CAMP HANSON, Helmand province, Afghanistan --
“My bell was rung,” said Pittsburgh native Zachary Beamer as he recounted his story of survival from an Improvised Explosive Device detonation. “We concentrated on getting everyone out of the compound and making sure everyone was alright. We had some good docs, and they took care of everything they could.”
Beamer was assigned to the Personal Security Detachment for 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, which provides security for the battalion commander, as well as visiting dignitaries and officials, as he makes his way through the battalion’s area of operations.
The PSD recently conducted an escort mission with the commanding officer to visit the patrol bases within Company F’s area. The Marines began securing a local compound they planned to convert into a police station, sweeping for IEDs, when one detonated and knocked Beamer off his feet.
“I wasn’t quite sure what happened at first,” Beamer said. “One moment I was standing upright, and the next second I was lying on the ground, but wasn’t entirely sure why. I figured it out pretty quickly. I made sure everything was still intact that was important and then tried to get out of there.”
The blast from the IED riddled his left arm and upper torso with shrapnel. His eyesight was saved by the protective glasses he wore, but a scar still remains on his face.
The corpsmen with the unit quickly removed Beamer and two other injured Marines. A medical helicopter then flew them to a higher echelon of care at Camp Leatherneck, where he spent two weeks recovering before eagerly returning to his unit.
“I wanted to go back out and do what I could to prevent it from happening to other Marines,” said Beamer. “If I can help prevent other Marines from being hurt or killed and get them home safely, then that should drive anyone to want to help.”
Beamer said working with the PSD has given him a sense of accomplishment. He has traveled across the battalion’s area of operations, met with local Afghan police officers, and has seen how the Marines are living at the different patrol bases. His leadership noticed his motivated attitude and initiative, as well as his drive and passion for his job, and meritoriously promoted him to the rank of corporal in June.
“His promotion didn’t surprise me at all because of the caliber of Marine he is,” said Blue Hills, Neb., native Capt. Simon Vanboening, the Headquarters and Service Company commander. “He didn’t take his responsibility guarding the colonel lightly; it was very serious for him. He’s the type of Marine who wants to be put in a leadership position. He isn’t the type of person to sit back and be a follower; he wants to be the guy in charge. I think that’s what drives him.”
With less than a month left in his seven-month deployment, the newly promoted Marine Corps noncommissioned officer’s thoughts drift toward seeing his family at the end of the day, yet he knows he still has a job to do while in Afghanistan.
“While this (war) is still going on, there are Marines getting hurt, and I need to do my part just like every other Marine does,” said Beamer. “It’s a give and take -- the Marine Corps gives me a lot, and I’m willing to do what I need to in order to take the fight to the enemy. While on deployment you can’t let fear get the best of you. Stay focused on your goals and what needs to be done, and you will sleep better at night knowing you did your best.”
Editor’s note: Second Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, is currently assigned to Regimental Combat Team 1, 2nd Marine Division (Forward), which heads Task Force Leatherneck. The task force serves as the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest) and works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Force and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces, and enabling ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its area of operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.