Thanks to a Taco Bar Fundraiser advertised in his local newspaper, I was able to glean enough biographical details to track down the 19-year old Marine we last met on a medivac chopper on a muddly field in Southern Helmand. It was one of the more disturbing days we spent on our embed.
PFC Masterson was caught in a multiple IED blast while on patrol near Patrol Base Barcha in Southhern Helmand.
We spoke just now by phone. The former high school basketball star is home in Idaho recovering, spending Christmas and New Year with his very relieved parents and siblings.
I wanted Josh to see the footage from that day before anyone else. So our web folks managed to install a private link for him to preview. I'm relieved he was okay with the coverage because I felt it was important to tell the story of the men and women who saved his life, and in the case of the pilot and crew, risked their own to do so.
I have long regretted the manner in which the US government sought to shield its citizenry from the perils and reality of war, including denying the filming of flag drapped coffins as the bodies of dead American soldiers are returned home (though that policy has since changed).
There are many overlooked angles of the Afghan war. Certainly the amount of innocent Afghanis killed by US/NATO/ISAF bombings is one aspect.
But the plight of the many US casualties, especially those hit by IED's, is also underplayed. It seems Americans are either indifferent to their service (the result of a volunteer army of "other people's kids" having to fight) or just suffering from a general post-Iraq war callousness.
As Americans sit down to eat their holiday meals and celebrate, many might be suprised by just the grizzliness of this war, especially the toll taken by IED's. At least 25 of 180 Marines from Golf Company 2/2 have become casualties - a grim figure given they're only 2 months into their 7 month deployment.
To make matters worse, it's getting pretty cold out there as well. The conditions we lived under while with the Marines were by and large manageble, though the average grunt has it far worse.
I wish you a speedy recovery, Josh. I hope someday we meet under better circumnstances.