‘Real Warrior' Spreads Message of Hope
(September 24, 2010)
|I spoke with an amazing soldier the other day who managed to turn a brush with
death into a message of hope for servicemembers and their families.|
Three years ago, Army Capt. Joshua Mantz was serving his first deployment in
Iraq. His unit had just completed a humanitarian mission in a remote village
near Sadr City when they were diverted to another part of the area. Mantz and
his comrade, Army Staff Sgt. Marlin Harper, were searching a suspicious vehicle
when a sniper attacked.
The bullet pierced Sgt. Harper's left arm, exited out his chest and entered
Capt. Mantz's right thigh, severing his femoral artery.
Unaware of the severity of his injury, Capt. Mantz dragged Sgt. Harper to safety
and began administering first-aid. As the medic ran over, Capt. Mantz passed out
momentarily from the massive blood loss.
It was too late for Sgt. Harper, and Capt. Mantz was barely hanging on. His unit
raced him to Forward Operating Base Loyalty, about 10 minutes away. He vividly
remembers lying on a hospital bed in the clinic there.
Capt. Mantz knew he was dying. He felt the blood move from his legs to his
stomach to his chest – a telltale sign of a catastrophic injury – but felt no
fear. He recited the names of his mother and sisters in his head, over and over,
and said a last prayer, “Please take care of them.” He felt a deep peace, took
one last breath and died. All faded to black.
But Capt. Mantz's story wasn't over. The medical team worked over him for 15
minutes to bring him back. He woke up two days later in the Green Zone, without
any brain damage and with his leg intact.
He was evacuated to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., where
he physically recovered for the next four months. And that's also where his
emotional healing began.
Clinical psychologists visited him several times a day, encouraging him to talk
about what happened.
Capt. Mantz said talking early and often can help ward off the emotional impact
of devastating events. “If you don't talk about it, you'll never be able to
learn from it,” he said. Most importantly, he said, it's vital to look back
objectively. Otherwise, there's a tendency to self-blame, even when not at
After just four months, Capt. Mantz fought to return to Iraq to rejoin his
soldiers and find some closure for the events of that devastating day.
As he completed his tour, word of his brush with death spread, and he gained
national attention upon his return to the States. While he was deeply grateful
for the early medical intervention that saved his life, he wanted to bring to
light the early psychological intervention that warded off long-term emotional
He's since spoken to thousands of troops, offering a message of resilience, and
to countless family members of lost loved ones, offering a message of hope.
To the troops, he stresses the importance of speaking early and often, and urges
leaders to keep an eye out for signs of trouble in their troops. To families, he
explains what those final moments of life were like for him.
One mother he met had lost her son to a roadside bomb. It had severed his legs,
and he died shortly after. She worried that her son, who was a mountain climber,
had lost his will to live the moment he lost his limbs. Capt. Mantz explained to
her how the survival instinct had kicked in for him after he was wounded and how
desperate he felt to live, no matter what the impact of the injury. He said he
saw the closure in her eyes.
That moment, he said, was his first response to a personal question that had
been nagging at him since his recovery: “Why am I still here?”
Capt. Mantz offered to have his story documented for the Real Warriors campaign
in hopes of reaching even more people. The campaign is sponsored by the Defense
Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, and
features stories of servicemembers who sought psychological treatment and
continued successful military and civilian careers.
He offers a new twist to the campaign. Rather than stressing the importance of
seeking help after experiencing emotional issues, he emphasizes the importance
of early intervention as a preventive measure.
Capt. Mantz is due to deploy again, although he's not sure if it will be to Iraq
or Afghanistan. But in either case, he said, he's ready. And this time, he's
giving himself another mission: to help his comrades deal with the stresses of
“I'm looking forward to it, especially knowing what I know about resilience,” he
I have no doubt that Capt. Mantz will make as much of an impact there as he's
made here with his message of hope.
By Elaine Wilson|
American Forces Press Service
Comment on this article