We had an unfortunate case a few days ago. An American soldier came to us with about 50% of his body having second and third degree burns including his arms, legs and torso.
He had been standing guard at one of the remote FOBs. Insurgents penetrated the outer wire and staged small arms in the no man's land between the inner and outer wire. They then approached the front entrance posing as Afghan police while simultaneously staging an altercation. The scene drew this soldier out of his position. He was hit with a Molotov cocktail. The perpetrators then fell back to their small arms cache intending on an ambush. A firefight ensued between them and some other guards. The insurgents broke off the engagement and fled through the breech created in the wire. They were not caught.
The good news is that we dressed his wounds, started his resuscitation, and quickly got him a MEDEVAC. He should already be at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio where there is a world-class burn unit.
It is another cautionary tale about the nature of this war.
February 2011. This is an update to the original post. The story was a lie. His army unit investigated it carefully because they were concerned about new tactics by the insurgents. Apparently the soldier wanted to go home because he was homesick and having relationship problems. He concocted the story and enlisted one of his buddies to collaborate it. The truth is that, while at his guard post, he soaked his clothes in diesel fuel and lit himself on fire. We can vouch that he got more than he bargained for if his intention was to get home.
I do my best to give an honest report and appraisal of what I see and hear within the constraints of operational security. I took his story at face value and will continue to do so when I speak to others because most of our patients and colleagues speak in good faith.
Sorry to mislead. I do think that the story still represents a cautionary tale if now for different reasons.