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Helmet Saves Soldier’s Life in Afghanistan

Helmet Saves Soldier’s Life
American Forces Press Service, By Staff Sgt. Leah Kilpatrick

FORT HOOD, Texas (Nov. 13, 2015) — Three years ago, a man with a gunshot wound to the head
walked into a hospital in Bagram, Afghanistan, clutching the helmet that saved his life.

First Lt. Jeffrey R. Meek and the advanced combat helmet, or ACH, that saved his life were reunited in a
presentation at the Mission Command Training Center here, Nov. 13.


Meek is the assistant operations officer assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd
Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, but three years ago, he was a fire support officer
with the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry

Meek, the son of an ordnance corps Soldier from the Vietnam era, said he was thrilled to be a Soldier
and has been excited about everything he gotten to experience in the Army.

“As early as I can remember, I wanted to be a Soldier,” said the Wilmette, Illinois, native.

He graduated from St. John’s Northwestern Military Academy, earned a four-year ROTC scholarship to
the University of North Dakota, and was commissioned in 2011.

He reported to his first duty assignment, 1- 9 Cavalry, where he got the news he had seemingly been
preparing for his whole life.

“I got to 1-9 Cav. in July of 2012 and was told to go the central issue facility and draw equipment,” he
said. “So I got my equipment, packed my bags and went to the Joint Readiness Training Center, or
JRTC, to train on this security force advise and assist team mission.”

“I joined the military knowing that I could deploy, and I wanted to deploy,” Meek said. “I saw that as what
the Army does. As an active-duty Soldier, the only purpose you have in life is to go far away to another
country to fight wars for the defense of this country. That’s what I totally anticipated doing, and that’s
what I wanted to do.”

A few months later, he gets his wish and is deployed to Afghanistan and while setting up a blocking
position on a bridge in Tagab, his team was caught up in a complex ambush. While lying in the prone
with two Taliban military-age males in his sites, Meek said his head was jolted back as if he had

“‘What was that? My head just moved. Did I just get hit?’ was kind of what I was thinking,” he said.

Upon getting his wits about him enough to realize he needed to assess his condition, he pushed back
from his position, low crawled to the nearby gun truck and began evaluating himself.

He said his commander told him to go get checked out by the doctor, so he moved further to the rear of
the formation, where the doctor conducted the Military Acute Concussion Evaluation on him.

The 7.62 mm round entered his helmet, skimmed the inside of the helmet and exited out the back. Meek
got shot in the head and suffered only a superficial hematoma and a concussion, he said.

“I feel really out of it,” he said he felt at the time. “I’m kind of seeing things. I’m not really present in the
moment. It almost feels like at that point I was looking at myself from a third-person perspective. I’m
walking. I’m okay, but at the same time I’m not okay.”

The awesomeness of the event was impressed upon many people around him.

When the helicopter arrived to medically evacuate him, he said he’ll never forget the look on the medic’s

“He was sitting on the other side of the Black Hawk the whole time, and here I am with this helmet that’s
got this bullet wound in the helmet, and I’m wearing it, because it was my helmet,” Meek said. “I didn’t
have another helmet. I wore that one on the bird. He just had this look on his face like, ‘Holy crap.’ I was
like, ‘I’m the walking dead here right now.”‘

The reaction he elicited during his reception at the hospital at Bagram was not much different.

“I remember going into the hospital,” he said. “The entire staff was waiting at the door as I walked into
the door at Bagram, because all they get is, ‘GSW [gun shot wound] to the head,’ on a little printout, and
that’s all they see, so they don’t know whether to expect a guy on a gurney, incapacitated. And here I
come walking in, and I’m just clutching onto this helmet, because I wouldn’t be walking around if it
weren’t for this helmet. It was just very surreal.”

After a night in the hospital in Bagram, he was transferred to the traumatic brain injury clinic, where he
worked to regain all of his cognitive function and return to duty and complete the deployment with his

He had his helmet in his possession for two or three days after the incident, but then it was taken and he
hadn’t seen it since.