Monday, November 29, 2010

Concord, MA still produces Patriots - " I believe in giving back to my country. A lot of what I and my family have today is due to this country "

The Battle of Lexington & Concord was the start of the War for Independence...The citizens there are much like many of us from Massachusetts - Proud of our Colonial Heritage and that we live where " The Shot Heard Round the World " happened on April 19, 1775.

Now here is the story of another Patriot from this same neck of the woods....As long as our Country produces Men of this caliber, we will be able to handle the problems we face.

Wounded in Afghanistan; Home for the Holidays
Concord-Carlisle, Westpoint graduate injured by an IED, awarded Purple Heart.

By Betsy Levinson November 24, 2010

He says he'd be back there tomorrow. It just doesn't feel right that he's at home while the men of his platoon are fighting in Afghanistan.

But Concord's Kyle Snook is far from Kandahar Air Base and the platoon he commanded after an accident in September shattered his right foot and could have cost him his life.

Snook says he is a changed person after nearly losing a limb. He stepped on an IED, or improvised explosive device, while positioning his men to return fire in an area south of the only paved highway in the whole country: Highway One.

Snook is a 2004 graduate of Concord-Carlisle High School and Westpoint, '08 where he majored in operations research. After graduating, he was a commissioned officer in the Army. That's the way it is with the Snooks.

His mother, Kathleen, is a 1980 Westpoint graduate, along with his dad, Scott, '80; his brother Sean, '07; sister Megan, '11 and brother Robbie who is now a freshman at the military academy. Kathleen was in the first class to admit women in 1976. Above the house are two banners welcoming Kyle and his brother, Sean, home. Sean was uninjured after his tour in Afghanistan.

But Kyle said his parents did not push Westpoint on him. "If anything, they discouraged me," he said. "At least it made me analyze it deeper."

"It was the place for me," he said. "I believe in giving back to my country. A lot of what I and my extended family have today is due to this country." He encourages civic service, but doesn't want it mandated because then it wouldn't be as special.
Last May, Snook was shipped to Ft. Benning, GA before settling at Ft. Campbell, KY. He was a platoon leader with about 25 to 35 men in his command. He spent a year training with his platoon for their deployment, flying to Kandahar on May 20.
"I volunteered to go early to get the ground ready for the platoon," he said. He had no dependents, while some of the other guys were married with children.

"It was not what I expected," he said, dressed in casual slacks and a polo shirt with a large cast and bandaging on his foot. Pins to position the foot bones stick out while the foot heals.

"(Kandahar Air Base) is a massive place; massive infrastructure," he said. "It is a walled city. I was caught off-guard by how safe everyone felt there. It was pretty laid back."

Snook was part of President Obama's troop surge designed to root the Taliban out of southern Afghanistan. Highway One was the dividing line, Snook said. His mission was to "regain control of Highway One and cut off the Taliban supply route north."

He said the fighting started in September owing to the "fighting seasons." In the summer, it's so hot that the foreign fighters go home to Pakistan or other country to wait for cooler weather.

"We had an extreme problem with the heat," he said.

Another issue was mobility, he said. The fields south of Highway One are planted with grapes that are set in four- to six- foot mud mounds with a thick canopy of fruit above them. So the soldiers had to either traverse the rows between plants and possibly miss the enemy, or climb up and over the mounded grape plants with poppies or other crops growing around the bottom.

From June to September, Snook said they spent time getting to know the locals who had largely left their farms and headed north to safer ground.

"September 26 was our first day on our mission," said Snook. "We were two hours into our 10-day operation to clear the area." Clearing meant destroying the mud houses so the enemy would have no place to go. He said they proceeded along "ditch lines," or irrigation streams that are approximately 100 meters apart.

"We were clearing between the second and third ditch line," said Snook. "We had a loudspeaker, and a translator who would give a 10-minute countdown before we leveled a house." He said Afghan President Hamid Karzai's policy was to have an Afghan soldier enter all houses first to make sure no one was there.

"We got to the third house and did the call out," he said. "We were shot at from the south. There were pings across my helmet." He ordered return fire, and searched for a place to hide, finding a wall about 10 meters away. As he ran to the wall, he stepped on an IED hidden below the ground.

The guys said he rocketed about 10 or 12 feet in the air before crashing down, unconscious. When he came to, he had to somehow get back to the men, so he arched his back and scrambled without the use of his right leg which was mangled.
"The pain was mind-numbing," said Snook.

He later found out that he may have caught a break. The IED was likely placed somewhat ineffectively in the ground. The top part exploded as Snook trod on it, but the 40 lbs. of explosives that are normally tripped from the top part did not. That flaw probably saved his life.

His leg was splinted in the field. His foot was fractured in eight places, three toes were broken, his heel broken and a key metatarsal bone was destroyed. He was flown first to Kandahar then on Oct. 1, back to Ft. Campbell.

Snook faces a 12 to 15-month recovery now, and he starts physical therapy in January. He sees a doctor at Westpoint every two weeks. The pins come out of his foot in January too. He was awarded a Purple Heart for bravery.

But Snook takes that part of the story in stride. For him, it's all about the Army and the men of his platoon still fighting.

"I would go back tomorrow," he said with a wan smile. "I am taking things one day at a time now. Life looks a little different to me. At 24, I have realized the finality of life. I have a different perspective on everything."

It will be a grand Thanksgiving at his house, with Sean and Kyle, Megan and Robbie around the table, but at the same time, the battlefield will be close at hand

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