We wrote about the incredible story of Army Captain Joshua Mantz in “Mantz on a mission.” Captain Mantz was patrolling in Bagdhad with the First Infantry Division on April 21, 2007, when he was hit by an armor-piercing bullet that killed Staff Sergeant Marlon Harper. Part of the same bullet that killed Sergeant Harper then exited, hit Captain Mantz and severed Mantz’s femoral artery. Captain Mantz bled out and went into a flatline condition for 15 minutes.
What happened next to Captain Mantz is something like a miracle, related by Thom Shanker in a New York Times At War blog post. Shanker also filled readers in on the story of Captain’s Mantz’s recuperation at Walter Reed and his return to service in Iraq with the same unit he was leading at the time of his injury.
On Fox News this past spring, Captain Mantz discussed the mission he feels he was saved to perform. Captain Mantz seeks to help get assistance to soldiers struggling with the emotional and psychological aftereffects of battle and injury. No funding for centers devoted to helping soldiers with such issues has been provided to fill a recognized need. He wants to do something about it. Shanker concluded his report with this view of Captain Mantz at Fort Riley alluding to his mission:
Captain Mantz currently is assigned as aide-de-camp to Brig. Gen. David C. Petersen, the deputy commanding general of the First Infantry Division at Fort Riley, and is expecting to return to Iraq as a company commander early next year. In the meantime, he has decided to tell his story as often as anyone will listen.
A few weeks ago, Fort Riley hosted a counseling session for spouses and parents of those killed in combat. Captain Mantz was approached by a mother whose son had been killed by a high-powered improvised explosive. She said the explosion had severed both of his legs at the waist, and she had been tormented wondering what her son, a hard-charging, type-A personality, had felt and thought in his last moments.
“The question that bothered her for the last three years was, ‘I wonder if my son lost the will to live because he knew his legs were gone and knew he couldn’t walk ever again. I wonder if he gave up.’ I was able to look her straight in the eye, and tell her that I used to think the same thing. I used to think that I’d rather die than lose a limb in combat. But as soon as I was shot, that thought went completely out of the window. I couldn’t have said to the doctor fast enough, ‘Take my leg! I’ll figure the rest out later!’ As I answered her question, I could see it in her eyes that I gave her a little bit of closure. And that was a question that only I could answer.”
While others ask him questions, there is one he asked himself: Why am I still here?
“I never thought I’d get an answer to that question until that mother walked up to me that day,” Captain Mantz said. “Your experiences are valuable in ways you may not realize yet. I strongly encourage you to talk about them. You’ll never know who you’re going to help.”
My friend Major Peter Swanson put us in touch with Captain Mantz last spring. This morning Captain Mantz wrote to update us:
The Defense Center of Excellence’s Real Warriors Campaign just released their latest video based on my experience. The purpose of Real Warriors is to reduce the stigma associated with seeking help for emotional injuries. This video will be played nationally across various venues. I invite you to view the video at the link provided below, and share it with anyone you think could benefit from the message .