SSG. Robert Bartlett
(Paraphrases and content from an article written after interview Oct. 16, 2008)
On May 3, 2005, a roadside bomb struck Robert Bartlett’s Humvee. The shrapnel tore off the left side of his face, injured the vehicle’s gunner, killed the commander, and blew the fourth passenger clear out of the vehicle. Bartlett died three time and revived by Army doctors and received four years of surgeries.
In his own words “My family’s been fighting since Valley Forge with Washington. War of 1812, Mexican War, you name it. My own family was split with the Civil War”.
“I went to Cavalry basic training at sniper school. Although I was up for top gun at sniper school, I did not receive the Top Gun award someone who deserved it did; he just shot a bit better than me.”
“The first time we got hit by an IED in Iraq, I remember that time seamed to stop, along with sound, and everything went into a slow-motion effect. Flash by flash. I remember the rocks slowly flying across the hood of the vehicle, and the guy screaming, “Go! Go! Go! Go!”.
“The Second time was far more intense, time stopped again, but this time people were injured and some died. I’ll never forget that day May 3. We cleared two sectors already and on route to our last one we were hit by a large IED. The bomb sent shrapnel through my door right next to my head. It cut my head in half like a molten hot sledgehammer hitting me in the face at the speed of a bullet. I lost an eye and my lips and parts of my jaw and face. The second part of the IED sent ball bearings through the dash and collapsed my lung and cause internal bleeding. What hit me took my gunners legs and killed my friend instantly. The other Truck commander sitting behind me, blow from the truck, would wake up while lying in the street and save our lives.”
“I can still smell the inside of the truck to this day, the diesel fuel burning along with flesh and hair and a total recall of the pain after being hit. I remember the feeling of losing a breath every time I took a breath as I began to slowly die. The vulnerability of being wounded is a scary thing. You can no longer protect yourself when you’re at that stage, it becomes pure focus on just trying to breath in life.”
“People ask me, do I have any regrets, I answer always No. In fact, I wish I was still doing sniper missions in Afghanistan or Iraq right now and wish I was still serving in the military. In the military you see that you’re making a difference, knowing that you’re saving lives through humanitarian aid and freeing oppression, and taking out people who want nothing more than to kill a lot of people, weather they are Americans or civilians, just so they can rule by fear.”
“The hardest thing I’ve had to deal with while being injured, was that my guys were there (in Iraq), and I couldn’t be there with them. The surgeries and pain did not matter only protecting them and bringing them home safe, and now I could not do that they would have to do it without me.”
“Now I Continue Mission, taking care of the troops coming from (the war zone). I can’t be fighting in the sand box war anymore, but I can fight for them here.”
Today, Robert belongs to a non-profit group called NPLB (No Person Left Behind) under Operation Second Chance. He takes them Hunting and fishing and this helps them associate shooting with something positive, while sharing experiences with those who have been there and are farther along in recovery of their life. Non profits like NPLB Operation Second Chance, and Project healing waters helped Robert and many others heal beyond what the Hospitals could provide. He readily admits his wife would be on the top of that list. Robert say, “We started dating after my injury, we met through a friend, and she just grabbed on and wouldn’t let go. “ I will say that she is my gift from God, the one I prayed for”
Today, Robert Bartlett has since retired from the Army and works now doing physical rehab on a disabled son of a Vietnam vet in the Northern Virginia area.
NOTE: The Got Your 6 Event on May 10th in Chantilly, VA will benefit Robert and his family.