Navy Lt. John Pucillo enlisted after high school to be an explosive ordnance disposal technician. He knew the risks involved and that his choice would eventually land him in Iraq where he would be exposed to more danger there than with other specialties he could have chosen.
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Sailor Inspires Wounded to `Get Up' from Injuries

When Navy Lt. John Pucillo enlisted after high school to be an explosive ordnance disposal technician, he knew the risks involved.

Pucillo knew his choice in Navy jobs would eventually land him in Iraq and that he would be exposed to more danger there than with other specialties he could have chosen. No matter, the young Pucillo yearned for the Navy's toughest jobs.

The EOD community differs from other units because, as Pucillo said, "It's not a matter of if you get hit; it's a matter of when." Pucillo's "when" was May 19, 2006.

"A lot of people ask me about `injury day,'" Pucillo said. "And the folks at Walter Reed, they have a different name for it. They call it `alive day.'
It's the not about the day you died; it's about the day you stayed alive.

On that day, Pucillo said, he was simply doing his job. His unit was undermanned, but that wasn't unusual.

"I did something that most officers don't do and that's go out with the troops," Pucillo said. "However, I knew we were doing something new."

There were two other team leaders Pucillo said he could send out with two separate missions. But because this was something new, he expected the enemy would test them. He decided to split up in thirds to lessen the impact if they were hit.

"I won," he said. "It hit me and not my guys, and that's what I went for. And what I'm happy about is my guys are fine."

Pucillo explained what happened that day in Iraq:

"We were driving along Route Senators in Baghdad. And the enemy let four different vehicles by. Like I said, they knew they wanted to test us. I was in the vehicle, and I was kind of at an odd angle in the vehicle because it's just so cramped that sometimes you shift around to, you know, to become more comfortable. And I had my left leg out, and I was kind of crouched over with my right leg tucked in, kind of a stretching maneuver.

"When it hit, the explosion was immediate. I mean, it just rocked the vehicle. Everything inside the vehicle turned to dust. And you started breathing the hot dust immediately. Your whole body is shocked. It was so close; the shock wave just goes through you. So you couldn't really tell exactly if you were hit or not, all you knew is that your vehicle was hit and you were out of play.

"There's a lot of confusion, a lot of smoke. It was hot. And I remember doing -- the first thing that came through my mind was, `We made it,' because I was still conscious. So whatever happened after that, I knew we made it. I knew. I could see my driver, and I could see the guy behind me. And you know, they got out of the vehicle. It was smokin', so they couldn't see me. And I did the finger/toe check.

"Unfortunately, the left leg was not giving me a response. So I didn't want to look down because if it was that bad, I didn't want to go into shock in the vehicle.

"At some point, they were trying to get me out of the vehicle, and it was failing. The side of the vehicle was just too mangled. So I started crawling out the back way. And keep in mind, this is a [26-ton] vehicle. It's almost a trailer-sized vehicle. So I crawled about halfway through the vehicle before one of my buddies met me there. And I put my arm on his shoulder, and we hopped the rest of the way out the back of the vehicle because that was the only exit at that time."


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