadership principles because of his influence in my life .”
Mantz was assigned to the 1st Calvary Division at Fort Hood Texas with the 1-8 Cav Battalion , Bravo Company . His company commander , Captain Jeff Morris , who Mantz says , “ is one of the best officers I ’ ve evet met ,” began sizing him up for a special platoon .
18 sensation moved through my calves and then thighs as they became numb. When that feeling hit my stomach, it was the point I realized my injuries were out of control and three names flooded my mind. I started repeating the names over and over again rapidly for the last minute of my life. The names were my mom and my two sisters. The numbing feelings hit my chest and I consciously knew that I was done. I took my last breath, I said my last thought, and I died.” Mantz awoke two days later in the Green Zone to learn that he had flatlined for 15- minutes straight before the medical team could get a pulse. His mother stood in the family kitchen halfway around the world making a grilled cheese sandwich for his little sister, but nauseous with a premonition that something was horribly wrong. “When the phone rang,” his mother told me, “it said, ‘United States Government’ and I kind of held my breath as I answered. I was told that he had suffered a leg wound and I breathed a sigh of relief only to learn that he had severed his femoral artery, might not make it, but would suffer certain brain damage even if he did.” His parents were preparing to fly to Germany to meet him when they received the news that their son was not only alive but had suffered no permanent injury to his brain. His mother convinced the Army to fly him to Walter Reed in Maryland instead of Texas near so his unit could be near him. I will end as I began, Joshua Mantz is a living miracle. “The impact of the gunshot felt like I was being lifted by the swell of an ocean wave. My body absorbed the shock of the round and the environment shifted to this sense of slow motion time where I could only hear the muted shot of the sniper and my own voice calling for a medic. In slow motion clarity, I watched as Marlin’s body fell to the ground. I didn’t know I was shot so when he hit the ground I actually tried to drag him to safety and started to provide medical aid until my medic arrived a few seconds later. “Our medic was only 19-years-old and right there, on the spot, he was forced to make a life and death decision between soldiers. In truth, his ability to save either one of us was highly unlikely but he knew without a doubt he could not save us both. A severed aorta and a severed femoral artery meant we both had less than two minutes to live. I had a slightly better chance of survival than Marlon did, yet this 19-year-old medic made a decision he would live with for the rest of his life. Those are the types of decisions that soldiers are faced with on the battlefield every day. “My dying experience was like watching a choreographed dance. Fully conscious, I had the privilege of watching the most amazing professionals imaginable, going about the business of trying to save ^HYK]\]HZ\\H\YܝH[Y[^\[\[YK[[x&\HZ[™H[H\[X[HY]H\HH][\[H[XZ[[˜]\Y[H\]]HœXH][ܙ[ˈ] XܙY\[“^HZ[^\Y[H\ZH][Bܙ[ܘ\Y[K[Hۜ[\HYH][YHو][H[[X^[ٙ\[ۘ[[XY[XK[˜X]H\[\وZ[]H^BYK]\]HZ\\H\YܝB[Y[^\[\[YKNBVHЖS