Six months ago, Daniel Gwak (HBS 2012), a marine reservist, left HBS en route to Afghanistan. During a patrol mission, Gwak was shot in the shoulder, but continued helping his team until his sergeant forced him to be medavac’ed to safety. Luckily, Gwak is recovering, and has returned to the U.S. safely.
In Daniel Gwak’s own words—
Good news: I’m coming home even EARLIER than expected…
Bad news: …because I got shot!!!
It’s the Marine Corps…so of course great news like “you’re leaving Afghanistan next month” must necessarily be followed by “…in a medevac bound to Bethesda Naval Hospital via Lanstuhl, Germany.”
In all seriousness, though, I am doing absolutely fine (given the circumstances) so no need to worry at all. I was lucky enough to receive what we call a “million-dollar wound” — the round went in my left shoulder and out my back, clean in and clean out, without hitting any bones, organs or whatever else would obviously stop me from typing out this email saying that I’m fine. The timing was a bit uncanny – I sent that email out telling everyone to halt mail and that I might come home soon, then went out on a dismounted patrol and promptly got in a firefight. I’m not the superstitious type, but talk about jinxing myself!
Anyway, don’t worry — as you can probably tell, I am in good spirits and after spending some time in the field, I’m glad to come back to where they have real food and cold water to drink. The circumstances under which I got shot were pretty straightforward. We had hit an IED a few days earlier and went back into the area to press the locals about the issue. Why didn’t you tell us there was a bomb there, how am I supposed to believe that you didn’t know when it was right outside your compound, etc. I had just searched and cleared a compound and was holding security outside with some other Marines when we started taking sniper fire. I was hit almost right away, but didn’t realize it at all.
I’m not sure how long we had been fighting for, but my friend took shrapnel to the face (he is fine now) and my attention was on him almost right away. I took up his sector and kept punching away when my platoon sergeant started bandaging me up. I told him that I was fine and would take care of it myself later when we got back to the patrol base, but he seemed insistent on patching me up right then and there. I undid my rifle sling for him and noticed that it came away covered in blood with a clear bullet hole in it. I heard them send up a report that mentioned a gun shot wound. At that point I realized that I was the last to know that I had been shot and expressed a little frustration at that (of the “you guys never tell me anything!” variety).
Pretty soon we had gun trucks flooding the area, the helicopter touched down and I was casevac’d with my friend. I was impressed with the British medical team that treated us — they were all waiting by the flight line and had us knocked out and operated on right away. When I came out of anesthesia, I saw my first sergeant hovering over me and immediately apologized for not shaving this morning. Such is the power of Marine Corps grooming standards — first thought on my mind!
So, that’s how it happened. I am doing fine and am thankful for all your thoughts and prayers — clearly, today could’ve gone a lot worse.