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Jason Maimes

U.S. Army / Army Commendation Medal with Valor

Small in stature but long in courage, he eluded gunfire
to carry comrade to safety

The first time he raced across the field, Pfc. Jason Maimes felt like a moving target. The way back could only get messier.

First, his small rescue squad would have to shoot its way out of an ambush. Then, if the soldiers made it that far, that infernal field still had to be crossed – 900 meters of open terrain that insurgents were using as a shooting gallery.

They also would be carrying something extra – the two injured soldiers they’d come to rescue.

One had shrapnel in his back, and as two men lifted the litter that held the big, wounded soldier, Maimes stepped forward.

“Sir, do you mind if I jump on that litter?” he asked his platoon leader. “They’re not going to make it very far very fast.”

It was not a plum assignment, but Maimes had been trained to do it. And something inside him told him it would be OK.

“I made a promise to my girlfriend at the time and my family, a promise that I would return home,” said Maimes. “And I knew these soldiers had made the same promise to their loved ones. In all honesty, I just wanted to get them back to their family where they belonged . . . safe.”

Only an hour earlier, on Nov. 19, 2007, Maimes had been resting peacefully in his bunk at the Kwal combat outpost in the Diyala River Valley when a soldier rushed in looking for volunteers.

“He said their platoon element had gone too far north of their sector and was ambushed,” Maimes said.

Maimes, a Squad Automatic Weapon gunner, put on his gear, proceeded to the dirt pit and climbed up the ramp of a waiting Stryker armored vehicle.

In practically no time, seven members of the quick reaction force were sealed inside their windowless capsule and on their way to the rescue.

“We hadn’t established communication with the element that had been ambushed,” Maimes said. “We didn’t know where they really were and what their situation was.”

Twenty minutes later, the Stryker stopped close to a bridge near the town of Sinsil in Diyala province. Maimes and the others got out and followed the sounds of gunfire through the field into town.

It wasn’t long before the rescuers were in trouble themselves.

“The element we were saving was literally on the other side of the wall in the courtyard of this house,” Maimes said. “They went in there to provide themselves some cover and were penned. They were being ambushed from the same place we were. It was kind of stupid when you think about it.”

But with bullets flying around them, all that mattered was getting the trapped and injured soldiers out.

Given the go-ahead to help carry the wounded, Maimes slung his 26-pound machine gun over his back, grabbed another soldier and made it a four-man carry. He recruited two more soldiers to provide suppressive fire front and back and ultimately led everyone safely to a casualty collection point that had been set up in the field the rescue team had just crossed.

“As we carried him, guys would get tired,” Maimes said. “We’d set him down for about two seconds and rotate guys out.”

Maimes, 5-foot-6 inches and 130 pounds, was a wrestling captain in high school. He refused to be swapped out, although he did throw up three times from heat and exhaustion.

“Looking back, I have no clue how we did it,” he said. “We were shot at the entire time.”

After lifting the wounded soldier over a wall and to the rescue helicopter, Maimes hit his own wall. “I couldn’t even muster the strength to get my weapon off my back,” he said.

He never expected to receive a medal, Maimes said:

“I did nothing more than I was supposed to do. … All I care about was I helped get them home.”

Tom Lindley is editor of Oklahoma Watch, an investigative reporting team.

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Jason Maimes, medically retired from the Army, now is a student at the University of North Texas. (Photo courtesy of Jason Maimes)

  • maimes-sunglasses
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Jason Maimes

U.S. Army / Army Commendation Medal with Valor

Born Sept. 21, 1984, in Panorama City, Calif. Moved to Las Vegas when he was 2 and graduated from Coronado High School, where he was captain of the wrestling team.

Joined the Army on Sept. 6, 2006. Deployed to Iraq Oct. 31, 2007.

He was assigned as a private first class to 1st Platoon, Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.

Volunteered for a rescue squad that, under heavy fire, extracted a unit trapped in an Iraq village, then helped carry one of two wounded soldiers back through an ambush to safety.

Medically retired, he attends the University of North Texas in Denton.

“I joined the Army to get back to myself, who I was.” As a wrestler at Coronado High, he became used to a structured life. “The Army was a similar situation,” he said.

Iraq / Sinsil

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