PATROL BASE DEMAZONG, Afghanistan --
Slightly more than a month ago, a Marine with Combat Logistics Battalion 2, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward) suffered a grade-three concussion in a blast from an improvised explosive device. Today, he is back on top of his game as a combat engineer who just completed a mission helping build Patrol Base Demazong.
“I saw the dirt go up; I didn’t hear anything,” said Cpl. Nicholas H. Ludke, a combat engineer with Charlie Company, CLB-2, 1st MLG (FWD), as he remembered the day at Fire Base Saenz, near Sangin District, when the IED exploded.
Ludke was only a few meters away when he was hit by the tire fragment of a heavy equipment vehicle that had rolled over an IED.
“The next thing I remember is that I was low crawling and trying to listen to the commands,” said Ludke, 22, from Warren, Mich. “I couldn’t stand up because I was so out of it. We thought we received mortar rounds, and the truck I crawled into happened to be a gun truck. Nobody was in the turret so I jumped up there.”
With his head swollen from the wound, Ludke fought hard to pay attention to what was happening around him.
“It felt like my skull was crushed in,” said Ludke. “When my sergeant saw me he said I was pretty messed up, and he made sure I got on the [helicopter].”
Ludke wasn’t the only one injured by the blast. His platoon sergeant was knocked out by the blast and suffered shrapnel wounds to his right arm.
“It amazed me how within a minute we had our staff sergeant on a gurney and docs helping everyone on the scene,” said Ludke. “Within minutes, my unit had a [helicopter] pick us up.”
Ludke didn’t want his injuries to stop him. Within weeks of his concussion, he fully recovered and was ready to go out on another mission. Their next mission was building a patrol base for Georgian and Afghan National Army soldiers near the village of Demazong.
“It was a fight to come out here,” said Ludke. “I knew if my Marines could see me out there they would be much better off seeing that I’m fine. It was kind of hard, and I was nervous, but now I’m glad I came out here.”
In Demazong, Ludke led his junior Marines with a lot of enthusiasm. He filled sandbags, set up Hesco barriers, installed concertina wire and helped build bunkers for the patrol base – the same job he was doing before the IED blast.
“He hasn’t let his injury affect him at all,” said Staff Sgt. Josh D. Rath, platoon sergeant for 1st Platoon, Charlie Company, CLB-2, 1st MLG (FWD). “We’re glad he’s out here with us again.”
To Ludke, getting the work done is the important thing. He loves the team spirit that comes out when Marines work together to get something done.
“I love coming outside of the wire,” said Ludke, “because it’s the work of everybody. There is no (military occupational specialty) for filling sandbags or setting up Hesco. Everyone comes together and gets the job done.”
Ludke has enjoyed his second deployment to Afghanistan, because he has helped out more than just his fellow Marines. Ludke enjoyed helping build Patrol Base Demazong for Georgian and Afghan National Army soldiers. With Ludke’s help, the soldiers now have a place to conduct security operations.
“I feel like I’ve done something in Afghanistan,” said Ludke. “I’ve improved and built things for the Americans, British and the Georgians. When someone asks me what I did in Afghanistan, I’ll be able to say I’ve helped with force protection with all of the coalition forces.”
Ludke will be presented the Purple Heart medal in an upcoming ceremony.