A U.S. soldier in the middle of a violent tank accident tore off his own leg to bring help to his fellow crew members.
The incident that left Army Spc. Ezra Maes learning how to walk with a prosthetic leg happened one year ago, according to the Department of Defense.
Maes and his crewmates were eventually rotated to Slovakia as part of the training. While on a field operation there, the soldiers hunkered down to sleep in their tank one evening. Sometime in the night, the 65-ton war machine began moving on its own.
“I called out to the driver, ‘Step on the brakes!'” Maes told the DoD. “But he shouted back that it wasn’t him.”
“We realized there was nothing else we could do and just held on,” he said.
A hydraulic failure rendered emergency brakes on the tank useless. The armored giant was accelerating at a dangerous pace, nearing the 90 mph mark before slamming into an embankment.
Inside the cramped vehicle, the abrupt stop caused devastation.
The tank’s gunner suffered a gash that was pouring blood. The driver’s back was broken.
Maes was stuck, his leg jammed into a turret mechanism.
In freeing himself, he lost his leg.
“I pushed and pulled at my leg as hard as I could to get loose and felt a sharp tear,” he recalled. “I thought I had dislodged my leg, but when I moved away, my leg was completely gone.”
Now bleeding out from a serious injury, Maes tried scrambling to the tank’s medical kit. The effects of blood loss began to sap him before he ever reached the life-saving gear, however.
“All I could think about was no one knows we’re down here,” he said. “Either I step up or we all die.”
After a quick reflection, Maes used his own belt as a tourniquet to slow the heavy bleeding. Once he and another crew member were no longer in immediate danger of bleeding out, they attempted to radio for help before discovering their communications equipment was broken.
“Either I step up or we all die.”
A failed parking brake and hydraulic leak led an M1A2 Abrams tank to crash, clinching Army Spc. Ezra Maes’ leg in a gear. Spc. Maes self-amputated his leg to help his injured crew members.https://t.co/70rhd17c8k
— Military Health System (@MilitaryHealth) October 9, 2019
Then, the sound of Maes’ cellphone ringing filled the tank. In the middle of a Slovakian training ground, he had reception. The crew worked together to pass the phone to Maes, who unlocked it and contacted a friend.
Thanks to their quick thinking, all three of the crew members inside the tank survived.
Our military’s top-notch training prepared these soldiers for the most difficult moment of their lives, and their own strength and determination pulled them through.
While others might have given in to panic, these warriors remained calm and lived to see another day.
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