Cpl. Matt Garst, Lima Company. Nawa Province, Afghanistan. June 2010.

Cpl. Matt Garst is unbreakable. The squad leader from Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, stood on his own free will immediately after triggering an anti-personnel, improvised explosive device directly beneath his feet, which sent him tumbling six feet up and 15 feet through the air before landing on his limp head and shoulders during a patrol to the east of his company’s newly established observation post in Southern Shorsurak, Helmand province, Afghanistan, as part of Operation New Dawn, June 23. Thanks to luck, Garst’s tenacity, and mistakes by the enemy, the IED comprised of three liters of homemade explosive only partially detonated and Garst absorbed the blast unharmed, hold for feeling “like hell” the next day. Garst, from Charlotte, N.C., led his Marines the four miles back to their post after the blast. Following a day of recovery, he began patrolling efforts again. “I’m an aggressive person,” Garst said. “It pissed me off. All I want to do is make sure it doesn’t happen again. I’m just happy it wasn’t any of my guys. I’m not happy to get blown up by any means. I would have loved for it to have never happened. But, if it’s going to be anyone I’d rather it be me, and if it’s going to be a bomb, I’d rather it be that bomb, because it didn’t do s—.” Operation New Dawn is a joint operation between Marine Corps units and the Afghanistan National Army to disrupt enemy forces, which have been using the sparsely populated region between Marjah and Nawa as a safe haven.

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