Young soldier amputates leg to save crewmates during tank accident, hailed as hero: 'Either I step up or we all die'
Despite the loss of a leg, Army Spc. Ezra Maes, 21, managed to help his fellow soldiers summon assistance after the crash which took place in Poland
US Defense officials reported how a soldier was hailed as a hero after he amputated his own leg in a bid to save the lives of his crewmates during a horrific tank accident.
According to the Department of Defense, 21-year-old Army Spc. Ezra Maes was sleeping in a tank while being deployed in Poland last year when he was startled awake after the mammoth vehicle began rolling downhill.
“I called out to the driver, ‘Step on the brakes!’” said Maes. “But he shouted back that it wasn’t him.”
The tank couldn't be halted despite the crew initiating emergency brake procedures as it was already speeding down the hill at a whopping 90 miles an hour, according to the Department of Defense.
“We realized there was nothing else we could do and just held on,” Maes said.
The tank eventually crashed into an embankment and sent Maes flying across the machinery before his leg became wedged in a gear.
The young soldier was determined to free his own leg, fearing for the wellbeing of the rest of the crew.
“I pushed and pulled at my leg as hard as I could to get loose and felt a sharp tear,” Maes recalled. “I thought I had dislodged my leg, but when I moved away, my leg was completely gone.”
Maes rushed back to the tank despite bleeding profusely, and got hold of a tourniquet from the medical kit to stop the blood loss.
“I knew I was going into shock. All I could think about was no one knows we’re down here,” he said.
“Either I step up or we all die.”
Maes quickly performed life-saving measures on himself as he realized his body was going into shock. He then called out to another soldier in the tank, Sgt. Aechere Crump, and threw him his phone to summon help.
Crump subsequently unlocked his phone and texted a friend, calling for help.
After being rescued, Maes was rushed to a local hospital before being airlifted to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. That said, he is now back in the US to continue his recovery at the Brooke Army Medical Center Warrior Transition Battalion in Houston, Texas.
“I feel super lucky,” he said. “My crew all does. So many things could have gone wrong. Besides my leg, we all walked away pretty much unscathed.”
Maes is currently undergoing physical and occupational therapy at the Center for the Intrepid, BAMC's outpatient rehabilitation center, and is preparing to receive his long-term prosthetic leg.
"When something like this happens, it's easy to give up because your life won't be the same, and you're not wrong," he said. "Life will take a 180, but it doesn't have to be a bad thing. Don't let it hinder you from moving forward."
Maes is now planning to become a prosthetist and help others regain their mobility.