FORWARD OPERATING BASE WHITEHOUSE, Afghanistan --
The day that Forward Operating Base Whitehouse, Afghanistan, came under attack started out like any other day.
As a landing support specialist with Combat Logistics Battalion 4, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward), and the team leader for the Helicopter Support Team at the FOB, Lance Cpl. Thomas Beranek and the Marines under his charge live next to the landing zone where aircraft frequently come in.
“We were sitting in the tent, and we heard shots being fired,” said Beranek, 20, a Marshall, Texas native.
The group of Marines quickly put their gear on and began to exit the tent as bullets started punching holes through the tent walls.
“We were up on the berm engaging the enemy, and we heard that someone got shot,” Beranek said. “As I was getting accountability, I realized it was one of my Marines.”
Prior to deployment, Marines receive a class on combat life saving that teaches basic medical care that can save lives in a firefight. Remembering the course, Beranek took action.
“Rounds were hitting the ground all around us, so we had to move him,” Beranek recalled. “I laid him down on the ground and put his leg up on a chair to raise the wound above his heart. We yelled for a corpsman, and another Marine and I applied a tourniquet to stop the bleeding.”
Luckily, there were no fatalities during the attack; Beranek’s Marine was sent home for surgery and recovery.
“Being responsible for people out here opens your eyes,” said Beranek. “It just goes to show that every Marine is a rifleman.”
During the firefight, one of the rounds that hit the tent went through an American flag that hung in the back of their living space. Beranek and Lance Cpl. Jacob Walter, an Apple River, Illinois native and a member of the Helicopter Support Team, took the flag to the FOB’s Administration and Logistics Operation Center.
“The next day, Walter and I took it down and had the flag flown for him,” said Beranek.
Growing up in a small Texas town, Beranek was a regular kid. He made good grades in school, excelled at sports, helped out around his family’s farm, and at age 12, Beranek began a life of helping people around the world.
“Every summer, we would spend two weeks in Mexico building [houses], schools and churches,” said Beranek.
As part of his church’s youth ministry, Beranek would lend a helping hand with humanitarian missions.
“We went to Mississippi to help rebuild homes when Hurricane Katrina hit, and after the great flood in Tennessee in 2009, we went to help in any way we could,” said Beranek.
Beranek volunteered at homeless shelters and worked with the Special Olympics. In school he was involved in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, National Honor Society, and was president of Future Farmers of America.
With a 3.765 grade point average and a star athlete on the track team, Beranek was offered multiple academic and athletic full-ride scholarships to numerous universities across the country.
Instead of going off to college after graduating from Marshall High School in 2010, Beranek decided to serve his country by becoming a Marine.
“I think volunteering in the service is just another way to help make the world a better place,” he said. “The Marine Corps sounded like more of a challenge, and I’ve never been one to take the easy route.”
After a few months of recruit training and a few more at his military occupational school, Beranek arrived at his first duty station.
“Being in Okinawa was a culture shock,” said Beranek. “There are language barriers and everything is different, but there is a stronger camaraderie between the Marines because it’s a small island.”
Shortly after arriving in Japan, Beranek’s unit was informed they would be deploying to Afghanistan.
“I was just a kid when America first went to war in Afghanistan,” said Beranek. “I was that little kid who would send care packages and letters to the troops.”
Despite the rigors of combat, Beranek still continues the mission every day. The team of Marines, known as “Red Patchers” for the patches they wear to identify themselves as landing support specialists, create a welcoming atmosphere for incoming personnel.
“We have a sign that says ‘Welcome to Red Patch Country’ because this is our place,” said Beranek. “It’s what we make of it. We’re the first Marines that people see when they arrive and the last ones they see when they leave here.”
After this deployment, Beranek looks forward to going back home to visit.
“I miss Texas,” said Beranek. “I miss the small town life and I miss my roots, but now I have a story I can tell my children and my grandchildren.”