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Body armor has Marine’s back

20 Sep 2006 | Lance Cpl. Erik Villagran

Gunnery Sgt. Shawn M. Dempsey is a man who will be looking over his shoulder more often.

Dempsey, a 33-year-old platoon commander from Jersey City, N.J., assigned to Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, was hit in the back with an insurgent’s 7.62 mm bullet while in a cordon around a city council building in the Al Anbar province. He is now a prime example for the importance of Marines wearing their personal protective equipment.

“We had a blocking position set up,” said Lance Cpl. Christopher C. Ford, a 21-year-old machine gunner from Orlando, Fla. “Gunny was assisting a kid across the street and that’s when he go hit. He fell flat on his face.”

Dempsey stayed on the ground for five to 10 seconds, Ford said. Once he regained his wits, he sprung back up and took cover.

“It felt like someone kicked me real hard in the back,” Dempsey said. “I thought I stepped on an improvised explosive device because I took one step and then I fell on my face.”

Marines heard the gunshot and could not believe Dempsey was hit.

“I saw Gunny go down and I was instantly angry,” said Lance Cpl. Christopher L. Jones, a 19-year-old mortarman from Greenville, S.C. “You watch him help a kid across a street and he gets shot. It shows how little the insurgents care.”

Dempsey made his way to his humvee and immediately was looking for the shooter, he said. People in the area scattered in all directions after the gunshot and Marines could not find anyone in the crowd with a weapon.

“Everyone who didn’t see what happened was confused about who got shot,” Jones said. “Gunny was in the truck calling in his own medevac.”

Marines mounted their vehicles and rushed to the city council building to pick up their company commander and company first sergeant. They sped back to the Iraqi police station in Gharmah.

“We were shooting off a lot of flares on our way back to the IP station,” Ford said. “We had to clear the roads of all the cars.”

Dempsey was air medevaced to Al Taqaddum and was examined by the medical staff there, diagnosed with only a bruise on his back. His enhanced small-arms protective insert had stopped the bullet before it could do any major damage.

The doubts Dempsey had about his PPE no longer exist.

“I’m not a doubter anymore,” Dempsey said. “Make sure your PPE is on properly. It could save your life.”

Dempsey is grateful to for his PPE and is ready to get back to his platoon.

“I’m fortunate to be able to get back to my Marines,” Dempsey said. “It’s no different then when I first got into the country though. I still have a job to do.”