Pfc. Fred M. Linck was shot in the head and walked away from the incident. The enemy round struck his Kevlar helmet, which saved his life by stopping the bullet from penetrating his head. A piece of fragmentation caused a small laceration to the Marines forehead too small even for stitches. Linck is an infantryman with C Company, 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5.
If anyone was proud to be labeled hard-headed, it’s Pfc. Fred M. Linck. The 19-year-old from Westbrook, Conn., took an enemy shot to the head and walked away with little more than a sore noggin and a white bandage.
Linck, of 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5, was struck by a single enemy bullet May 5.
“It seemed like just another day in the city of Fallujah,” Linck said, an infantryman assigned to C Company. “But everything changed for me that day.”
The young Marine just got off of a security post and was tasked to be part of a reaction force. The force was gearing up to respond to a call for help in the city.
“We got some intelligence stating that there was a possible improvised explosive device on the corner of the main street in Fallujah,” Linck said. “My team of Marines reacted to the call and showed up to the site. We immediately dismounted our vehicles and set up a cordon of the area.”
Some of the other men in the team didn’t want to believe that it was a normal mission for them, in fact they had planned on it being much more than that.
“Something told me that this was going to be a set up, a pretty usual tactic for the insurgents to use against us,” said Lance Cpl. Randon O. Hogen, a fellow infantrymen and member of Linck’s fire team.
Hogen’s gut instincts were right. Somewhere in the shadows of the concrete buildings, an insurgent was waiting for the Marines to come into his view.
“I was running back across the street after we had confirmed that the IED we responded to was in fact not one, when I heard the shot,” said Lance Cpl . Kelvin J. Grisales, fire team leader and friend of Linck.
A single shot cracked through the air. Everyone jolted and not even Linck, who was hit, knew what happened.
“After the shot rang out, I remember hearing someone screaming ‘Man down, Man down,’ Linck said. “I realized a second later that man was me, I was on the ground.”
It took a couple seconds for everything to appear clear to Linck. The sounds of Marines calling for help weren’t for anyone but him, but he was ready to get up and fight.
“I was pretty scared when I realized that I had just taken a round to the head, but the scariest part was that I was thinking about it and I felt fine,” Linck said, who has only served with the battalion for a few months. “It felt as if I had fallen and hit my head, that’s it.”
The rest of his team did not know his status. They didn’t take chances and followed their training, evacuating him out of the area.
“When we picked him up, he grabbed my hand and told me that he was pretty nervous,” said 22-year-old Grisales, from Hartford, Conn. “All I could do was to try to reassure him that he would be alright, at the same time I was trying to do the same for myself.”
Linck was transferred directly from the battlefield to the nearest hospital where he was treated and released without even a stitch in his head.
The issued helmet he wore stopped the majority of the round from penetrating. A small piece of fragmentation from the round pierced through the headband inside of the helmet, causing a small laceration on his forehead.
“It was such a relief for us when we pulled up to the hospital and we found out that he was okay,” Grisales said.
“I thank God that it happened the way that it did,” Hogen added.
Linck doesn’t discount Divine intervention or luck, but trusts his gear more now than ever.
“I know for sure that if it wasn’t for that helmet, I wouldn’t be standing here right now,” Linck said. “It pays to wear all the gear the way it is supposed to be worn.”
“It is one thing to hear about what our gear is capable of, but this just makes it a reality,” Hogen said. “It did exactly what it was supposed to do.”
Linck’s since returned to duty with a new outlook on life.
“It is kind of like a second lease of life,” he said. “I want to make sure I do everything right.”