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Somerton sergeant home to recover from wounds
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April 11 was just another day of foot patrol in Logar province, Afghanistan, for U.S. Army Sgt. Ernesto Ramirez.
Ramirez was stationed at Combat Outpost Charkh. The troops conducted field operations in the area “pretty much every day,” Ramirez said.
The outpost is located about half a mile from the village of Charkh and about 50 miles southwest of Kabul. The area is rife with insurgents and has become known to the men and women who have served there as the “Shark Tank.”
For Charlie Company, April 11 began when insurgents started lobbing grenades at them. “We took care of that,” Ramirez said. “There were a lot of us, at least three platoons out there.”
After their mission began to wind down for the day, the soldiers started the walk back to the relative safety of the outpost. During this time, Charlie Company came under the ominous observation of a concealed insurgent wielding a cell phone. “Someone was watching,” Ramirez said.
When Ramirez stopped to hop over a fence, the insurgent used the phone to detonate an improvised explosive device hidden nearby that had been made using an 82-millimeter rifle round attached to an electronic ignition device.
“I was just getting ready to climb over a wall and it just happened to blow up,” he said.
The explosion sent flaming shrapnel into Ramirez. “Initially I got hit in the face.”
The metal fragments flew into his left eye, leaving him blind in that eye. He can't recall the pain of the explosion but was able to get himself back to the outpost with the aid of his fellow soldiers.
“I really don't remember. I just got up and walked back to base and waited to get evaced.”
Ramirez, a native of Somerton who enlisted in the Army after graduating from Cibola High School in 2007, was flown to Germany and then on to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.
His mother, Maria Urias, met him there.
“I went to San Antonio to be with him for about two weeks. It is a miracle he's got his legs and his arms. What I saw in San Antonio was really sad and depressing. There were so many injured soldiers that are in way worse condition then he is. It will take him time, but he'll be fine.”
Ramirez took comfort in his mother's presence. “It was real nice seeing her and having her around.”
After nearly two months at the Army hospital, Ramirez came home Thursday morning. He was welcomed by dozens of family members, friends, fellow soldiers and veterans when he landed at Yuma International Airport.
“It felt good,” he said about being greeted by the well-wishers. “It was more than I expected.”
His mother was “grateful” he has come home in one piece and noted how much healthier he looks now. “He is a lot better.”
Asked what he was going to do now that he is back home, Ramirez replied, “Get a beer.”
He is still undergoing medical treatment for his wounds. Once that is completed, the Army will evaluate him to see if he is still fit for active duty.
Ramirez served in the 1st Battalion of the 41st Regiment of the 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Armored Division. The troops of the 3rd Brigade are known as Bulldog soldiers.
According to CENTCOM, which oversees military units in the Middle East, the 3rd Brigade was deployed to the region to deter or defeat insurgent aggression and to support the development and reconstruction of Afghanistan.
The Bulldog soldiers' combat deployment in Afghanistan officially began Oct. 16 when the unit took over responsibilities from the 4th Brigade Combat Team of the 10th Mountain Division, which had seen heavy fighting in the area during its deployment in 2010 and 2011.
The 3rd Brigade still serving in Afghanistan is expected to finish coming home by August.
Chris McDaniel can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6849.