Support our mission

Spc. Blair Boyette.Spc. Blair Boyette’s destroyed vehicle sits on a truck after the April 11, 2004, attack.(Photos courtesy of Blair Boyette)

Spc. Blair Boyette

Unit: 1st Battalion, 77th Armor Regiment, 1st Infantry Division

Medal: Bronze Star with "V"

Earned: April 11, 2004, between LSA Anaconda and Balad, Iraq

In the middle of the gunfire and confusion that followed a roadside bomb attack on their supply convoy, two soldiers sat alone in the street having a desperate conversation.

One of the men, Sgt. Arthur Coleman from the 1st Battalion, 77th Armored Regiment, had been grievously wounded in the April 11, 2004, explosion near Logistics Support Area Anaconda.

His right side shredded and burned by the explosion, Coleman had been shot at least three times as he tried to escape a burning truck, and he was convinced he would never make it off that street alive, he said.

Coleman told his driver, Spc. Blair Boyette, to remember his last words and then get away, so the message could be conveyed to his wife.

“Pretty much, in my mind, I was already dead,” Coleman said.

But at his side, Boyette, also from the 1-77 Armored, was trying to patch up the sergeant’s wounds while gunfire flashed around them.

“I told him, ‘If I fade, you need to go,’” Coleman said. “Instead, he said he’d rather stay there with me.”

And so Boyette remained with the sergeant, if only for what Coleman thought was to comfort him in his last moments.

“He told me, ‘Sarge, I’m not going to leave you,’” and he didn’t, Coleman said.

It was an act Coleman — who a year later is still in recovery from his injuries — said will always stick with him.

For his efforts, Boyette earned the Bronze Star with “V,” which was given to him in a ceremony in late May.

Now, more than a year after the attack that nearly claimed his own life, the 23-year-old Boyette remembers the day of the attack as a normal afternoon. Their truck was just rolling down the road when a massive explosion knocked him senseless and “blew the truck pretty much to hell,” Boyette said.

Fire and smoke immediately filled the cab, and the truck crew scrambled to get out.

And then “they began shooting at us,” he said.

For Coleman, his right side devastated by the blast, it was a horrifying moment.

“I watched the bullets hit the right side of my body,” he said. “I could look through my arm and see the people shooting at me.”

Dragging himself to the driver’s side, Coleman was helped out of the truck by Boyette, then shot again as he tried to limp away.

Acting mostly on instinct, Boyette said, his only thoughts were to get Coleman out of harm’s way and help him as best he could.

“The only thing I thought about was getting him and patching him up,” Boyette said. “He was pretty messed up, bleeding pretty good.”

The pair collapsed on the road about 10 yards from their vehicle, Coleman said, where they started talking.

“At first I was chewing him out [because] he left his doggone weapon on the truck,” Coleman said.

In the confusion, both men had left their rifles in the burning cab, and were now defenseless in the street while gunfire continued to fly around them. Then, the talk grew more grave, Coleman said.

“I told him we might not make it. We pretty much thought that was it,” he said.

But Boyette, almost unscathed in the explosion, refused to leave the wounded sergeant. Help for the two eventually arrived, and Coleman and Boyette were ferried to a hospital.

Looking back on the ambush, Boyette downplayed his valor on the day of the attack, saying he did what any soldier would have done in that situation.

“I’m glad he’s still alive and he could come home to see his wife and kids,” Boyette said about Coleman. “That’s all I cared about.”

But Coleman said the first aid Boyette gave him under fire was critical to keeping him alive in the minutes after the attack.

“If Boyette wouldn’t have put that dressing on my arm, my arm would have been amputated,” he said.

Doctors told him he wouldn’t have lasted 20 minutes without immediate care, he said.

But most of all, Coleman said he will never forget how he was comforted by the young soldier who refused to leave him in what he thought were his final minutes.

“He was there for me. He could have left,” Coleman said. “He said, ‘I’m going to just hold on with you.’”

Stripes in 7

around the web

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up