Local Soldier Survives Roadside Bomb in Afghanistan
Deployed to Afghanistan for only 66 days, a Brownwood High School graduate and now army medic was injured when his vehicle was hit by an IED during a recent mission.
It was 25-year-old PFC Andrew (known to his friends as Andy) Putman’s first mission out after arriving in Afghanistan when his vehicle, the second in a line of approximately 22, suddenly encountered an explosion from what family is told was a remote controlled IED on April 28th. During the explosion, the vehicle flipped, killing one of his buddies, Christian St. Nichols who was the unit’s gunner. Pictured above is Andy and some of this buddies before the mission; Andy is on the far left and St. Nichols is pictured third from the left.
Andy Putman graduated from Brownwood High School in 2005 and continued his education at Ranger College School of Nursing, graduating in 2009. According to Andy’s wife Kendra, they met after she came to Howard Payne University and later married. She stated that Andy joined the Army in August of 2010 and left for basic training January 2011, just days after their third daughter was born. The baby’s birth was induced so that he could see her before he left for training, said Kendra. Training continued for a year, which included combat and airborne training, and some of that time spent training with Army Rangers.
In December of 2011, he was stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina and is part of the 82nd Airborne Division, 1-504 Parachute Infantry Regiment, which deployed to Afghanistan in February.
After only being in Afghanistan for 66 days, Andy’s life was suddenly changed, he was critically injured from shrapnel from the IED explosion, suffering broken bones, internal injuries, a collapsed lung and traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Andy’s mother, Julie Williford, explained that the TBI has caused him issues with short term memory, but that he recognizes his family members and friends.
“He doesn’t remember everything, which is a blessing,” Kendra said.
Andy was in Afghanistan for 48 hours due to security issues following the injury and was moved to a hospital in Germany. Kendra stated that she was able to receive a call from Andy early on a Sunday morning (her time) after the incident and was told of his injury and that he would soon be moved to Germany.
“It was about 7 or 8 o’clock in the morning and I thought it was a bill collector calling or something, I hardly recognized his voice but was actually him (Andy),” said Kendra.
She explained that Andy had to be put into a medically induced coma while he was moved and it was not known if he would live to make the trip.
“I told my sweet hero that he had to come home to me, and he did,” Kendra recalled.
While first hospitalized in Afghanistan, musician Toby Keith visited Andy, his band signing a t-shirt as a memento of their visit.
Kendra explained that the picture (to left) of Andy in his hospital bed with Keith visiting shows how bad he was and how far he has come.
“He’s so much better than he was, that shows our miracle,” said Kendra thankfully.
Andy was moved to Germany for treatment, and once stabilized, was able to talk to his wife and children through Skype. He has since been moved to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, where Kendra and his mother Julie are at his side.
As far as recovery goes, Kendra said that the outlook for Andy is good. She stated that he is able to walk and talk, he is able to recognize people, his hearing and sight are good, but she explained that he needs further and more intensive therapy for the TBI. Andy’s doctors have told the family that it could take 6 months to a year to know the full effects of the brain’s reaction to the injury. Kendra stated that there is a huge amount of therapy available for this type of brain injury and that Andy will be moved to a poly trauma treatment center in Richmond, Virginia possibly as soon as this coming Wednesday. Once there, Andy will be monitored and receive extensive treatment and rehabilitation needed.
Kendra spoke of her husband’s character both before and after the incident.
“Andy is proud to be a medic. Something he is proud of is the Purple Heart he was awarded,” Kendra said. “He is most proud of his Combat Medic Badge, although he is a medic serving in combat, it is only awarded if you save someone’s life during combat.”
She explained that Andy received the Combat Medic Badge before he was involved in the roadside bombing. Although he has not told her what happened, she said it was not just one life he saved but several.
“He’s so humble, he doesn’t feel he deserves these honors,” said Kendra. “He feels that it is just part of his job, that he is not a hero.”
Friends are setting up an account at Citizen’s National Bank in Brownwood to help the Putmans with expenses they have incurred due to Andy’s injuries.
Andy Putman is the son of Julie Williford and Glen Putman, husband of Kendra Putman, and the father of three young girls.
Pictured below is Andy with a friend at Walter Reed on Thursday. Photos contributed.