Lt Jason Redman, a member of the Navy SEAL special operations force, was seriously wounded in the left arm and right face while on a mission in Iraq in 2007. During his recovery in Bethesda Naval hospital he posted a now famous, hand-lettered orange sign outside of his hospital door directing all visitors who felt pity for his plight to go elsewhere.
After he recovered from his injuries, Lt Jason Redman founded the charity Wounded Wear to aid others who are wounded and recovering. He gives us an overview of his traumatic injuries and the details of his multi-year surgical recovery.
This interview with Lt Jason Redman has been edited for clarity.
Where are you from?
Born in Ohio. I grew up in North Carolina, Florida and the US Virgin Islands. I have lived in Virginia longer than anywhere else.
Where did you go to school and what was your academic major?
I went to school through the Navyâ€™s Seaman to Admiral commissioning program. I went to Old Dominion University and received a degree in Business Management.
What was your path into the Navy SEAL program?
My entire family has been military. My grandfather flew B-24â€™s in WWII, so I grew up wanting to be a pilot.
My father was an Army Airborne Instructor and put SEALs through Airborne School and told me about them when I was about 15. I never looked back from that moment forward.
I enlisted in the Navy when I was 17 in the delayed entry program. There were no direct programs into the SEALs back then, so I raised my hand in boot camp, when they asked for volunteers, and was one of three to pass the screening test. I headed to BUD/S training two years later.
SEAL training is notoriously difficult and demanding. Did you have a low point in your SEAL training? Did you come close to quitting?
My low point in SEAL Training came during Hell Week. I had convinced myself and had always heard if you make it to sunrise on Wednesday morning, itâ€™s all down hill after that. Well, I made it and it was still way hard.
I think my hardest and coldest night was Thursday night. I was so angry that we were still getting crushed after Wednesday morning I contemplated quitting for a few minutes. I then sucked it up and kept going and the next thing I knew it was Friday afternoon and we were being secured.
When you were taking part in a special operative mission, you were grievously injured by machine gun fire in your left arm and face. Can you describe where your injuries occurred?
I was first struck by the machine gun in my elbow. These were very large caliber rounds, one entered above my elbow and the other entered below. It really destroyed my elbow. I thought my arm had been shot off.
I was then struck in the face. The bullet entered my jaw area right in front of my ear where the jaw connects to the skull and traveled through my face. The bullet exited my nose, taking off the majority of my nose.
How much anatomic structural damage did the machine gun bullet injuries cause?
The bullets that hit me in the arm did some significant damage. The top bullet entered about two inches above my elbow joint and took out a huge junk of the shaft of my humerus and shattered most of the humeral head. I also lost pieces of the humeral capsule.
The 2nd bullet entered low, entered the inside of my elbow, where the inner forearm meets the elbow. The bullet shattered both heads of my ulna and radius and took off the median epicondyle on my humerus.
On my face, the bullet destroyed my right maxillary sinus, right orbital floor, took out most of my right zygomatic arch and shattered my jaw from the condyle almost to my chin.
What medical care did you receive in the field?
There were three of us hit pretty hard in the fight and the first one was our Medic. Thank God for the live tissue training all our guys went through.
I directly credit that training with saving my life. If the guys hadnâ€™t had that training, I donâ€™t think they could have saved me.
They saw the massive facial injuries and started stuffing kerlex into them. A lot of kerlex. I tried to get my tourniquet on in the firefight but got too weak from the blood loss. My buddy got the tourniquet on after about ten minutes.
Do you remember what care you received on the helicopter taking you to the trauma bay?
Unsure of the care on the helo. I vaguely remember the flight medic working on me but nothing concrete. I donâ€™t think I was intubated until surgery.
How long was the flight to the trauma bay?
I was wounded outside Fallujah, Iraq. Head traumas normally go to Balad. But, apparently, I was pretty critical so they flew me to Baghdad, which was closer.
I was drifting in and out of consciousness so I do not remember exactly how long the flight was but I would imagine that it was 15 -20 minutes. From the Bagdad ER, I was flown to Balad for another surgery and then onto Landstuhl, Germany.
What care did you receive once you were at the trauma bay in Bagdad?
Memory is a little spotty in regard to initial care. (I had) stabilization surgery immediately upon arrival. They did surgery in Bagdad. I was transferred from Baghdad to Balad the next day where I believe they did another surgery.
The following day I transferred to Landstuhl. I don’t remember that flight at all. I was in Landstuhl for two days and they performed at least one surgery on me there. I believe that I received 6 units of blood – 2 in Bagdad, 2 in Germany, and 2 stateside.
When were you transferred back to the United States?
I flew back to the States on a Sunday. I was wounded on Thursday morning. The flight back was very stressful to me. I was having a lot of problems breathing with my trach and the nurse didn’t seem to really care. Since I could not talk, I still have the notes from the flight talking about the problems and feeling as if the nurse was going to kill me.