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Lucky “Bastard” escapes death

1 Aug 2006 | Lance Cpl. Ray Lewis

Cpl. Jamie L. Emerson is one lucky “Bastard.”

The 22-year-old assigned to the “Betio Bastards” of 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment escaped death when an enemy bullet ripped through his Kevlar helmet in Husayba, Aug.1. 

“Everybody’s been calling me ‘lucky,’” said Emerson, a mortarman from Weapons Company, who operates out of Camp Habbaniyah, Iraq.  Emerson’s battalion is on duty with Regimental Combat Team 5.

Emerson and his Marines were just finishing up that patrol and heading back to their observation post.

“It was a normal day,” Emerson said. “Iraqi families were out. Children were out. Nothing looked weird.”

But in Iraq, normal doesn’t fit into the conventional definition.  Things took a turn for the worse.

“I was holding rear security when a blue sedan pulled up to our patrol about 115 meters away,” said Emerson who was a designated rifleman for two years on Marine Security Forces in Kings Bay, Ga.

His lessons learned there made him suspicious of the car.

“Two seconds later I leaned my head right to look through my scope,” he explained.

Then it happened.  Emerson’s suspicions were confirmed.  A gunshot cracked through the air.  An insurgent also leaned out from the blue car and shot a round that pierced through the air and right into Emerson’s helmet.

“It snapped my neck back,” he said. “It was like slow motion.  Kind of like I just got my head ‘rung’ from playing tackle football.”

Unlike football, the round hit much harder than any hulking defensive lineman could.
The impact of the bullet bullied all 155 pounds of Emerson to his back.

The next thing Emerson saw was the hazy Iraqi sky.

“I rolled back up and checked my head,” he said.  “It didn’t hurt because the adrenaline was too high.”

Emerson found nothing.  He thought he was hit with something much bigger, like a rocket-propelled grenade.

Amazingly, Emerson shook off getting shot.  He got up as nothing had happened.

Emerson’s patrol then quickly moved to a nearby courtyard, down the street of the incident, to check if he and others were wounded.

He was fine. The bullet entered through layers of Kevlar helmet, scraped off a patch of his hair and skin, and then exited from the interior side of the back of the helmet.

All other Marines were checked and Emerson was the only one who was hit.  As soon as the hospital corpsman there said he would be alright, Emerson was ready to get back into the fight.

“When I found out I got shot, I was pretty pissed off,” he said. “I tried to get up but then I got dizzy and had to sit down.”

Emerson admitted he was lucky, but credited a few others for the fact he’s still walking and talking.  One is his hospital corpsman, who shot back at the car with his 9 millimeter pistol but the car was too far and fled the scene,” Emerson said.

Emerson also thinks that last-minute check through his Advanced Combat Optical Gunsite – the miniature scope – took his head just outside the line of fire.

However, his platoon mates tell him it was Divine Intervention that spared him.

“You’re so blessed,” said Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Leonardo E. Benitez, a hospital corpsman who serves alongside Emerson in Weapons Company.

The 36-year-old from Brooklyn, N.Y., said, “If that happened to me, I’d give the rest of my life to the Lord.”

Emerson didn’t disagree.

“I think God was looking out for me,” he said.

And so does the battalion chaplain.

“It was God that saved that boy,” said Navy Lt. John G. Anderson, the battalion’s chaplain.

Anderson actually prayed that Emerson and his Marines have a safe patrol while they were out.

Whatever it was, Emerson promises to wear his personal protective equipment at all times.

He’s thankful that he only suffered from a scab on the upper left side on his head where the round once struck.

“I appreciate my gear more,” Emerson said. “I’ll always wear my Kevlar.”